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Opinion: How Much Did We Really Need a Statue of Unity?verified tick

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8 months ago
8 months ago
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The nation has contrasting views when it comes to the Statue of Unity that was unveiled by PM Narendra Modi in honour of the late Vallabhai Patel. While some factions feel that the gesture is a warm and kind one and is one that will go a long way in fostering unity and brotherhood, a good number of people think that the entire plan was a part of cheap party politics and a way to garner a few more votes during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Source- PTI

While a group feels that the statue will bring revenue in the form of tourism, the other thinks that Rs 3000 crore is too much to spend on a figure or ornamentation when we live in a country where over 30 million people starve every day. Here I’d like to analyse both sides of the coin, both for and against the building of the statue.

Why we don’t need it:

Maybe looking down at us from above, Vallabhbhai Patel would have been profoundly disappointed at the futility of the Statue of Unity. A staunch realist like Patel would undoubtedly have had doubts about whether the monument puts an emerging country’s scarce resources to optimum use.

Narendra Modi, while unveiling the statue said, “Sardar Patel wanted that India becomes empowered, strong, sensitive and inclusive,”. It is certainly true that a true nationalist such as Patel would have wholeheartedly supported the notion of uniting Indians across all demographics and walks of life. He would have endorsed this notion without necessarily backing the political aspirations of the BJP or the RSS.

Patel would have kept politics out of the equation when deciding how to spend such a colossal amount of money. He was secular in purpose and thought, and though he was responsible for banning the RSS in the aftermath of the Gandhi assassination, he never once had a feeling of hatred towards the party but rather had trouble understanding the Hindutva principles that lay behind its conception. He was fluid in thought and was never restricted to or committed to building an exclusive India. But what he was, was a hard-hitting realist.

Rahul Gandhi refers to Patel as “a man with a steely will, tempered by compassion, he was a Congressman to the core, who had no tolerance for bigotry or communalism.” But does this warrant for a megalithic structure or should we maybe have used the money to clean up our country, reduce pollution levels, clean up Ganga effectively or perhaps even invested in the ISRO?

Source- Hindustan Times

Yes, the statue is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty, but would it not have been better if our per capita income could boast to be so rather than a structure made of metal? India comes in at under $2000 while the US and China surge ahead at $60,000 and $17,000. How much of this gap will the tourism brought in by the statue help to bridge?

Another exciting yet alarming thing to note is that several of the attacks on the statue is being made because several parts critical to its structure was sourced from China, thereby giving it a “Made in China” price-tag. As the technology was beyond us, the micro bronze panels required to craft the surface of the statue was imported from China? So, how did our blue-collar workforce benefit from it? The fact that we had to import parts from a nation that the entire world sees as our biggest rival makes the statue smaller in every Indian’s eyes. Is this the ideal Swaraj that Patel fought for, or a fake imitation of it?

Statues have often been used by rulers and monarchs as a cheap publicity stunt that leads to the appeasement of people because for a while they seem to forget what they needed. The British employed this tactic several times in India, for example, King Edward VII sanctioned the creation of a Shivaji statue in the hope that it would help the people stay subjugated. But how cheap was Rs 3000 crore and will he strategy work again? Only time will help us solve this riddle. Time and maybe the 2019 elections.

Why we need the statue:

When the Lincoln memorials were built in a time when the United States of America was going through a surge economically and politically, it was created to honour the man who helped bring together a somewhat divided country and was done to help people remember his sacrifices and the sacrifices made by countless others like him, that led to the formation of the world’s most powerful country.

India is now going through a similar phase. The economic growth and the diversity that our nation has is tremendous and serves as a vast pool of talent. Vallabhai Patel was like Lincoln, essential for bringing together India, a democracy with over 500 princely states, in a peaceful and orderly manner. His efforts went a long way in creating the India we know today. The India that Sardar envisioned was more significant than the one ever built by Asoka or even Akbar and had the potential to command respect and authority, the way no nation before it had and this is why having a statue honouring such a man is crucial and essential.

Mahatma Gandhi Statue in London

Nehru has over 15 statues to his name while Mahatma has over 70, in multiple countries, the most recent one being unveiled in London in 2015. Though Sardar has a few, none have given him the credit he deserves for his efforts during the freedom struggle. While Nehru was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1955, Sardar had to wait till 1991, and this comes due to a lack of understanding from the people’s part on how important he was in framing and forming our great nation. It is also interesting to note, that out of the trio, Sardar was the only one who never left behind a medium to voice his own story. He never wrote his own book or explained to people the reasons behind his actions, and it is this void that the statue aims to fill, and for such a monumental task, 182 meters does not seem too huge.

Economically, the statue is a gold mine for our tourism sector, which has seen tremendous growth in the fast few years. The recorded footfall of 10.18 million that we witnessed in 2017, was the highest we had ever seen and was a 15% growth from what it was in 2016 and this trend will most likely continue as people from all over the world flock to India to get a glimpse of the World’s Tallest Statue. This growth will trickle down to create numerous employment opportunities for local restaurant owners, waiters, rickshaw drivers, messes and even petrol stations. The statue itself would employ security staff, maintenance workers and guides, all this while creating more job opportunities.

Source- YouTube

The Taj Mahal, four centuries after the completion of its construction still brings in about a billion for India in revenue annually, and this is just a fraction of what the Statue of Unity could generate if marketed correctly.

Also, saying the money was wrongly invested is wrong. It is not like the Government had done nothing to alleviate poverty. The BJP led government has undertaken various schemes to help tackle the problems faced by a majority of the public. Here are a few of them.

  • Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Antyodaya Yojana to alleviate poverty through skill development in rural areas.
  • Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana – Gramin helped create over 10 lakh houses for the poor. 
  • Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana to help BPL members set up their bank accounts.
  • Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana covers lives of the needy at a meagre cover of Rs 330.
  • Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana was launched to provide employment opportunities to the youth in rural areas.

Hence none have been neglected. The statue is just a testament to the fact that one of the greatest leaders of India who had been neglected till now, deserves to be given his due. Sardar stood tall in the fight against the British and the statue unveiled on the 31st of October will do the same, for eternity, in honour of the Iron Man of India.

By Athulya Mohandas

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