The stage is set for Chief Minister Modi to lay the foundation of the ambitious Statue of Unity at Sadhu Bet,with workers of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) being engaged to clear the ground facing the hillock for tree plantation and gathering of audience on October 31,the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel.
Meanwhile,the district administration and the SSNNL are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the grand ceremony passes off without any eventuality,particularly since the tribal villagers around the hillock made vocal their opposition to the plan to set up the statue.
The government in mid-June deployed three jawans of the specially created Narmada Battalion,a special task force carved out of the State Reserve Police Force (SRP),to secure the dam site,following a rally taken out recently by the local tribals against land acquisition by the Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA) for tourism infrastructure around the statue. The neighbouring villages laid claim on the Tekri,which according to the tribals is of religious importance. Villagers maintained that the hillock,located 3.2 km from the Narmada dam,is originally called Varata Bawa Tekri,named after a local deity,and hence is a site of religious importance. Now the district administration fears that villagers may walk up to the hillock and place a religious flag on it.
Chief Minister Narendra Modi plans to take out a rally on Sadhu Island,located 3.5 km from the construction site,to mobilise farmers to donate iron pieces for building the statue,which will be placed right in front of Sadhu Bet,facing the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river at Kevadia in Narmada district. The crowd is likely to be restricted up to 20,000 to 30,000,given the relatively small size of the island,sources said.
The SSNNL,on behalf of Sardar Patel Rashtriya Ekta Manch,will begin construction of a exhibition hall,a bridge connecting the statue site with mainland at Kevadia,a memorial garden,administrative complex plus hotel and a visitors gallery simultaneously in December. The state government has already started the process of awarding the construction work of Rs 2,063 crore to build the Sardar Patel statue,a 182-feet structure set to be the tallest in the world. The technical bids are scheduled to be held on December 6.
The iron collection drive is being seen as a rural mobilisation campaign of the BJP ahead of Lok Sabha elections. The construction of the statue is likely to begin in December and is expected to be completed within 42 months.
On Wednesday,the cabinet meeting was followed by a meeting of the core committee,which was attended by Finance Minister Nitin Patel,Revenue Minister Anandi Patel and Energy and Petrochemical Minister Saurabh Patel. The aim of the meeting was to chalk out the final details for function, said an official.
HIRAL DAVE & KUMAR ANAND