Exactly four years after construction began, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the tallest statue in the world, but erecting the monument came at what cost?
The sculpture, called the Statue of Unity, depicts India’s first deputy Prime Minister and independence leader Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and stands at 597 ft. It is located on an island on the river Narmada, in Patel’s home state of Gujarat.
The size of the statue is not only to show the country’s power and might to the rest of the world as PM Modi said, but also to encourage Indian’s themselves to become more familiar with the people behind India’s independence movement. However, it was more than just money that made this possible, so what was the true cost of this commemoration.
Firstly, let’s take a look at how much money it cost to fund the building of the structure. Initially, there was a budget of $400 million, which itself was deemed as sky high but the actual cost came to roughly $430 million. Half of the funding came from the Gujarat government, while the other half was paid for by the Indian government and donations. Many citizens of the Gujarat State are unhappy with the incredible amount of money used to build the statue and think the money could have been better utilised.
“Instead of spending money on a giant statue, the government should have used it for farmers in the district,” Vijendra Tadvi, a farmer who also worked as a driver on the statue’s construction site, told BBC Gujarati’s Roxy Gagdekar.
The statue also required a huge amount of raw materials. Around 25,000 tonnes of steel and 1,700 tonnes of bronze were used to create the so-called “Iron Man of India”, along with roughly seven million cubic feet of cement.
The construction process that took almost three years to complete required the work of more than 2,000 workers and over 250 engineers. Not only was the statue erected, but bridges, a 3-star-hotel and a visitor centre with a museum were also built.
According to local news outlets, there were thousands of protesters at the grand opening of the statue along with thousands of policemen trying to prevent things from becoming violent. Farmers in the Gujarat region are unhappy and demanding compensation for land they used for farming which they claim was seized to make way for the statue.
The statue covers 20,000 square meters and is a major disruption to those who have been living there. Activists are fighting for the indigenous Adivasi who occupied the site before construction began.
It is expected that the monument will attract 2.5 million visitors a year which will serve as a boost to the local economy. Will this make up for the cost of the statue and the land taken from the farmers and indigenous people?