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Statue of Unity: Project Draws Ire of Tribal Families, BJP Makes Unveiling a 'Low-Key' Event

BJP insiders had earlier hinted at an extravagant unveiling ceremony. However, apart from PM Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, governors Vajubhai Vala and Anandiben Patel and the CM and deputy CM of Gujarat will remain present as special invitees.

Meghdoot Sharon | CNN-News18

Updated:October 31, 2018, 10:51 AM IST
Statue of Unity: Project Draws Ire of Tribal Families, BJP Makes Unveiling a 'Low-Key' Event
Constructed over 42 months at a cost of Rs 2989 crore, the Statue of Unity is a tribute to the Iron Man of India

Ahmedabad: As the nation gears up to witness the unveiling of world's tallest statue in Gujarat's Narmada district, the event is expected to be a low key affair, contrary to the earlier claims.

Party insiders had hinted that the launch of Statue of Unity will be an extravaganza with the presence of Chief Ministers of all BJP-ruled states along with a few international dignitaries as well. However, apart from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will dedicate the statue to the nation, BJP President Amit Shah, Governors Vajubhai Vala and Anandiben Patel and the chief minister and deputy chief minister of Gujarat will be present as special invitees.

Though, top officials said that another huge event is being planned in the second half of November, where several top functionaries from across the country will be invited. This list will include chief ministers of all BJP-ruled states. Congress leaders have also been sent invites to attend the dedication of the statue.

While Statue of Unity will be unveiled on Wednesday, the entire project is yet to be completed with a 52-room, 3-star hotel, and an auditorium being constructed in its vicinity. Besides that, a valley of flowers along both the banks of Narmada river and several other amenities will be built in the area to ensure maximum tourist attraction.

A gallery is being constructed at the chest height of the statue from where people will be able to get a spectacular view of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, the reservoir behind the statue and the Vindhyachal and Satpuda mountain ranges on either side of the statue. A tent city has also come up in the area.

In the next phase, a project of getting sea planes in lakes around the Statue of Unity is also being planned, apart from connecting Vadodara to Kevadia by rail lines.

Despite the government's ambitious plan to make the statue a major tourist attraction for people around the world, it has drawn sharp reaction from a group of local residents and the opposition.

A group of tribals, residing around Garudeshwar where the statue has been built, along with tribals of other districts in east and south Gujarat, have decided to observe October 31 as 'Black Day'. They claim that apart from the fact that tribals have lost their land to the project, the policies of the present state government are "against the interest of tribals".

Others have also questioned the use of funds for the project. Former Gujarat Chief Minister Suresh Mehta contends that despite the original claim that no state funds will be used for the statue, budget documents show that beginning 2013-14 state budget, funds have been allotted for the statue under the heading of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited.

"The budgetary provision made under the heading of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) is expected to be used for construction of the canal and sub-canal network that will extend to the farthermost parts of Gujarat. I have nothing against Sardar Patel, but the government has used money meant for the farmers to construct a statue. Even Sardar saheb would not have approved of this," Mehta said.

Environmental scientist and activist Mahesh Pandya added, "I am sure Sardar Patel would never have approved of such wasteful expenditure. A trust was formed to oversee the construction of the statue, but it appears as if the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam is now the nodal agency. The SSNNL's job is to provide Narmada water to Gujarat's farmers, not construction of a statue of Sardar Patel."

Considered to be an engineering marvel, the 182-metre tall statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel will be declared open to mark his birth anniversary on Wednesday. Located three kilometres downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam in Narmada district, this gigantic statue, along with its base, stands tall at 600 feet above the ground.

Constructed over 42 months at a cost of Rs 2989 crore, the Statue of Unity, is being billed as a fitting tribute to the Iron Man of India, who is credited with being able to unify the princely states into one nation.

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| Edited by: Sumedha Kirti
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