Skip to main content

Statue of Unity? Dedicating it to nation, Modi "subtracted" all that Sardar Patel stood for

By RK Misra*
The 182 metre tall Statue of Unity built on the Narmada river at a cost of Rs 2,989 crore facing the sprawling 1,210 metre long Sardar Sarovar dam, in Gujarat has been billed as the tallest in the world, surpassing China’s spring temple Buddha. Speaking on the occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dwelt at length on the legendary vision of the first deputy Prime Minister, who had unified the country and appealed to countrymen to remain united against divisive forces.
Minutes later, Modi was hauling the opposition over the coals for opposing his mission. Clearly, he has added the tallest statue in the world to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s memorials, but has subtracted all that he stood for, in it’s dedication to the nation on his 143rd birth anniversary.
The entire area of Kevadia colony had been turned into a policed fortress after the tribals of the region made known their resolve to boycott the function. The main inhabitants of the region stood simply barred out.
The crowning irony was that while Modi extolled the virtues of the greater unifier, he was doing so to a predominantly Gujarat BJP audience. Besides the Prime Minister and BJP president Amit Shah, the notable others on the dais were the state Governor, OP Kohli, Chief minister Vijay Rupani and his deputy Nitin Patel, Speaker Rajendra Trivedi, and Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka governors Anandiben Patel and Vajubhai Vala respectively, who both hail from the state.
The glitz and glamour of a national build-up notwithstanding, opposition leaders and even BJP stalwarts like LK Advani were not seen. None of the 15 odd chief ministers who were invited turned up. The change of plans ostensibly ,seem to have come about after the tribals made clear their intention of boycotting the event.
Narmada district where the statue and the dam are located is a predominantly tribal district and forms part of the Adivasi flank of the state stretching from Ambaji bordering Rajasthan in the North, past Chottaudaipur bordering Madhya Pradesh, onto Dangs district neighbouring Maharashtra.
A day before the PM’s function a virtual police terror dragnet unfolded, not only in Narmada district but in the neighbouring ones as well. Over 500 tribal leaders were picked up or put under house arrest, only to be released late in the night. Even hardcore Gandhians, including women, were given the rough end of the stick by the cops.
Even earlier, posters depicting PM Modi and Sardar Patel’s statue put up in the tribal areas were either torn down or blackened by angry tribals. These were hurriedly replaced and policemen posted to guard against their removal. Said tribal leader Chottubhai Vasava, this the first time perhaps where cops were being used to protect posters against the people’s wrath.
Tribal leaders had well in advance made known their resolve to oppose the unveiling with a bandh in all the nine tribal districts of Gujarat.
”Some 100 small and big tribal organisations had joined in the call and according to one estimate almost 70,000 tribals affected by the Statue of Unity project joined in it. Reports stated that despite the cop imposed terror, the bandh was total. No food was cooked on the day in 72 of the project affected tribal villages. ”You know that amongst tribals, as in others as well, cooking fires in home remain unlit, only when the family is in mourning”, said Vasava.
Headmen of 22 of the villages situated near the dam even penned an open letter to the Prime Minister , two days before the event, clearly stating that villagers would not welcome him at the inauguration.
The ruling BJP which aligned the event with it’s electoral planning for the 2019 parliamentary polls, had lined up ‘ekta yatras’ (unity marches) using 200 chariots to cover 10,000 of the over 17,000 villages of the state both before and after the event. The lack of popular response and the poor turn-out had the party leaders sweating and ‘firmans’ were soon out to bolster presence with party cadres.
Former BJP chief minister Suresh Mehta, a legal luminary himself, who subsequently quit the party states that the entire statue project is illegal, violative of constitutional provisions and steeped in financial irregularities.“My simple question to the government is who owns this project. Is it the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta trust (SVPRET),which does not have any constitutional status or the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam (SSNNL) or the Tourism Department."
According to the former chief minister, the SSNNL was created only for the express purpose of utilising the Narmada water for agricultural/ irrigation purposes. Any other utilization of this water is illegal. The government had claimed that this project would not be a burden on the state exchequer. Thereafter without any justification around Rs 3,500 crore was allocated from SSNL between 2013 and 2017 for tourism.
Thereafter the NDA government announced it as a national project and announced Rs 2,500 crore more. The Comptroller and Accountant General’s (CAG) report says that oil Public Sector Undertakings(PSUs) were forced to make over Rs 3000 crore for the project. All this makes for a total of Rs 9,000 crore of which no accounts have been made public, he added.
Activists involved with the tribal cause point out that none of the villages acquired by the government for the Sardar Sarovar project and the statue project have got the promised benefits from the government. The first six villages acquired for the Sardar Sarovar staff colonies were never recognized as project-affected and so denied compensation.
The 19 villages that were recognized as Project affected are still fighting because promises made to them were never honoured. The 28 villages on the right bank of the canal, are not allowed a drop of water for their farms, despite the scarcity conditions here. The tribals are denied their rights because they are deemed to be ignorant and voiceless.
The Sardar Sarovar funds that should have been used to complete the canal network completion for the dying farmers are being diverted to PM Modi’s vanity projects such as golf course and 5 star hotels, boating lake, tent city for the affluent and other such tourist luxuries, the tribal leaders point out.
Says former chief minister Mehta, “Modi is fond of self-boosting vanity projects like Mahatma Mandir(Rs 500 crores),Sardar statue(Rs 3000 crore or more) and the bullet train(over Rs one lakh crores), public welfare is the last of his priority” or so it seems.
Mehta has a point. India itself remains the best monument to Sardar Patel.
The stature of the tall can rarely be enhanced by the small!
Postscript: Said British Conservative Party MP Peter Bone. “To take 1.1 billion pounds in aid from us and then at the same time spend 330 million pounds on a statue is total nonsense”.
Bone was referring to Britains’s donation of over 1.17 billion pounds(over Rs 9492 crore) to India as aid in the course of over five years. Though the aid was given for social projects including womens’ rights issues, renewable energy projects and to encourage religious tolerance, the UK MP believes that it wasn’t required as India could have easily afforded money for such projects had it not invested Rs 3000 crore on the Rs 2,000-tonne statue…
---
*Senior Gujarat-based journalist. Blog: http://wordsmithsandnewsplumbers.blogspot.com/

Comments

Anonymous said…
Govt needs tax payers' money to build more and taller statues
i was looking for more information about this and i found THE STATUE OF UNITY

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

Upholding labour rights, Nehruvian scientific temper, Rajni Patel opposed Emergency

By Harsh Thakor*  Rajni Patel, who died 40 years ago, whatever his flaws, had one great quality: his human touch to offer selfless service and ability to galvanise or influence human beings from all walks of life. Few people would ever go out of the way to help someone or serve as selflessly without aim of personal gain. Rajni championed Nehruvian secular ideas and scientific temper. As a master in public relations he revealed utmost humility. As a barrister, he never appeared against the trade unions or workers. A Fabien Socialist he opposed liberal capitalism and radical socialism. Unlike most lawyers, he did not succumb to the lure of amassing wealth. Rajni was born in Sirsa, in Gujarat, on the very day Gandhi set foot on Indian soil, on 9th January, 1915. He gained his baptism through one of Gandhi's speeches calling for the boycott of foreign goods, which was the virtual turning point of his life. Rajni toed Gandhi to organise boycott of foreign goods. Rajni was able to cros

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

Examples of support to Hindu temples, scriptures, saints by 'Muslim' rulers galore

Siya Ram coin issued by Akbar By Bharat Dogra* At a time when the country as well as the world are passing through very difficult times leading to more urgent need for strengthening national unity for meeting several big challenges ahead, unfortunately disputes relating to religious places have been allowed to raise their ugly head once again. It is well-realized by now by many people that it is not historical facts but narrow considerations of political gain and spreading of fanatic ideas of intolerance which are behind such mischief, but due to the increasing threat of mob violence and patronage available at higher levels to groups spreading intolerance many people are reluctant to openly and fearlessly express their views. Hence there is urgent need for broad-based peace committees with wider social support to spread the message of communal harmony and to appeal against the dangers of spreading false messages regarding places of worship which can ultimate

Vadodara violence: Fine Arts Faculty alumni raise fingers at Varsity's political appointee

Hasmukh Vaghela with PM Counterview Desk  In a statement, alumni of the Faculty of Fine Arts (FoFA), Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU), Baroda, Gujarat, referring to the “violence” by right-wing groups for displaying “objectionable” paintings that “hurt religious sentiments” at the one of India’s top fine arts institute May 5, have taken strong exception to “the assault and rustication” of one of the students, and lack of action taken against those who “violated” the institution and committed the act. Floated as an online petition seeking wider support, the FoFA alumni, in their statement, addressed to the vice chancellor, MSU, said, there should be “thorough” investigation in the whole incident and “immediate action” should be taken against syndicate member Hasmukh Vaghela, MSU, who sparked the assault, and “other co-conspirators” for breaching “university code of conduct and unlawful activities committed in broad daylight”. While the alumni statement doesn't say so, Vaghela

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Whither climate goal? Increasing reliance on coal 'likely to worsen' India's power crisis

By Shankar Sharma*  Recent news articles, How to shock-proof India’s power sector and Power minister points finger at states for worsening electricity crisis , have highlighted a few current problems for the ongoing power sector issues as in April 2022. However, there is a lot more to it than a few temporary solutions as indicated in the articles. It should also be emphasised that it is techno-economically impossible to completely shock-proof a highly complex and geographically wide-spread vast power network, such as the one in India, which is only getting more and more complex with the passage of each year due to some irrational policies/ practices in the sector. A business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, wherein more and more of conventional technology power plants, including coal power plants, will be added in the near future, will also necessitate the increased complexity in the integrated national grid, and as a result the instances of power shortage/ disruptions can only escalate for

A former Modi ally, Prashant Kishor wanted to enter Congress 'on contract, as trader'

By Anand Sahay*  The Congress Party and the election campaigns specialist Prashant Kishor, whose company has done strategic communications for a host of political parties across ideology, should both count themselves lucky that they could not reach an agreement for Kishor to join the party. News reports suggest that the Congress rejected Kishor’s terms. This is not wholly unexpected. People join a party because they are attracted to it, and wish to serve it in any capacity that the party may see fit. But that isn’t Kishor at all. He gave the impression of entering into a contract, as a trader might. If news reports are to be believed, he sought freedom to report directly to party chief Sonia Gandhi, and sought untrammeled control over party communications. When such ideas did not find favour, the consultant withdrew. It is clear he has no particular love for the Congress, and its ideas, ideology and politics. In contrast, look at the key personae in G-23. They