Modi keen on ‘tallest’ memorial

The cost of Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project — the world’s tallest statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel — has now shot up from Rs10 billion to Rs25 billion. But Modi is bent on building the 182-metre memorial for Gujarat-born Iron Man of India in the midst of the Narmada river.

By Mahesh Trivedi (Gujarat Goings-On)

Published: Sun 17 Jun 2012, 12:25 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 11:44 AM

Last week, the chhote (junior) sardar, as he likes to be called, approved the ambitious plan and even agreed to have a world-class consultant for management and construction of the colossus.

The imposing monument will be eight metres taller than the earth’s highest statue of Crazy Horse Memorial being carved in Mount Rushmore, South Dakota in the US, double the height of the Statue of Liberty in New York, and one-and-a-half times of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada (122 metres) dam itself. Modi, who chaired the meeting of the trust specially formed to implement the lofty project, is aware that his Bharatiya Janata Party government faces a Rs1,000-billion public debt but told officials that he was confident of collecting funds from cash-rich state-owned public-sector undertakings, well-heeled non-resident Gujaratis (NRGs), top business houses and even the general public. While the Gujarat state government has made a provision of Rs1 billion for the unparalleled proposal in the budget for 2012-13, NRGs, most of them based in Chicago in the US, have already started selling specially-minted $10 and $20 silver coins in a bid to raise money for the gigantic statue, and even have been donating silver for the coins bearing engraved images of Modi on the obverse, and of Mahatma Gandhi and the Sardar on the reverse.

According to trust officials, the project includes not only the towering sculpture of the first home minister of India but will also have a bridge connecting the memorial with the nearby village of Kevadia, a convention centre, a garden, an amusement park, a hotel, etc. The trust expects 100,000 tourists at the site daily once the grand statue is built and is planning for even a metro rail and a six-lane highway up to Vadodara.

As for the status of the project, six important studies and surveys, including wind and water velocity, have been concluded, while the environmental impact assessment study is in progress.

However, the astronomical cost of the unique memorial has raised many eye-brows. According to Ahmedabad-based social activist and famed classical dancer Mallika Sarabhai, the Rs25 billion memorial is not a fitting tribute to the great man who united India by bringing 500 princely states in its fold.

A known critic of Modi, she says that in democracy when the government is spending such a huge amount of taxpayers’ money on a statue, people should have a say in the project. Mallika has announced a contest offering Rs100,000 for the most innovative and civic-minded idea from the people of Gujarat for the best way to use the huge amount rather than squandering the funds on a monument.

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