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Fri, 23 Aug 2019

Northeast Today

STATUE…!! That’s the name of the game

STATUE…!! That’s the name of the game
June 29
13:02 2019

 In this resounding piece, Prasanna Baruah talks about our government’s misplaced priority of making Statues instead of concentrating on providing basic daily necessities. He also peppers it with some very worrying facts and figures.

 

First Words

It might not be my favourite game as football is, where my real love lies, but it surely is the government’s favourite. To prove my point, we need to do a little time travel.

The year is 1999, me and my little sister Lipika is on our way to Gandhi Mandap under the watchful eyes of our grandfather Lt. Pradip Hazarika. After making our way through the windy roads we reach the hilltop and apart from the breath-taking views, my grandfather makes it a point to show me the statue of Mahatma Gandhi. He told me that this great person was one of the pioneers of India’s freedom movement and needless to say I realised he was quite a famous and important person.

Fast forward 20 years and it looks like everyone is trying to erect a statue of anything and everything that seems of relevance these days.

 

The Statue Streak

Let’s start with the most obvious or rather tallest in the world, yes I’m talking about the Statue of Unity in Gujarat, perhaps an engineering marvel and one of the cornerstones of the Narendra Modi led NDA government. I say so because at 240 metres it beats the next in line, the Spring Temple of Buddha in China by a clear 87 metres, so kudos to the designer Mr. Ram V. Sutarwho is also a Padma Bhushan winner and the revenue it has generated needs to be applauded. But what scares me these days is that every state government is trying to erect statues when the money can be used for something more meaningful. Let’s take a look at some of the other statues that have been in the news of late.

The Mumbai government is planning to erect a 212 meters high statue of Shivaji off the coast of Mumbai. The Uttar Pradesh Government is planning to erect a 221 meter high statue of Lord Ram near the river Saryu in the temple town of Ayodhya. And lastly, Mayawati, the former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh has also been in the news for erecting statues of herself (yes you read that right!) and her party symbol (the mighty elephant) at public places.

 

 

The Statue Conundrum

Now someone might say I must be a lunatic because erecting statues not only generates revenue but also creates job opportunities. They are correct to the core, but there is something else that scares me even more. Something which people like us who enjoy all the basic necessities of life won’t be able to grasp. Why do I say that, let’s have a look.

We are all aware how the government comes up with the money to erect these monuments and yes it’s from us i.e. the tax payers’ pockets and we do have deep pockets, because the Statue of Unity cost a staggering ₹2,989 crores and a sum of about 600 crores was given by the Govertment of Gujarat. The Shivaji Smarak will cost around ₹2,800 crores that after the government had to take cost cutting measures. The one that takes the cake is Mayawati’s, because the statue Mayawati constructed of herself was made using the money which was allotted for welfare purpose by which I mean Education, Government hospitals and other such basic necessities.

Alarming Statistics

Well again someone might say that at least the money allocated for the earlier statues were and will serve their purpose. Well, maybe. Let us dive a little deeper and investigate, shall we? The year or rather the month in which the Statue of Unity was inaugurated i.e. 31 October 2018, Gujarat was experiencing its worst spell of drought where a total of around 3367 villages were affected. Much of it was due to “Scarcity of water”. Not only were 931 villages in Maharashtra affected by droughts last year, according to one of the leading dailies the Times of India, in March of this year Down to earthpublished a report that 33 districts in Bihar have been hit by drought. Getting tired? Wait there is more! Business Standard reported that 42 percent of India’s land area is drought-ridden where roughly 500 million people have been affected. But drought is not the only thing we need to worry about. Education which is one of the most important aspects of nation building continues to be overlooked and by that I mean Primary education. Under Article 21(a) of the Indian Constitution it is the right of every child to get free and compulsory primary education for children under the age group of 6-14 years and for that the government shall open lower primary schools (for classes 1 to 5) and Upper Primary schools (for classes 6 to 8) after every 1km. But you me and everyone is well acquainted to the conditions of government schools in our country. Apart from a few lucky ones most of them suffer. Be it in terms for basic amenities like books, desks, benches or even blackboards to the more essential ones like mid day meals. Yet, the government doesn’t care because they want to erect statues because it makes a strong and apparently visible statement to the ruling party’s public image. And in politics, optics plays a very important role.

Now to my favorite part, the bizarre state of Uttar Pradesh. What can I say about this place? Let’s just make a start by stating the importance of Uttar Pradesh, one of the largest states in India. It has a massive 403 constituencies, 80 seats in the Lok Sabha (no wonder every PM values this place), food and heritage and there is an elaborate history associated with this place. But there are some other not-so-pleasant things attached to Uttar Pradesh. It has one of the lowest sex ratios in our country as of 2011 census which is 912/1000 when the national sex ratio is 943/1000.  The statehas a literacy rate of 67.68 percent which again is lower than India’s 74.04%. Yet, Mayawati and co. wasted precious money on statues saying that it signifies a Dalit’s rise to power and Yogi Adityanath is planning on erecting a statue of Lord Ram saying that is what all Hindus want. If those were not enough, we have more to come, because the Karnataka government is planning to built a 40 m odd statue on Kaveri (the river), along with that the Statue of Equality depicting Ramanuja in Telengana, a 53 meter Hanuman Statue in Madhya Pradesh, a Babasaheb Ambedkar statue of around 107 m again in Mumbai which are just some of the propagandas we have to deal with in name of vikas!

 

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Expressing worry

Honestly, I’m also a Hindu and what I want is that when someone comes up and says, “India is about to become a superpower”, we also need to remind that person that almost half of the population in our country is agrarian in nature and when we don’t even care for their needs then how can we call ourselves a superpower. I’m not belittling anyone because people like Ambedkar, Sardar Patel, Shivaji are all stalwarts of Indian history and nobody can take away their contribution. But what I feel is that, even they wouldn’t have liked it if such amount of money was wasted in the name of their homage. Remember, India is a democracy where we, the people choose what is right for us. But sadly, we seem to forget that. No wonder whenever a politician comes up onto a stage and says things like they will eradicate poverty, education for all, no more famers suicides, upliftment of society and blah-blah, instead of questioning we just curse them or worse still, start clapping like all the other bhakts. We as citizens have our own set of duties, which is why; under Part 4 of the Indian constitution we have a thing called Fundamental Duties. With the election round the corner, it’s the right time we realize our duties and try to prove what Siddharth Suryanarayan said in the film Rang De Basanti “koi bhi desh perfect nahi hota, usse perfect banana parta hai.”

 

 

Prasanna

(The author is a graduate from Assam Engineering College and an M.Tech degree holder from Tezpur University. An ex-employee with Airtel, he is currently searching for better opportunities in life.)

 

 

 

 

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