Statue of unity

  • Category
    Miscellaneous
  • Published
    12th Nov, 2018

Issue

Context

Prime Minister of India has recently inaugurated Sardar Patel’s statue, colloquially known as Statue of Unity for his contribution to unity and integration of India.

Background

The project

  • In 2010, the government of the state of Gujarat in western India announced its plan to erect a statue that would measure 182 meters, pedestal included. The statue was dedicated to Sardar Patel, who was the architect of the modern Indian state.
  • The project was inaugurated exactly 5 years after its construction strated.

Sardar Patel

  • Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is a revered name in Indian politics. A lawyer and a political activist, he played a leading role during the Indian Independence Movement.
  • After independence, he was crucial in the integration of over 500 princely states into the Indian Union.
  • He was deeply influenced by Gandhi’s ideology and principles, having worked very closely with leader.

    Facts box: Statue of Unity

    • Standing tall at 182 meters, this is the tallest Statue in the world.
    • The base of the Statue stands above the highest flood level recorded over a 100-year period, 237.35 m above sea level.
    • It can withstand wind speed of upto 200 kmph, and earthquakes measuring 6.5 on Richter scale at a depth of 10 km and within a radius of 12 km of the Statue.
    • Total project cost Rs 2,989 crore (US$ 407 million), mostly funded by State and Central government through Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust (SVPRET).
    • Metal scrap (mainly agriculture equipment scrap) was collected from the 6 lakh villages under the 'Loha Campaign' from across the country.
    • Developed on the banks of River Narmada on Sadhu Bet - 3.2 km downstream of Sardar Sarovar Dam, visitors can have a view of 200 km of the Dam and the Satpura and Vindhya Mountain ranges from a viewing platform at the level of the statue’s chest.He was the first Home Minister of Independent India and his uncompromising efforts towards consolidation of the country earned him the title ‘Iron Man of India.

Analysis

Why are national symbols important?

  • National symbols are very important to national identity. These symbols are easily identified, and are used to direct, organise, record and communicate.
  • National symbols are easily recognized entities that are used as means to communicate the history and culture of a particular nation.
  • National symbols can be a single entity, such as national flag an easily something more intangible, such as a national anthem.
  • India has many national symbols such as tricolour national flag, emblem, national bird, national animal etc. However, since independence India has not created any tangible national symbol like Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty etc to commemorate its national movement. Rather symbols such as Red Fort from where Prime Ministers address the nation on independence, were established way before the independence of India.

Relevance and Importance

  • It is in this context Statue of Unity attains great importance. It would not only be recognised as a symbol of national unity by the Indians but also a mark of the growing might and prosperity of India in the eyes of international community.
  • It would underline the dream of freedom fighters to create an India of Indians and success of a nation-state with multiple challenges of poverty, hunger, sub-national identities and radicalism.
  • It would symbolise the ability of India to sustain multiple attempts of internal and external forces for its division and break up. It would be befitting reply to those who conceived India a culmination of different communities and identities unable to attain nationhood.
  • It would be a tribute to those freedom fighters who conceived the idea of ‘Nation in Making’ while striving to bring unity among the people to fight against the British imperialism.
  • The Statue is a great tribute to the ‘Iron Man’ or Bismarck of India: Sardar Patel, whose contribution to integration of India is undeniable. The statue will remind Indians of harder- ships through which freedom fighters went through to unite India. The characteristic features of the statue i.e expression, posture and pose justify the dignity, confidence, iron will as well as kindness of Sardar Patel.
  • Patel’s extensive work for the rights of minorities and women, and against untouchability and caste discrimination, also proved he just didn’t want to expand India territorially but create within that territory a space for all who chose to join in. He was without doubt a unifier. The Statute of Unity will serve to remind us all of what Patel envisaged and how far have we achieved it.
  • Finally India being one of the fastest growing economies, the statue of unity signifies India’s growing aspirations and quest for international presence in every field. It represents India’s growing confidence, firmness and resolution for the betterment of its citizens and the world as whole.

Economics of the Statue

  • The statue will become one of the prime tourist destinations in India, given its colossal form and artistic marvel. It will generate revenue for the state.
  • The inflow of the tourists will create employment opportunities for the people especially for the tribals living in the vicinity of the place.
  • The hotel constructed within the premises of the statue will provide an alternative venue for the national and international meetings and conferences.
  • Besides Statue, the site includes galleries with light and sound shows and a museum on the life and times of Sardar Patel, and auditorium. It will soon become synonymous with India.

Criticism

  • It has been argued that 2900 crore spent on construction of statue would have been invested in welfare schemes for the poor and marginalised. That would have been a big tribute to Sardar Patel.
  • India has one of the largest global burdens of hunger, malnutrition and poverty. Investing such a huge amount of money in making of Statue has not gone well for a section of society.
  • Critics argue that construction of statue is a means used by the ruling party to pitch Patel against Nehru and Gandhi. It is a means of appropriation and political hijacking of nationalist leaders of the Indian freedom movement.
  • Statue's surface (skin) has 553 bronze panels - each panel has 10-15 micro panels - made at a Chinese foundry, as there was no facility available in India to make panels of this scale.
  • The statue has been linked to other statues which have come into existence in the recent past in many states like Uttar Pradesh to commemorate and idealise a particular leader to identify him/her with a section of society. This is a modern means of vote bank. According to the critic rather than means of unity, the statue is purposefully made to divide the people and common national history.
  • Many environmentalists have argued that the statue is gross violation of environmental concerns. The tribals who have been displaced by the construction of the statue allege state for violation of Forest Rights Act.
  • The Statue is really far from any big city. Connectivity so far needs a lot of investment. The tourist infrastructure has a long way to go. Besides the statue itself, there is nothing much else to engage visitors. So, any ambitions of becoming the Eiffel Tower equivalent in India are still faraway dreams

 Further steps government can take

India should move ahead from the old debates of guns versus hospitals and the schools versus tanks. In modern era, both schools and guns are important. So statues along with schools, hospitals and other public facilities can complement each other by creating a value system where tolerance for present and respect for past prevail. Besides, statue like Eiffel Tower is testimony of the fact that once popular, revenue generated from these marvel exceeds the construction costs within years. However, for Statue of Unity to be the world’s best touristy destination some more concrete steps are required.

The government will need to take the following steps:

  • A sustained worldwide advertising campaign to inform and educate about the new marvel.
  • A substantial internal marketing effort across India to attract visitors from not just Gujarat and Maharashtra, but all other Indian states.
  • Easy connectivity by train, road and air. Also, easy transportation from the nearest train station and airport to the Statue complex.
  • Easy, plentiful and comfortable arrangements for boarding and lodging at different price points to attract all kinds of tourists.
  • A concerted effort to attract the Meeting, Incentives, Conference and Exhibitions (MICE) crowd. This could create a positive spiral of economic opportunities.

Learning Aid

Practice Question:

Question: India should move ahead from the old debates of guns versus hospitals and the schools versus tanks. In this context analyse the Statue of Unity as a mark of India’s growing aspirations and goals.

Question: The biggest tribute to Sadar Patel, the Iron Man of India would have been uplifting tribal and marginalised sections of India rather erecting Patel’s colossal statue. Comment

Question: Statue of Unity is symbol of unity in diversity and apt response to those who thought India would not survive for long as a nation. Elucidate

Question: Statue of Unity aptly signifies the role and contribution of Sardar Patel in national integration. Analyse.

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