India inaugurates world's tallest statue
KEVADIA - Reuters
India on Oct. 31 inaugurated the world's tallest statue, a $400-million effigy of independence hero Vallabhbhai Patel that towers nearly twice the height of New York's Statue of Liberty.
The 182-meter steel and bronze "Statue of Unity," in the prime minister's western home state of Gujarat, is part of his Hindu nationalist party's efforts to re-brand what it calls "forgotten" leaders.
"Patel wanted India to be a forceful, strong, sensitive, vigilant and accommodative nation, and we're working towards that," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the ceremony.
Modi, who ordered the statue built on the Narmada river when he was Gujarat chief minister, said last 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.
Funds for the statue came from the federal government, state-run companies and other institutions, and it was built in 33 months by construction and engineering company Larsen Toubro Ltd.
Depicting the bald Patel in traditional attire, with a shawl over the shoulders, the statue used 210,000 cubic meters of cement, 25,000 tons of steel and 1,700 tons of bronze.
Some of the leaders Modi has branded as "forgotten" came from the opposition Congress party, and fought for independence from colonial ruler Britain in 1947.
Some political commentators have criticized Modi for his expenditure on the statue complex at a time when the Adivasi indigenous people who farm the land acquired for it are in economic straits and have protested against it.