The verity of the fact that monuments are the source of pride and symbol for a country cannot be put through the wringer. India holds a robust repertoire of such monuments that we Indians can boast over for ages. However, the government’s decision for amending the list of monuments by erecting couple of statues, each vying for the world’s-tallest enrollment, could not cease to amaze many. Soon all corners of the country started whooping with the questions such as ‘why’ and ‘why not’.
The voices raised necessitate to have a 360 degree view on the subject.
These statues are in question
The Guardian of Arabian Sea – the Chhatrapati Shivaji’s Statue
The great Maratha chhatrapati would have never imagined that his 192-foot-tall incarnation in the Arabian Sea would make him the centre-point of discussion. This personification of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is costing a walloping sum of money, at least Rs 3,600 cr. The statue is alleged to be taking shape on the malediction of Koli’s (fisher communities) for snatching their livelihood and on the reproof of environmentalists for encroaching the ecological area.
It has been cited that Maharashtra alone holding the country’s one-quarter of farmers suicides has got enough internal travails on its plate and hence its attention on the investment on world’s tallest statue seems worth questioning.
Transforming the Iron-Man of India into Broze-Coated-Man
With an estimated amount of more than Rs 3000 cr, the Iron man of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, will be shaped in a 182-meter-tall statue in Gujarat, India. This proposal too, similar to the previous one, is keeping the countenance with some while becoming a bone of contention for others. Here again, the protests from the farmers were peaked on account of encroachment of the land which was promised to host a damn and a taluka.
All the more, the statue to be a Made-in-China product defies the very own Make-in-India initiative of the Indian government. After absorbing billions of dollars, the project at least should have compensated by employing the local farmers and others for its construction. Villagers who are asked to make donations of unused iron would be in better condition if they have non-agricultural employments for themselves, two square meals for their families, and toilets for their women. In such plight, erecting a statue of astronomical height right in front of them seems like a slap on their penury.
Giving Yoga a Figurative Form of Adiyogi
The biggest face on the planet, 112-foot-high Adiyogi, the avatar of Lord Shiva who is believed to be the originator of Yoga, installed in the foothills of Vellangiri mountains, gained widespread attention of millions of devotees. This 500-ton-weighed steel statue is also not untouched from the controversies. On one hand it is projected to be the center of yoga practice and on the other hand it is stigmatised with the allegations of encroachment of ecologically sensitive area. The founder of the statue has already announced three more creations in other three corners of the country – East (Varanasi), West (Mumbai), and North (Delhi).
How the funding are arranged for the project might not be a point of concern. Rather the question is if Sadhguru, the founder from Isha Foundation, has such a great amount of wealth at disposal then should it be put to better use rather than outlaying it for a panoply of yoga and then connecting it to a God-like figure; know that Lord Shiva being the creator of Yoga is an unsolved debatable topic running from the time of Vedas and Upnishadas.
The Pet Elephants and Idols of Mayawati
Whenever there is a discussion about the extravagant statues, the curious case of Mayawati’s statues cannot be discounted. An alleged scam of Rs 7000 Cr was crafted and designed by then chief-minister. The self-proclaimed Dalit-Masiah wanted to immortalize herself (in her iconic purse-carrying pose) and her guru Kanshiram along with other prominent dalit leaders. Her endearment for elephants encouraged her to order 24 elephant statues, costing Rs 70 L each. The overall amount of fraud is alleged to be not less than Rs 40000 Cr considering the cost of encroached land, demolished buildings and surroundings, etcetera.
The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) raised question on her ease of squandering public money but even that didn’t deter our statue-queen to brazenly open a garden of Rs 685 cr. She was also severely reprimanded by the World Bank, which had loaned funds for development, about her poor governance and corrupt behaviour.
All of the above creations have been defended by the authorities on various accounts. One of the most sought reasons is the boosting tourism which in turn could bring prosperity to India. Before moving ahead to know whether those statues can add anything to tourism, let us first gauge the health of Indian tourism.
Is the Idea of Statues a Safe Bet for Indian Tourism
What would be France without Eiffel tower, America without Statue of Liberty, and Brazil without Christ the Redeemer – these are some of the citations offered by the supporters of the statues. What is common to all these monuments is that they are the identity of their nations. Following the same course, India also covets building a monumental icon which not only becomes an identity but also a source of national and cultural pride.
Tourism helps to magnify the map of India on the world-map. The tourism government of India has various points to claim in its favour, whether be it financial earnings or employment generation. The figure of Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEE) shown in graph below is a certain companion of the claim.
Data source: tourism.gov.in/
Additionally, the data available in http://pib.nic.in reveals that the employment contribution by tourism alone has been more than 11% of total employment of India as of 2011-12 and the inclination has been rising every year, although nominally.
Data source: tourism.gov.in/
Another data for Foreign Tourist Arrivals in India proudly touts the ascending trend for a period of 1999-2015.
Data source: tourism.gov.in/
However, in contrary to above handsome data, there are some dismal facts too. One of them is the data about the crimes committed against those tourists (source CFB the Bureau of Immigration). Past year, there were total 486 cases recorded for crime against foreigners out of which 384 were for foreign tourists. The crimes such as theft, rape, assault, and robbery are a common sight and news.
The internet is rife with the mentions of crimes against foreign tourists, especially women. Now, even foreign countries have also started including these issues in their warning messages along with the safety guideline. For example, see how the see how the safety guidelines of UK tourism is warning its women tourists against Indian settings.
Furthermore, thousands of crores of rupees are invested every year over the maintenance, preservation, and restoration of all the monuments. But by looking at the result received, we cannot stop feeling pity. Consider the fading glory of the Taj Mahal for example. It is been prodded consistently by archaeologists that the survival of the Taj Mahal is at risk, even then the behavior of government is lackluster in terms of making any effort to curb the man-made pollution and to restore the deteriorating exterior of the Taj. As a dispensary relief, the treatment has been offered in form of mud-face-pack to beautify the monument. Similar fate is met by many other structures – the Lotus temple, the Golden Temple, the Charminar, and many ancient forts (some of them are still unnamed). Human, at their best in creating pollution, are not behind in making the monuments filthy and unpresentable.
Attractive data, safety of tourists, infrastructural development all are intertwined factors responsible for keeping up the health of tourism. The robust statistics would be able to retain itself only if the image of India on foreign landscape is clean, safe, and approachable.
Other than the crime rates, insufficient infrastructure, and intangible maintenance, there is another discouraging fact. That is in terms of financial revenue generated by the existing monuments. The highest revenue generated by a monument is Rs 22 Crore per year, by none other than the Taj Mahal. If we consider the same level of popularity for the upcoming iconic statues, then to get a break-even for Rs 3600 cr and Rs 3000 Cr, it’ll take at least 164 and 136 years respectively.
Other than the cultural significance factor, will India be able to maintain the upcoming statues and reap the financial benefits, if any?
Emotional & Sentimental Factors Attached
India, a secular country profusely populated with plethora of religions, may raise questions at some or the other point that why only Shivaji or why only Sardar Patel or why only hindu idols. Moreover, it is also doubted whether it is just a political gimmick to woo the vote-back or a sheer effort of giving the patriotism a tangible form. Is India setting a trend that with every changing government, there will erect a monument of their interest? Do people, who elected the government bodies via democracy, have a say in initiatives such as so-called-people-inspiring-monuments built on the shoulder of people’s money?
What does Rs. 5000 Cr mean to India?
Rs 7000 Cr plus investment for statues is a scant proportion for a large country like India. Agreed. But this is incomprehensible to common people because they are perplexed with the thought that why such scant amount couldn’t be spared to do wonders to their life?
Could this meager amount of money do anything for Indians at all (those Indians who are in dire need of a piece of bread on their plate, a stitch to cover their body, and a roof to get shelter)? Actually a lot! This could engender an ever-lasting, huge source of employment, bigger revenue generator in form of a manufacturing company, a technical or research institute, educational funds, rural welfare, or agricultural solutions. Millions of rural India women rush outside for their washing and millions of technical talents rush to West for their further studies. India is suffering with dearth of doctors, teachers, funding, and the moral of government officials.
The question is not that why statues and why not welfare? The question is why not both? Why is it so difficult to see the progress in both the sectors? The answer to all these questions boils down to a single concentrated point – eradicate the corruption. A number of petitions have been filed to stem the lavish developments but it fails to ring any bell to the authorities.
Will the great Shivaji be less inspirational in a replica 10 feet shorter? Will our respect for our Iron man be ever reduced if he were portrayed through prints or any other medium? Will the effectiveness of yoga be diminished if performed in a cozy environment rather than before a 112-foot-Adiyogi?
Whether it’s a worthy investment, an opportunity cost, or a deficit deal remains a million dollar question which can only be decided by upcoming time.
Shweta Kumari Sharma
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