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Questions over wherewithal of Patel statue

Questions over wherewithal of Patel statue
Highlights

India is all set to unveil the worlds tallest statue this Wednesday Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, one of the tallest leaders of our country who united India despite heavy odds and gave it the present shape, will be taller than the Statue of Liberty at 182 meters 597 feet above the Narmada River in the western State of Gujarat Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised during his previous election

India is all set to unveil the world’s tallest statue this Wednesday. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, one of the tallest leaders of our country who united India despite heavy odds and gave it the present shape, will be taller than the Statue of Liberty at 182 meters (597 feet) above the Narmada River in the western State of Gujarat. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised during his previous election campaign that Patel’s statue would be at least twice the height of Statue of Liberty (93 metres).

Whatever may be the argument of the BJP leadership to the criticism against the grandiose statue costing around 400 million dollars, it is certain that it is a symbolic fight against the Congress which has systematically erased, or at least, tried to erase the memory of a pantheon of Indian leadership of the freedom struggle era. All the same, the Congress attempt to ‘own up’ Patel or appropriate his name or legacy, sounds ridiculous.

Could a Mahatma Gandhi, a Patel, a Moulana Azad, a Tilak or even for that matter Jawahar Lal Nehru be called Congress leaders and nothing else? Are they not national leaders for us? Patel was central to the efforts to merge small princely States into a unified independent India. His success in achieving the same has made him a lasting national symbol. This one will be known as Statue of Unity. Patel will soon see a competitor raising taller from the shores of the Arabian Sea where Shivaji's statue is coming up to reach a height of 212 metres.

But Patel’s statue will be a unique one as 129 tonnes of iron implements from nearly 100 million farmers from across the country has gone as a contribution to construct the base of the statue. The Rs 3,050 crore project, fully funded by the Gujarat government is completed in 42 months. There will always be questions on whether the government should have spent so much on a statue. The same money could have gone into improving the parched lives of Gujarat rural side. Poverty is still rampant in the State and primary school enrollment is falling year by year and malnourishment persists in the tribal Narmada district.

The State government, however, claims that the project is certain to boost tourism and bring millions of domestic and foreign tourists to the district which would boost the rural economy. Huge infrastructure boost has already been seen in the district. But, tribal activists are skeptical about the same and have voiced reservations against it. The BJP leadership argues that the statue would be a booster dose for nationalist sentiments. Ironically, Patel himself would not have allowed such a 'wastage' having fought for farmers' cause throughout his life. Humility was the hallmark of Patel and he never wanted to be seen on any dais. All that Patel wanted was the life of a sanyasi after Independence as himself told Gandhi once. Anyway, Patel had no say in this statue business and let us not be unfair to him now by grudging it.

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