2014 BUDGET

Rs 200 crore for the Sardar statue is less than a tenth of the total amount it needs

But there is perhaps a more pressing problem: sourcing material.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley today announced an allocation of Rs 200 crore for the Statue of Unity, a figure of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel that could be the world’s tallest when completed. Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation for the statue at a site only four kilometres downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada River in October 2013, during his election campaign.

Jaitley’s allocation will certainly not be enough. The proposed budget for the statue is Rs 2500 crore, which Gujarat officials said would be funded by private and public money. In 2011, it had collected only Rs 55 crore. There are no figures available on how much its donation drive last year collected.

But even if it does get adequate funding, the project has a far more basic issue: lack of material. The Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited, which is coordinating the project, was unable to work out how to source the amount of iron ore required for a 597-foot sculpture.

Citizens for Accountable Governance, an NGO that worked closely with the Bharatiya Janata Party on its election campaign, came to the rescue last August. It proposed a collection drive of iron tools from farmers across the country. While some states such as Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat responded eagerly, others such as Rajasthan and Karnataka were not very generous. In December, Modi led a convoy of 1,000 trucks to collect iron from across the country. But the iron collected was not used because of questionable quality.

According to the Indian Express last week, even those collections have dried up since the CAG stopped monitoring the program in January. The last truck came from Ahmedabad towards the end of April.

Turner Construction, the company which also worked on the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, is a consultant for the project.

The statue will be the world’s tallest when completed only if the Shivaji statue to be built along the coast of Mumbai – which is supposed to be 624 feet – has not come up by then; even that has no central funding yet. Let the statue games begin.

 
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