Statue of Unity: A fitting tribute to Sardar Patel

Nikhil Bhave
Saturday, 20 October 2018

The first phase of the project is spread across 19,000 sq metres. The memorial is dedicated to India’s first home minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who is also credited with uniting the country from fragments of various presidencies and 500+ princely states.

India will have a monument taller than the Statue of Liberty. In fact, it may well be the tallest statue in the world. It is coming up in Gujarat. Yes, we are talking about the ‘Statue of Unity’. 

Standing at 597 feet, it is one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream projects and it will be open to the public from October 31.

The nearest city is Gujarat’s ‘cultural capital’ Vadodara. From there, it is about 100 kilometres by road to Kevadia Colony, which is the nearest town near the statue. The statue is being made on an island in the Narmada river, called ‘Sadhu bet’ (ascetic’s island). 

The first phase of the project is spread across 19,000 sq metres. The memorial is dedicated to India’s first home minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who is also credited with uniting the country from fragments of various presidencies and 500+ princely states.

The project’s foundation stone was laid by Modi, then CM of Gujarat, on October 31, 2013. It was Patel’s 138th birth anniversary. 

The statue is made of iron, and Patel was called ‘Iron Man of India’.  The work order for the edifice was given to L&T on December 3, 2014, and it was scheduled to be completed within 42 months.

“However, the critical design phase took time, which pushed the deadline further by a few months,” SSNNL Superintending Engineer RG Kanungo said.

The 3,000 crore project is being built as a PPP (Public Private Partnership). The partners are Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and under the supervision of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL). The statue is situated 3.2 km downstream of the Narmada Dam on the islet, Chairman and Managing Director of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) SS Rathod said.

The statue will be surrounded by a variety of complexes. These include an exhibition hall, a tribal museum, three tent colonies and a three-star hotel. The statue will also have a lift to the statue’s heart, where the visitors can get a panoramic view of the surroundings, as well as the of Sardar Sarovar dam, which is about 3 km away from the statue. The viewing gallery will have a capacity of 200 people, while officials expect around 15,000 daily visitors.

At present, efforts are on a war footing to complete the statue. With the deadline for October 31 nearing, a lot of work is still to be completed. (See box) “Currently, the marble flooring is being laid on the 306-metre walkway that reaches the base of the statue and from there to the viewing gallery. Besides that, work on escalators, a selfie point and a shopping point are also on,” an official said.

In fact, as per the authorities, the next phase of the project will offer the visitors the opportunity to boat up to the statue complex. The area will turn into a man-made lake thanks to a dam coming up in the area (and which, the authorities tell us, was planned way before the statue was conceptualised). 

One does wonder looking at the statue that why is the statue not directly facing the Sardar Sarovar dam, which is a major project spread across three states and which fulfils Gujarat’s thirst. However, Rathod said, “The statue is facing the east and not exactly towards the dam as proposed earlier. Its position was finalised on the basis of shadow analysis so that it remains bright for the maximum amount of time.’’

Even before the statue’s completion, the BJP and Congress have been going hammer and tongs at each other. While the statue has a concrete core, it is made up of 553 bronze panels. The panels sparked a row, with Congress saying the statue was ‘made in China’.  When quizzed, Kanungo said, “The panels were cast in a foundry in China as part of the international bidding process, since there was no such facility in India that could make panels of that size.”

A HERCULEAN TASK
The statue is situated in a very remote area. As one goes towards the area from Vadodara, the roads get much less smooth and much bumpier. When this scribe visited the area, much of the work was unfinished, including the hotel as well as the road connecting the statue to the world. Getting everything ready will be a herculean task. But when asked about this, Rathod expressed confidence that everything will be ready by October 31.

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