Iron Man of India—standing tall

2013_vallabhai A still image from video shows an artist's rendering of a statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel | REUTERS

If things go as planned, two years from now, India will be home to the tallest statue in the world

Come October 31, the nation will celebrate the 141st birth anniversary of the man who played a stellar role in the formation of the nation. A leader of unwavering vision and intellect, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel united the princely states under one umbrella called India. His untiring efforts in this regard earned him the sobriquet 'Iron Man of India'.

If things go as planned, two years from now, India will be home to the tallest statue in the world. As a tribute to the great social and political leader, in 2013, then opposition leader Narendra Modi had launched a project to build the statue of Patel—India's first home minister. The 'Statue of Unity', as it is called, will be 182m (almost double the size of Statue of Liberty) tall and will be made of reinforced concrete on a steel frame, with a bronze coating. It will come up on the river island of Sadhu Bet Sadhu Bet, around 3.2km from Sardar Sarovar Dam at Kevadia in Narmada, Gujarat. It is “a symbol of unity in the face of adversity”.

This project is being helmed by renowned sculptor Ram V. Sutar, who says the statue will be completed by 2018. A Padma Shri recipient, Sutar has built over 40 monuments. Michael Graves and Associates and Meinhardt India Private Limited will supervise the project, which will cover 20,000 square metres. The statue will be surrounded by an artificial water body spread across 12km. Indian construction company Larsen & Toubro won the contract for the lowest bid of Rs 2,989 crore for the design, construction and maintenance of the statue. The Gujarat government also established the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust (SVPRET) in 2013 to oversee the construction process.

What is novel about the project is that farm tools collected from villages across the country will be used in the construction of the statue (though reports claim it might only be used in the foundation of the statue). SVPRET set up 36 offices across India, to collect these iron tools and the drive was officially declared the 'Statue of Unity Movement'.

The statue will have his natural impressions and his characteristic clothes. It comprises of a three-level base, with an exhibit floor, mezzanine and the roof, which will have a large museum consisting of exhibits that focus on his life. An observation deck, which can accommodate 200 people at a time, will be built 500ft high from the riverbed, and will give a beautiful view of the Satpura and the Sardar Sarovar Reservoir.

The project will also act as a catalyst for the construction of a memorial garden, visitors centre, schools and colleges for tribal development, clean technology research park, agricultural training centres and convention centres.

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