The drive to collect iron to build the world’s tallest statue, the Statue of Unity, on the Narmada, seems to have fizzled out. The Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) godown in the Chhani area of Vadodara, which has been the repository for the iron brought from across India, has seen little action over the last two months.
The last truck carrying palletized cartons containing the trademark white and orange boxes of farm tools, a bottle of village soil and a satin scroll containing the names of the contributors and a form with details of the village, arrived here on April 24 from Ahmedabad, according to official records.
A laminated white placard hangs on the gate, directing those wishing to hand over “contents” for the Statue of Unity to three representatives of SSNL, whose phones numbers have been mentioned. Inside the compound, the sheds stand locked.
Records at the SSNNL office in Narmada Bhavan in Vadodara show 16 states have contributed zero iron tools to the project, which was an important part of Narendra Modi’s campaign for prime ministership. Some of these states are BJP ruled — Rajasthan, for example, has sent nothing.
The entire Northeast — Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, Sikkim, Mizoram and Nagaland — has remained aloof, while kits from Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Punjab are “awaited”.
Karnataka has sent only five resource kits, while BJP-ruled Goa has sent 386.
Uttar Pradesh has contributed the largest number of kits — 40,000 — beating Modi’s home state Gujarat to the second place with 33,000 kits. Tamil Nadu sent 12,000; Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Chandigarh 10,000 each.
Sources said the movement to collect iron for the statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, which was compared to the drive to collect bricks for the Ram temple in Ayodhya, fell flat after NGO Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG) exited in January, after having completed its mandate of designing and rolling out the project’s pan-India outreach and social mobilisation plan.
According to sources, SSNL was entrusted with the implementation of the project three years ago, but for two years, it could not come up with a plan on how to collect iron for the project. It was then, in August 2013, that CAG was roped. It was asked to come up with a plan to reach out to people, ask them to contribute iron and soil for the project, and to build a buzz around it. The CAG website says it conducted “1 regional workshop in each of the South, East, West and North-East regions and 2 workshops in the North region”.
Last December, Modi, as chief minister of Gujarat, flagged off a convoy of trucks that were to travel across India on a drive to collect iron tools from seven lakh villages. The statue was to be 182 continued…
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