A year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Statue of Unity last year, a grand event will mark the October anniversary this year. Modi is expected to inaugurate or perform the foundation-stone-laying ceremony of close to 30 peripheral projects associated with the world’s tallest statue.
Officials of various departments of the state administration are working relentlessly to complete the list. In fact, a circular in the beginning of vacation season in May even barred hundreds of government officials stationed in Kevadia colony from taking leave until October to avoid delays the ongoing projects.
Among the 30 projects are Shreshth Bharat Bhavan, Ekta Mall, a butterfly park, a nutrition Park, a mirror Maze, several State Bhavans, a safari Park, a tent city and a tribal museum. Sources also say that Modi will also perform the foundation-stone-laying ceremony for the aerodrome terminal that is to come up at Pond 3 of the Narmada dam premises, for which the state government has also allocated funds of Rs 5 crore in the budget this week. Authorities have also issued a fresh tender to restart the helicopter service that allowed visitors to take an aerial tour of the statue and the dam at Rs 2,900 per head. The service was suspended during the Lok Sabha polls as the contractor who was providing the service pulled out to cater to other demands.
Officials are tight-lipped about the details of the projects that are a part of an ambitious plan to turn Kevadia colony into a sought-after tourist destination. However, sources say that the safari park, “first of its kind in India”, will house over 1,500 animals of various species, both Indian and international. “The plan is to import animals from international parks, including giraffes, kangaroos, pandas, koalas and ostriches,” an official of the forest department said. “Proposals to channelise the import of the animals are being worked on. The animals will be housed in open spaces that mimic their natural habitats, and visitors will move around in electric cars.”
The Ekta Mall, an extension of State Bhavans, will soon come up at the site to signify the unity of the country. “It is a haat concept where artisans of other states can sell their handicrafts. We have tried a similar concept of local artisans from Narmada and tourists have appreciated it,” said CEO of the Statue of Unity, IK Patel. He said four states have given consent to develop the Bhavans. “Haryana has paid us the money for the land as well,” he added.
Two high-profile conferences lined up
Prime Minister Modi will not just inaugurate projects but visit the site before October to address two consecutive seminars – the foreign ministry’s annual Heads of Missions (HoMs) conference as well as a conference of the country’s probationary civil services officers including IAS, IRS, IPS and IRS. While the MEA conference is extremely significant as it is the first time that it will be held outside Delhi and attended by the ambassadors of India and other high-level diplomats, the meeting of probationary civil servants is also expected to bring a huge number of visitors to the site.
“The tent city expansion is one of the major projects that need to be completed,” an official said. “There are a total of 35 air-conditioned tents right now and the target is to complete 80 by end of August to mid-September in order to accommodate the visitors.” The official said the Prime Minister is likely to be here for two days in September for the conference. “We have also received details of a possible union cabinet meeting in Kevadia Colony near the Statue of unity around the same time.”
The tent city is being created on the lines of such an existing service in Kutch where visitors can rent tents for night stay and also order entertainment and food to have a good time, the official said, adding, “The aerodrome’s activity will also commence soon, as we are expecting the chief minister and cabinet ministers of Gujarat to visit next week to take stock of the various projects. For most officials stationed in Kevadia colony, Diwali this year on October 27 will be a very tiring one.”