Published: Wed, October 31, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

PM to dedicate Statue of Unity to the Nation

PM to dedicate Statue of Unity to the Nation

Modi, who ordered the statue built on the Narmada river when he was Gujarat chief minister, said previous year there had been efforts to "belittle" or "remove from history" the contributions of Patel, who helped unite India's 562 princely states as the first home, or interior, minister.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi Wednesday accused the government of "treason", saying there was a "systematic destruction" of institutions that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had helped build. PM Modi also appealed for people to participate in the "Run for Unity" organised on October 31 to mark Patel's birth anniversary.

Activists said about a dozen of their leaders had been detained ahead of the spectacular opening of the 182-metre (600-foot) tall tribute to Indian independence hero Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, with air force jets and helicopters to shower flowers on the statue during a flypast.

Addressing the gathering, Modi said, "This is a project we thought when I was the hief minister of Gujarat".

Talking about the northeast India's initiatives in the field of organic farming, the PM said, "The northeast has huge natural beauty and the people here are extremely talented". Is remembering country's great personalities a crime?: PM Modi.

Recalling Patel's contribution in uniting the nation, Modi said the leader ensured "the merger of all princely states with the Dominion of India". He has converted India's diversity into its biggest strength. Sardar Patel wanted India to be strong, sensitive, vigilant and inclusive.

Posters of Modi with Gujarat's chief minister, Vijay Rupani, were torn down or had their faces blackened at the weekend. "No Indian will ever forget this day", the Prime Minister said in his speech. Modi thanked the sculptors and architects who worked on the statue.

- Metal scrap (mainly agriculture equipment scrap) was collected from the 6 lakh villages under the "Loha Campaign" from across the country.

"This is a project that we had thought about during the time I was the Chief Minister of Gujarat", Modi added. But authorities took no chances in case community groups staged protests to demand compensation for land taken to erect the statue of Unity, which cost 29.9 billion rupees ($400 million).

"Instead of spending money on a giant statue, the government should have used it for farmers in the district", Vijendra Tadvi, a farmer who also worked as a driver on the statue's construction site, told BBC Gujarati's Roxy Gagdekar. The Patel statue is four times taller than the Statue of Liberty.

The Gujarat government is reported to have paid more than half of the funds for the statue, while the remainder came from the federal government or public donations.

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