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Poor response to tenders for Gujarat's bid for the world's tallest statue, no international firm shows interest

By Rajiv Shah
The Gujarat government’s claim that its decision to build the world’s tallest statue in the world, in the memory of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, would attract “tremendous” response from top international construction companies, has gone phut. The state government floated international tenders in August to build the statue, which is slated to be 182-metres high. Despite the “international” character of the tenders and big claims, well-informed Sachivalaya sources close to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi say, “not one international firm has come up to offer to carry out the construction activity.”
A senior official, requesting anonymity, told Counterview that “only two companies have filled up tenders, and both are Indian”. One of them is the well-known infrastructure firm Larsen & Toubro (L&T), which was involved in the construction of the so-called Mahatma Mandir, meant to hold high-profile business summits in Gujarat state capital. The other one is little-known JMC, a local Ahmedabad-based firm, known to be close to one of the senior minister of the Gujarat Cabinet, with “business interests” in Gandhinagar.
This has happened despite the fact that in June 2012, the state government, through a special purpose vehicle, handed over project management consultancy for building the world’s tallest statue to Turner Construction, one of the largest US builders. Turner was responsible building global landmarks such as the new Yankee Stadium in New York; the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida; and the world’s tallest and second-tallest buildings, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and Taipei 101 in Taiwan.
Turner’s main responsibility was to rope in reputed international firms to build the statue. Its purpose was to get involved in the project right from the beginning, which include the pre-design phase and floating of engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) bid for the project, to construction, supervision and handing over of the project. Turner agreed to do the job for the state government for Rs 61 crore.
When Turner entered into agreement with Gujarat government, state officials were already in negotiations with South Korea's Samsung Construction & Technology (C&T) for the project’s actual implementation. In 2011, senior executives from Samsung C&T took geo-technological data, including rock condition, weight bearing capacity of the river pit and hydraulic capacity. They submitted a go-ahead report, and it was widely believed that they would be the frontrunners in the decision to build the project.
After all, it was suggested, Samsung C&T was involved in building the world’s tallest, Burj Khalifa, which is 828 metres tall. “It is strange”, a senior official commented. “Samsung C&T refused to fill up even the simple tender form… Maybe it wanted to be nominated by the Gujarat government to construction the statue. However, fearing accusations of corruption in any such deal with Samsung, the state government may have decided against it.”
Worse, officials said, the companies which have filled up the tender have put Rs 2,800 crore as the cost of the of the statue, as against Rs 2,000 crore, declared as the project cost about two years ago, when the idea of the project was floated. “This is because, they seem to have tied up with some Chinese companies to build the statue”, the official pointed out, adding, however, “Things have got complicated, and the tenders may be finalized only after the Lok Sabha polls, scheduled in April-May.”
Meanwhile, it is reliably learnt that Modi’s effort to “collect” iron all over the country to be used in the construction of the statue has failed to evoke necessary response. A senior official said, “In all, the statue would require around 2,500 tonnes of iron. However, we are unlikely to be have collected more than 150 tonnes, which would have to be melted to build the statue. Once melted, we would be able to extract just one-third of it, while the rest will go waste. As for the rest of the iron, it would have to be bought…”

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