“Sardar Patel stands as a symbol of unity for the country,” said Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his budget speech while allocating Rs 200 crore for the ‘Statue of Unity’ to be built at Sardar Sarovar in Gujarat. However, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor criticised this allocation and went on to even question the NDA government's priorities. Some other critics also claimed that the country has far more urgent priorities than the ‘Statue of Unity’ and also that the country can feed so many people out of this huge fund of Rs 200 crore.
It is not for the first time that the critics have flooded with questions the project displaying India's pride, strength, unity or capabilities. This year in January, the than Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, questioned the propriety of Republic Day Parade. In the same way, so many critics raised questions over the country's satellite programes, moon and mars missions, nuclear programmes, etc. Such critics usually claim that such expensive programmes are nothing but 'gross misuse of funds'. But they never question the propriety of Indian Premier League (IPL), how many people can be fed and how many girls can be educated with the huge fund parked in the extravaganza called the IPL?
Among such critics are also the so-called social workers, who for their vested interests have painted India's picture as a 'country of snake charmers'. But after the successful launch of our satellites or nuclear tests, India's overall image enhanced world over from a weak nation to an advanced fast developing country.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi replied appropriately to all such critics on the successful launch of PSLV C-23 saying, “I have heard that the Hollywood movie 'Gravity' cost more than our Mars mission. This is a great achievement.” The same reply applies to those critics question the propriety of the Statue of Unity.
The political leaders like Tharoors, perhaps do not want to understand the great role that Sardar Patel has played for unifying India. Or perhaps they may not willingly want to recognise the contribution of Sardar Patel. It is a well known fact that princely states of Hyderabad, Bhopal and Travancore wanted to remain independent and Jinnah was trying his best to allure neighbouring princely states also. Jinnah gave his pen and a plain paper to Maharaja of Jodhpur saying 'write whatever conditions you want and I will sign on that'. Jinnah used the influence of Nawab of Bhopal to allure Maharaja of Jodhpur and some other heads of the princely states.
About Jinnah's approach towards the heads of princely states, B Shivram writes in his book Framing of India's Constitution, “On one occasion Maharaja of Nava Nagar, who was Chairman of the Chamber of Princess, said 'why I should not support Muslim League? Shri Jinnah is ready to accept our existence, while Nehruji wants to erase us.” Sardar Patel kept close watch on such developments and when he got the charge of newly formed 'Ministry for States' on July 5, 1947 he appealed to all the heads of princely states saying 'culturally we are one and now we should come forward to create a Unified India'. The credit for acceding more than 500 princely states into India goes to solely Sardar Patel. However some states like Hyderabad, J&K and Junagarh displayed reluctances but Patel resolved the issues of Hyderabad and Junagarh. Since the issue of J&K was directly handled by Pt. Nehru, everybody knows what is the situation in this State even today?
The simple question to all those who criticise the allocation for 'Statue of Unity' is how much funds we have drained and how many lives we have sacrificed in the tense State of J&K so far since 1947? Who is responsible for these misdeeds? It is a well established fact that if Patel had acted as per the instructions of Pt Nehru, Hyderabad too would have been a big trouble for us, because it was the largest princely State having an area of 82, 000 sq. miles and had decided to remain independent with the blessings of Jinnah. Sardar Patel sacrificed every moment of his life for the creation of an unified India and he never cared for his family or children. For him the whole India was his family. Every nation or society respects itslegendary leaders and cares for its national pride. Those who forget their National Heroes, history never forgive them.
-Dr Ravindra Agrawal (The writer is a senior journalist)