Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday unveiled the world’s tallest statue — Statue of Unity — as a tribute to freedom fighter and India’s first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The 182-metre statue of Patel is an “answer to those who question India’s existence”, PM Modi said at the inaugural ceremony in Gujarat’s Kevadiya district. “It shows that India was, is and always will be eternal,” he said.
Air Force planes showered flowers on the statue as the prime minister dedicated it to the nation, on the birth anniversary of Iron man of India – Sardar Patel. The statue, twice the size of the Statue of Liberty, is built at a cost of Rs 2,989 crore. Apart from the statue itself, there are five other related sites that are constructed along with the world’s tallest statue. These include the walkway, the ticket counter, the food court, the four-lane approach highway, and the ‘Shrestha Bharat Bhavan’- a 52-room three-star lodging facility for the visitors coming to see the monument.
Crediting Sardar Patel for a “united India,” Modi said, “Had Sardar Patel not united the country, we would need visas to see lions or pay homage at Somnath or view the Charminar in Hyderabad. Patel converted India’s diversity into its biggest strength. The country is today following the path shown by Patel and is moving towards becoming the world’s greatest economic and strategic power.”
He also said that the statue will promote the livelihood of the people in the area. “This is the tallest statue in the world. People across the world will visit this site and remember it. The contribution of the tribals, farmers and villagers, who helped to make the Statue of Unity cannot be ignored. The statue will bring prosperity to the tribals, farmers and villagers in this region. It will lead to job creation and promote tourism in the area,” Modi said.
“The world’s tallest statue would remind the entire world, the future generations about the courage, capabilities and resolution of the person who did this holy work of thwarting the conspiracy to disintegrate Mother India into pieces,” the prime minister said addressing a gathering after inaugurating the monument. This (statue) is a source of unity…with this sentiment we should march…and march with a dream to make the country ‘Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat’ (One India, Superior India),” he added.
“Like Sardar Patel united the country geographically by merging erstwhile princely states, we have united the country economically by bringing in GST,” the PM said. “We are expanding Sardar Patel’s resolve of uniting the country by introducing various schemes, such as One Nation One Grid, eNAM and Bharatmala. Through such schemes of connecting the country, we are committed to make Ek Bharat Shreshth Bharat(One India Best India)” he said.
Read | What is Statue of Unity?
The statue was conceptualised by Modi when he was Gujarat Chief Minister. The foundation stone was laid in October 2013. “It is my honour that I got a chance to pay the tribute to the great man. It is Patel’s efforts that have led our country to what it is today. Today is a day that will be remembered in the history of India. No Indian will ever forget this day.”
Also present at the venue were Gujarat Governor O P Kohli, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, Deputy CM Nitin Patel, BJP chief Amit Shah, Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala and Madhya Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel.
The statue stands on Sadhu island on the Narmada, 3.2 km downstream of Sardar Sarovar Dam. The statue is designed by Padma Bhushan-winning sculptor Ram V Sutar and has been built by Larsen and Toubro and the state-run Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd. It shows Patel wearing a traditional dhoti and shawl, towering over the Narmada River. The height was picked as ‘182’ metre to match the total Assembly constituencies in Gujarat.
The Statue of Unity has, however, drawn flak from tribals and farmers living in the region who called it a “mass destruction” of natural resources. They had also called for a boycott of the event. Launching an attack on those opposing the Statue of Unity, PM Modi said he is “amazed” that protesters are giving it a “political colour.” “The statue is a symbol of country’s respect to this great man. Praising great icons like Patel has also brought us criticism. It seems like we have committed a big crime,” he said.
The government also organised a ‘Run for Unity’ to mark Patel’s anniversary. Flagging off the run in New Delhi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh called Patel “symbol of India’s unity.” “He had brought the country’s 562 principalities under the fold of the union and had achieved this task within a very short span of 70 days through a bloodless revolution,” Singh said.
Singh said it was Patel who had ensured that the country remains united with its uniqueness of diversity in religion, language and culture. “Patel had dreamt of an India which is always strong and united. Our prime minister is working in that direction by taking everyone along,” Singh said.
Union ministers Harsh Vardhan, R K Singh, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Hardeep Puri, Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, Union home secretary Rajiv Gauba, boxer and Rajya Sabha member MC Mary Kom, gymnast Dipa Karmakar, hockey legend Zafar Iqbal and weightlifter Karnam Malleswari participated the event held at Major Dhyan Chand national stadium in the national capital.