ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Missing the Normative Content of Unity

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s “Statue of Unity” project reaffi rms state-led corporate clientelism.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious “Statue of Unity” project has caused the country embarrassment in the global political arena. The Washington Post described it as “a 600 ft creation that says as much about India’s global aspirations as it does about the political ego of its leader,” and British parliamentarian Peter Bone pointed out the redundancy of developmental aid for a country that can make such huge expenditures on statue building. Recall that when India was spending £430 million on this colossal project, it was simultaneously accepting £1.1 billion in aid from the British government mostly for its social sector spending. Back home, the jubilation is “official” only, while the commoners, especially the displaced tribal villagers, are aggrieved. Yet, to Modi the statue is “an answer to all those who question the existence of India,” an embodiment of “our engineering and technical prowess,” and above all “a gift to the country,” for all of which the country is saddled with prohibitive (sunk) costs.

But, who knows what the actual cost is? On comparing various documents, it is observed that the expenditures publicised are much lower than those on record. The amount of ₹ 2,980 crore, frequently quoted in the media as the total expenditure of the project, is the expenditure incurred by the state government alone, from 2014–15 till date, as per the state government’s budget documents. Again, the central budget has earmarked ₹ 309 crore, separately, between 2014–15 and 2017–18. Further, in an interview to India Today (9 November 2018), Sandeep Kumar, joint managing director, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited, mentioned another ₹ 550 crore that was donated by central and state public sector undertakings (PSUs), private companies, and individuals. Aggregating the three sources, the total expenditure traceable on paper stands at ₹ 3,839 crore, 1.3 times higher than the amount that is popularly quoted and reported. Equally unsettling is the quandary over the outlay of ₹ 146.83 crore from the corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds of the PSUs. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has disqualified this expenditure as a defilement of CSR contributions for protecting national heritage, art and culture as permitted under Schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013.

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Updated On : 26th Nov, 2018
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