Today, 31st October 18 India unveiled the world’s tallest statue also called The Statue of Unity. The Statue is the centerpiece of a sprawling memorial to former nationalist leader Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Patel was born in Gujarat and went on to become independent India’s first interior minister and deputy prime minister under Jawaharlal Nehru.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi commissioned the statue when he was the state’s chief minister in 2010. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has embraced Patel in an attempt to claim his legacy – and they have accused the opposition Congress party of sidelining him to benefit Nehru’s descendants, three of whom have served as prime ministers.
The plan for memorial includes a three-star hotel, a museum and a research center that will focus on subjects close to his heart, such as good governance and agriculture development.
Vijendra Tadvi, a 39-year-old farmer in the western state of Gujarat, has been struggling to find water to irrigate his farmland. He grows groundnuts, chili, and corn. Like millions of farmers in the country, he relies on monsoon rains to water his crops. But long dry summers with hardly any rains have led to the drought-like situation.
Though, since 2015, Tadvi was working as a driver on a construction site of the 182m high statue, the tallest in the world. The statue of the Indian independence leader Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel cost close to 3,000 Crores for which Gujarat government is reported to have paid more than half of the amount, and the remainder came from the federal government and public donation.
The statue is complete and, Tadvi has found more work as a driver on construction sites. But he is still unimpressed by the government’s compensations. Tadvi’s village, Nana Pipaliya is a rural and tribal Narmada district. The village remains to live in hunger, fall in primary school enrollment, and malnourishment according to a report in 2016 by the state government.
The government believes the memorial will contribute to the district’s economy, as they expect around 2.5 million visitors a year. “It will lead to employment opportunities for locals and will also increase tourism in the area,” said Sandeep Kumar, a senior official involved with the project.
“Instead of spending money on a giant statue, the government should have used it for farmers in the district,” Tadvi said, adding that farmers in the area still lack basic irrigation facilities.
“I grow only one crop per year, while people with irrigation facilities grow up to three crops annually,” said Bhola Tadvi, a farmer who relies solely on rainwater for irrigation.
Earlier this year, farmers in the neighboring state of Maharashtra did a massive protest demanding a waiver on the repayment of loans and better prices for their crops.
In 2017, farmers from drought-affected districts in the southern state of Tamil Nadu brandished human skulls and a held live mouse between their teeth to draw attention to their situation.
It is said to be the historic day for India, but where are we going and what did we achieve spending almost 3,000 Crores. I am sure that the government can put these kinds of funding to the better use. The country is still fighting with basic needs such as hospitals, schools, homes, universities, infrastructures like roads and dams. Doesn’t that make sense?
Dedicated to farmers, jobless youths, hungry people #statue of unity INR 2063 CR
— MD.Kamran Khan (@KamranK83610996) October 30, 2018