“Do we need statues or schools, Hospitals! this much money could have been given to the welfare of the poor.” We have heard a lot about the Statue of the Legend, the unifier of modern Bharat, The Iron man Sardar Patel. When Narendra Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat has announced this project in 2010, It was widely criticised by the so-called elite literate, intellectuals and the opposition precisely. There were wage estimations. Controversy over its being made in China, though it was only the cavity part of bronze which was imported as China is the only manufacturer of it. Larsen & Toubro, our own Indian construction company, has built it before the estimated time.
The point of discussion should have been ‘why Modi chose this destination for building the statue’? the place is neither Sardar Patel’s birthplace nor any historical significance with Sardar Patel or his work. His birthplace is just 3 hours away from Narmada! Then why Narendra Modi, the then Chief Minister of Gujarat chose one of the country’s most backward districts for it? As per the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, GOI. with 90% rural and over 82% tribal population, Narmada is one of the most backward districts in terms of modern-day development despite the fact, it is the biggest receiver of backward region Grant Fund Program from Government of India. What happened to the funds received throughout the years right after independence? Nobody knows, one can still find a half-naked older man moving bare feet with his 3-4 goats.
Statue of Unity has marked as the prodigious statue of Indian Statesman and independence activist Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel since its commencement. The First Deputy Prime Minister & Home Minister of independent India is highly revered for his able leadership in uniting 562 princely states and redrawing the political boundaries of the Union of India. Statue of Unity is situated in the vicinity of Satpura Hills of Gujarat. The grandeur of 182 meters (597 ft.) tall statue has bagged it the title of being the tallest of its kind in the world. The project was announced by Shri Narendra Modi at a press conference in the year 2010, and what better a place to erect a monument dedicated to the Iron Man of India, than the Sardar Sarovar Dam built on river Narmada which is 3 hours away from his cradle, Nadiad.
There are reasons beyond this to build the statue at this place. According to the Census of 2011, the population of Narmada district is approximately 5.9 lakhs, spread over 2,755 sq.km. area out of which 82% comprises of the tribal community. Small-time agriculture and casual labour are a vital means of their livelihood. Gujarat ranks second among the most developed and prosperous states in India. However, the majority of these inhabitants struggle to manage a square meal a day. Although access to potable water, primary healthcare and education has altered this scenario to some extent, poverty remains a matter of concern and requires immediate attention. Major problems arise for these tribal-natives after the season of monsoon when they start migrating to nearby towns of Vadodara, Bharuch, Surat and Ahmedabad as a construction labourer, farmworkers and hire hands in search of livelihood.
Gujarat accounts for 8.1% of the Scheduled Tribe population of the country. The tribal population of Gujarat, numbering 89.17 lakh, constitute 14.8% of the state’s population. The TSP area constitutes 18% of the state’s geographical area. There are 11 major tribes in Gujarat; the largest Bhil, constituting 47.89% of the state’s tribal population. Amar Singh Chaudhary was the first Chief Minister from the tribal community to take the oath on July 6, 1985 and retained office until December 9 1989. Later, his son, Dr Tushar Chaudhary became the Minister of Highway, Surface Transport and Aviation in the UPA government but nothing has changed for tribal peoples even after 60 years of the history of the establishment of this state. Very little has been done for the tribal communities, but they continue to be a favourable vote bank for political parties.
Why Modi Chose Narmada for Statue?
Poverty is a Greenfield for missionaries who enter remote tribal regions and carry out large scale conversion in the pretext of providing services like healthcare and education. Areas ranging from Umargam of Gujarat to Jhabua of Madhya Pradesh and Jhalor of Rajasthan, where more than 80% of the population is tribal, have always been vulnerable to missionary activities from Europe and America. Poverty is a catalyst for religious conversions and has become equivalent to a lucrative business in the contemporary scenario. Hundreds of churches mushroomed in each tribal district. VHP national general secretary, Y Raghavulu, claimed that 8 lakh Hindus are converted into other religions each year. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar once wrote to a Bangalore based tabloid saying that, “Converting myself into Islam or Christianity will shift my loyalty towards Mecca or the Vatican, so I would much rather convert into Buddhism.” As he foresaw the result of converting into Semitic religions.
Naxal activities in tribal areas are evident, carving out a separate ‘Bhilistan’ out of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan has already been done by the missionary & Naxal backed BTS. Where ‘Bhilistan Tiger Sena’ thrives under few tribal leaders influenced by foreign missionaries, Naxalites and other anti-national forces. The then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Mr Narendra Modi, gazed this danger and wisely chose Narmada district for the establishment of the Statue of Unity, which falls almost at the centre and proposed capital of Bhilistan.
The erection of this monument has enabled developmental activities in the area by generating employment for the tribal youth; they have become less prone to the influence of so-called Bhilistan Tiger Force to join illegal activities. The statue had an unprecedented influx of visitors within the first week of its inauguration. It has marked as the most visited place in India after our Muths and Mandirs. Many national & International conferences are being organised at the tent city facility. As tourism and urbanisation will follow, the peripheral services will grow around the statue. This will generate more employment and increase the standard of living of the people dwelling in the region.
As per estimates, 5,000 to 10,000 hands will be employed in different categories over 3-5 years around the reservoir, and the number of daily visitors could be anything between 30,000 to 40,000 people per day. With the proposed rail and air connectivity, the statue will soon beat Statue of Liberty in New York or Burj-Khalifa in terms of daily visitors and earnings both.
The foremost notable achievement is the very idea of Bhilisthan is now under threat, so are its leaders. They know for a fact that development will bring in employment and upliftment of the tribal region, it will be the death rattle of their anti-national activities, thus have started to create disturbance and resistance in the region, its epicentre being the district of Narmada. They have started mobilising agitations and propaganda, saying that the local farmers are not happy with the decision and that the government has forcefully acquired their land for the construction of the statue. While the truth remains that SSNL has acquired the land on the banks of Narmada for the construction of the reservoir long ago and no fresh land has been acquired for this purpose. The locals are satisfied as the footfalls are increasing in the region and the requirement of food items, vegetables, milk and manpower for hospitality are on a steady rise. The need for utility guides, drivers, etc. are increasing, and the tribal youth will not migrate elsewhere in search for livelihood.
In a way, Narendra Modi has once again placed Sardar in his true spirit. Such are the legends of a visionary leader who turns a threat into an opportunity. Sardar Patel is such a legend that he is serving his countrymen even after 67 years of his demise. Sardar is safeguarding our tribal brethren from being misled and prevented Narmada from becoming Bastar or Dantewada of Gujarat.