In the Arabian Sea off the coast of Mumbai, the government of Maharashtra is building a 192-meter tall statue for Chatrapati Shivaji, the great Maratha warrior. Amid grumbling from the opposition that this is wasted expense, we look at a few reasons why it might not be such a bad thing.
What would you do with 3600 crores of Indian Rupees?
If you’re the government of Maharashtra, you will spend it on erecting a 192-meter-high statue of Chatrapati Shivaji in the Arabian Sea, off the coast of Mumbai.
Earlier in 2016, Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Minister of Maharashtra, got all the required permits and announced that the project will finish by 2019 to coincide with the arrival of the General Elections that will see Narendra Modi launch a bid for re-election.
Much of the opposition party and a team of liberal intellectuals have lambasted the high price tag on the project, saying that the same money can be used for ‘good’, but they refuse to see the long-standing gains to be harvested from a project such as this.
Here are a few of the potential advantages of this project:
- Large statues invariably become big tourist attractions. Look at the Statue of Liberty in New York and Christ the Redeemer in Rio. Shivaji’s statue, once completed will be the highest statue in the world, beating the second highest – the Spring Temple Buddha at Henan in China – by a whopping 62 meters.
- The structure will not be just a statue; it will contain administrative and business centres within it. Both during the construction and after, it will offer employment opportunities to vast numbers of labourers and contractors that will have long-standing economic benefits.
- It has been environmentally certified as a ‘green project’, because it built from waste derived from the construction of the underground Metro Line in Mumbai.
- The building will have cultural and historical significance as well, with an amphitheatre, an art gallery, an auditorium, a library, a museum and an aquarium being built.
- It is not an expenditure of money, the financial reports say, but a revenue generating business proposition, with many income streams opening up due to tourism.
- Intangibly as well, this will be India’s answer to the statues of the world like the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. All massive statues in the world have had massive budgets, but they add to the country’s image and also earn money over their lifetimes because they attract a huge amount of tourists.
- Also, the statue has historic significance as well, and serves to keep key figures and motifs of Indian culture alive for young and old alike.
So seen from any neutral point of view, the statue will bring only good things in the medium to long term. But the true question is whether it will be finished on budget, and whether – in case the next government does not belong to the BJP – the project will be allowed to continue without being scrapped.
As always, everything that can be politicised will be.