THE POWER OF UNITY IN THE MAKING

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We have all heard about the famous statues located elsewhere in the world, such as the Statue of Liberty in New York, Christ the Redeemer in Rio De Janeiro and the Laughing Buddha statue in China. But what about the ‘Statue of Unity’? This is an unfamiliar term for all of us! The name sounds mysterious and infamous, but there is going to be a Statue of Unity, in the world’s seventh largest and the world’s second most populous country, which is our great, Mother India.

The Statue of Unity is an under construction 182 metres monument of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s first Home Minister and who played a crucial role in achieving India’s independence and the integration of princely states into states based on linguistic grounds. It will be created by directly facing the Narmada Dam. It will be 3.5 km away on a river island called Sadhu Bet near Vadodara in Gujarat. This statue is planned to be spread over 20,000 square metres of project area. It will also be surrounded with a man-made lake spread across 12 km of area.

Also, It would be the world’s tallest statue, surpassing even the well known Statue of Liberty. It will also overtake India’s tallest statue, the Hanuman idol at the Paritala Anjaneya Swami Mandir in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh. It currently stands at 134 metres. The project was first announced on October 7, 2010.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust(SVPRET), a special purpose vehicle was established by the Gujarat government in 2013 for the construction of the statue. The iron needed for the statue and other structures was collected from farmers of villages all around India in the form of a donation of their used farming instruments. SVPRET set up 36 offices across India to collect these iron instrumentswherein over 500,000 Indian farmers donated generously. The drive was named the ‘Statue of Unity movement’.

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During this period, over 5000 metric tonnes of iron were collectedAlthough it was initially announced that the iron collected will be used for the main statue, it later emerged that the collected iron will not be used in the construction of the actual statue and will instead be used for some other infrastructural projects in Gujarat.

The Statue of Unity is amongst the tallest statue projects in the world. According to the project’s website, it is double the height of the Statue of Liberty, five times the height of the Christ the Redeemer and one and a half times the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam itself.

The Statue of Unity Movement will also organize a ‘Suraaj’, meaning good governance wherein people can write about their ideas for the good governance. The Suraaj Petition was signed by an estimated 20 million people, which was the world’s largest petition ever signed. A marathon entitled ‘Run For Unity’ was held on December 14, 2014 in several places throughout India. The marathon had a large turnout and thousands of registrations signed up before and after the event.

Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel laid the foundation stone of the Statue of Unity of the ‘Iron Man of India’ on December 31, 2014. The foundation stone was laid down on the occasion of Sardar Patel’s 139th birth anniversary. The total height of the statue from its base will be 240 metres consisting a base level of 58 metres and the statue of 182 metres.

It will be constructed with steel framing, reinforced cement concrete and bronze coating. The statue will need 75,000 cubic metres of concrete, 5700 metric tonne steel structure, 18,500 tonne reinforced steel rods and about 22,500 tonne bronze sheets for construction.

SVPRET has appointed a consortium comprising Turner Project Management India Private Limited as the lead member, Meinhardt India Private Limited and Michael Graves and Associates Inc. to supervise the project. Many of the consortium members have been involved in the making of some of the world’s tallest structures. The monumental statue is built on PPP mode and is included in the Union Budget 2014, where the project has been allotted Rs. 2 billion.

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Indian infrastructure company Larsen and Toubro(L&T) bagged the contract in October 2014 for its lowest bid of Rs. 2989 crores for the design, construction and maintenance of the project. Construction commenced in November 2014 and it is expected to be completed by 2018. In the first phase of the project, Rs. 1347 crores will be for the main statue, Rs. 235 crores for the exhibition hall and convention centre, Rs. 83 crores for the bridge connecting the memorial to the main land and Rs. 657 crores for the maintenance of the structure for 15 years after its completion.

The Gujarat government plans to develop the nearby tribal areas as well as to boost tourism around the Statue of Unity project. Therefore, there are plans to develop schools and colleges in the area, besides an education research centre and a knowledge city. The banks of the Narmada river would be developed up to Bharuch, together with development of road and railway networks, as well as other tourism infrastructural facilities.

Constructing mega projects in tribal areas have seen plenty of drama and controversies. Well, the pet project of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also no stranger to troubles brewing from the local community. The community have opposed the land acquisition for tourism infrastructural development around the statue.

They also claimed that Sadhu Bet was originally called Varata Bawa Tekri, which was named after a local deity and so it was a site of religious importance. Environmental activists wrote a letter to the central government that this project started implementation without getting environmental clearance from the environmental ministry.

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Local people of Kevadia, Kothi, Waghodia, Limbdi, Navagam and Gora villages of Gujarat opposed the construction of the statue demanding back land rights of the formerly acquired 927 acres of land for the mega project Sardar Sarovar Dam and the formation of Garudeshwar Taluka. They also opposed the formation of Kevadia Area Development Authority(KADA) and the construction of Garudeshwar weir-cum-causeway project.

However, the Gujarat government rightfully accepted their demands on time. Lastly, with the high allocation for the tall statue, several people and the political parties criticised the expenditure for the statue over other priorities like women’s safety, education and agricultural schemes. Hence, the Statue of Unity will be a symbol and power of India’s dominance over Asia, comparing itself with advanced countries like USA, China, Japan, Korea and Russia.

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