Statue of Unity

The Statue of Unity is a colossal statue of Indian statesman and independence activist Vallabhbhai Patel (1875–1950), who was the first deputy prime minister and home minister of independent India and an adherent of Mahatma Gandhi during the nonviolent Indian independence movement. Patel was highly respected for his leadership in uniting 562 princely states of India with a major part of the former British Raj to form the single Union of India. The Statue of Unity is the world’s tallest statue, with a height of 182 metres (597 feet). It is located in the state of Gujarat, India, on the Narmada River in the Kevadiya colony, facing the Sardar Sarovar Dam 100 kilometres (62 mi) southeast of the city of Vadodara and 150 kilometres (93 mi) from the city of Surat. Kevadia railway station is 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) from the statue.

The project was first announced in 2010, and construction of the statue started in October 2013 by Indian company Larsen & Toubro, with a total construction cost of ₹2700 crore (₹27 billion; US$422 million). It was designed by Indian sculptor Ram V. Sutar and was inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 31 October 2018, the 143rd anniversary of Patel’s birth. The construction was completed in October 2018, with the statue being inaugurated on 31 October in a ceremony involving Modi and other dignitaries. The monument was named India’s tallest in December 2014.

The Statue of Unity is one of several statues built or planned around the world to honour freedom fighters, important rulers, or national heroes. There are several other similar monuments built in previous centuries, for example equestrian statues including Marcus Aurelius on Capitoline Hill. The Statue of Unity is more of a representation of India’s freedom struggle, as protests against the project were widespread.

The statue has become a popular destination for tourists since its unveiling, with two million visitors expected in the first year. At the time of its inauguration, it was described by Modi as “a symbol of realisation” of his dreams. The government launched a web portal to allow visitors to live stream the events related to its inauguration and other related activities. It also allows visitors to upload selfies along with the statue. The Statue of Unity is the second tallest statue in the world, after the Spring Temple Buddha in China.

It is found in an island near Ahmadabad, Gujarat, India. There are many statues of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Gujarat.

Threats and controversies

There were widespread protests against this project when it was announced because the state government approved it without consulting tribal groups who lived near the site. The statue cost Rs.2800 crore and it is part of a larger project which includes a 3,000-bed hospital to serve the region, a university and an amusement park. However, many tribal groups claimed that their rights were violated and they did not receive any compensation for the land acquired by the Gujarat government for this project.

The Supreme Court of India has laid down guidelines through an order dated October 31, 2018, to prevent environmental degradation due to unregulated tourism around the Statue of Unity. As per the order, the state government must take all measures to prevent commercialisation of the Statue of Unity. It may be recalled that soon after its inauguration, Modi had visited the statue with his family and interacted with tourists for about 45 minutes, triggering criticism from various quarters.

The Sardar Sarovar Dam project faced several controversies during construction. However, the controversy around the Statue of Unity was mostly set off by the tribal people of Sardar Sarovar Dam project because of their woes during construction.

The controversy started with the government denial of any form of compensation for land acquisition to the marginalized tribes living in proximity to Sardar Sarovar Dam. Consequently, protests against this project started all over Gujarat. The tribal people were at least made aware about this project which was announced almost 10 years ago after it was approved by Indian Government.

The statue was announced in 2010 and construction began in October 2013. It is situated near Kevadiya colony, on the Narmada River. It is positioned to face the Narmada Dam 100 kilometres (62 mi) away from it. A state government spokesperson claimed that the project would boost tourism in the area. The statue was designed by Ram Sutar, an Indian artist, and is meant to symbolize Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s courage and ideals for unity of India under his leadership. The statue was planned to cost ₹2,800 crores (US$460 million), but with the announcement of demonetisation in November 2016 the funds needed to complete the project were assumed to be lacking.

It is 182 metres tall. The statue has eight pillars supporting it. The statue contains of bronze. At its base is a lotus flower made out of granite and it weighs around 250 tonnes. The foundation of the statue consists of 2,700 tonnes of cement, 1,200 tonnes of reinforcement steel, 11,000 tonnes of structural steel and 6,500 cubic metres (246,000 cu ft) of concrete. The foundation is 7 metres (23 ft) deep.

It is claimed that the statue does not include a separate memorial for Sardar Patel. A viewing gallery is located near the Sardar Sarovar Dam, from where tourists can see the Statue of Unity, as well as a revolving restaurant. The statue was inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 31 October 2018, which was also Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday and National Youth Day.

In July 2018, the Gujarat High Court dismissed a petition against the construction of the statue filed by environmentalist M. C. Mehta. Mehta had challenged the environmental clearance granted to the statue, specifically citing its potential impact on migratory birds which use the Narmada river, and on the local population who may be displaced by the statue’s construction. Despite this, some civil society organisations of Gujarat alleged that there was no public hearing before starting the project and only tribal people were against it. They also questioned why an idol of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s head is being installed in Gujarat, when he is from Maharashtra.

On September 5, 2013, the Gujarat state government altered the route of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor to incorporate the statue. The Gujarat government also announced that it would be involved in improving infrastructure along the corridor. Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) and Kandla Port planned to build a greenfield container terminal (GTI) near Vadodara for logistical support of industrial development due to this corridor.

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