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Were JVCs, rock cutters 'reinforcing' Statue of Unity base on dry Narmada riverbed?

By Kevin Antao* 
Having seen photographs and write-ups on the world’s tallest Statue of Unity, constructed and assembled off Narmada dam in South Gujarat, I always wanted to visit the site and see for myself the great marvel that it was being made out to be.
I wondered why crowds of VVIPs and people from across the country were rushing in to the site in order to have a glimpse of this structure.
Earlier, I had visited the Narmada dam site in 2013, and was really excited to see water flowing out in full force from the mighty Narmada dam. Thousands of people had gathered close to the dam to see the site, to “enjoy” site. The greenery around the dam during the monsoon time, when I visited the dam that year, was quite pleasant.
After having waiting for so long, I decided to visit this landmark site in order to enjoy the new marvel – the 182-metre high Statue of Unity, built in the memory of India’s Iron Man, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. As there was no Statue of Unity in 2013, it was indeed a monumental accomplishment to build the statue in such a short time.
Accompanied with those near and dear to me, I took a cab from Gandhinagar, the state capital, to visit the Statue of Unity site on August 8, a week day, so that there is no rush to see the world’s tallest statue. As we were driving to the Kevadia Colony, where the monumental statue and the dam stand, I found that the road was in bad shape.
Kevin Antao
The cab’s driver told me that the road had just been built, wondering why it should be damaged soon after a heavy monsoon downpour. There were diversions at two places from the bridges that came in between. But the excitement to see the statue was so high that I ignored these as a minor aberrations which do happen when a great feat was being accomplished.
Excited to see the great planning, design and execution of the gigantic structure and the work put in by those who had conceptualized it, in no time we were taken into the lift to go up to the spot we are allowed to inside the statue. We were told, this was because it was Thursday, a weekday. Only on Sundays and holidays there is a huge rush.
Out we came in about an hour’s time, and we decided to take a little round off the Statue of Unity to see what activities were going on. On the huge expanse next to the statue, we noticed a large number of heavy duty vehicles, including JVCs, rock cutters and truck trailers were carrying massive RCC blocks down to the Narmada riverbed, which was totally dry.
I had no means to confirm what was going on, but it seemed to me the area around the statue was being reinforced. We left the site at 16.30 pm on the same day. Back home, after dinner, while going through messages on social network, I noticed a government notification informing and warning people regarding the release of water from the Narmada dam starting 00:01 hours Friday, August 9.
On seeing the notification, I wondered what exactly were those heavy duty vehicles and machineries deployed in dry riverbed were doing just before the release of nearly one lakh cusecs of water. I recalled how, when the Sabarmati riverfront work was on in Ahmedabad, water was suddenly released into the river, and several heavy vehicles were stuck in the river water.
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*Senior photo journalist based in Gandhinagar. Pix by the author

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