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Statue of Unity: Sardar would have been "uncomfortable" seeing so many laws violated

The "tallest" statue
Counterview Desk
In a sharp critique ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicating the 182-metres high statue of Sardar Patel to the nation, a well-known advocacy group, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), has said that even the Sardar would have felt "uncomfortable" with the so-called Statue of Unity. The reason, according to SANDRP, is that the statue has been built setting aside all environmental and legal prerequisites.
SANDRP wonders how "uncomfortable would Sardar be seeing so many violations of law" at a whopping cost of Rs 3000 crore, on hand, and "land acquisition and displacement of so many tribal people, who do not have basic developmental facilities or justice till date", on the other.

SANDRP analysis:

Consider the facts: The 600 feet tall statue of Sardar Patel that the Prime Minister of India will inaugurate on Patel’s Birthday on October 31, 2018 is situated bang in the middle of the Narmada river. To take up such unprecedented construction in the middle of the river would require, at the least, environment clearance, since the construction would have huge impacts on the river. No such clearance was sought or given. It would have required environmental impact assessment, environmental management plan, appraisal, public consultations, monitoring and compliance. None of this happened.
The project involves not only the construction of the statue, but also laying new roads, widening existing roads, setting up five star and other multi star hotels, guest houses by various states, tent city (tender issued), ropeway (tender issued), tiger and crocodile safari, and so on, which would also have adverse impacts, requiring the above procedure, but none happened.
The statue is to be surrounded by water to be dammed by Garudeshwar Dam, on Narmada river, again requiring social and environment impacts assessment and clearances, but none were sought or given.
The statue is built from the southern side of Narmada river, 3.2 km downstream from the Narmada Dam. On northern side is the Shoolpaneshwar sanctuary and reserved forests, which means that such a construction would require wildlife clearance, but again none was sought or given.
How uncomfortable would Sardar be seeing so many violations of law? Seeing the expenditure of Rs 3000 crores? Seeing the land acquisition and displacement of so many tribal people, who do not have basic developmental facilities or justice till date?
Sardar Vallabhabhai Patel, Independent India’s first home and deputy Prime Minister, was a successful lawyer before he left that profession to join Gandhi in freedom struggle. He would have been happy to fight a case against all these illegalities and injustices involved in building the statue.
As he once said:
“If we have to fight, we must fight clean. Such a fight must await an appropriate time and conditions and you must be watchful in choosing your ground. To fight against refugees is no fight at all. No laws of humanity or war among honourable men permit the murder of people who have sought shelter and protection.”
Unfortunately, he may have lost that legal battle. Gujarat High Court, in order dated January 13, 2014, in Writ Petition (PIL) 142 of 2013, challenging the plans of the statue, rejected the petition, without going into issue of impacts or violation of Environment Protection Act 1986 or Wildlife Protection Act 1972.
The Western Zone branch of the National Green Tribunal, in response to application no 32 of 2015 by late Trupti Shah and nine others, challenging the plans of the Statue of Unity, rejected the appeal through an order dated January 28, 2016, without going into merits of the case:
“Considering the fact situation in the instant case, in our considered opinion, instant Application No.32/2015 is barred by limitation and will have to be dismissed. Still however, we make it clear that this dismissal is not to be treated as precedent for other purpose. All the questions related to the matter are kept open for both the sides and may not be treated as foreclosed for any purpose.”
But Sardar Patel was also a staunch satyagrahi and would not hesitate to fight for justice, as tribals and others of Gujarat are now doing.
Sardar Patel said in his presidential address to the Congress in 1931:
“Independent India’s leaders would neither use a foreign language nor rule from a remote place 7,000 feet above sea level.”He would certainly feel very uncomfortable even from that height of 600 feet.

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