Statues Are Such a Waste

A statue of Rani Kamalapati, the former Parmar Queen of Bhopal, is going to be installed at the Lower Lake. Perhaps the statue is going to be installed below the Kamalapati Mahal which is a Heritage Site. For those who do not know, there is a statue of Raja Bhoj that has been installed on one of the platforms of the now-defunct Fatehgarh Fort right on the Upper Lake.

Installation of statues, wherever, possible seems to be the flavour of the season. The trend apparently was set off by the Statue of Unity, the 182 metres tall statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the first Home Minister of Independent India. It has been erected near the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat and is reputed to be the tallest statue in the world. It has beaten the Statue of Liberty of New York in height and, to give a clearer perspective, it would have been perhaps as tall as the Gwalior Fort had it been erected anywhere in the town. It is a massive statue with a museum and a hotel within easy reach. No wonder, it is billed as a tourist venue.

One must say, it has been very appropriately named as Sardar Patel was the national leader who was involved in integration in the country of more than six hundred principalities all over India. That is why the country was called in initial years “Union of India”. It is largely felt that the Sardar was kept away from Kashmir by Jawharlal Nehru. Had he been handling it. It is generally believed, there would have been no Kashmir Problem

With the installation of the Statue of Unity a statue of Ram is in the works for installation in Ayodhya. The demand is that it should be a very tall statue and somebody has even asked for it to be taller than the Statue of Unity. Another statue, of Shivaji, the Maratha legendary fighter, is in works for being installed on the coast in Mumbai. The idea seems to be that the sea-faring vessels should be able to see the statue from afar before they even enter the port of Mumbai.

A statue of Lord Shiva is also under construction. I recall having seen quite a tall statue of Shiva near Haridwar. Likewise, there is one of Shiva in sitting posture near Dwarka in Gujarat. Statues are expensive toys for those who want to swing the people’s opinion in their favour. But then, sooner or later, they become useless and the administrators of various cities, not knowing where to stack them, confine them in museums. Numerous statues of Queen Victoria, one-time Empress of India, are lying in museums in various towns uncared for. At one place I remember to have seen one such statue of the Empress outside the museum of the town uncared for and gathering dust.

These were all made by the British regime at our own cost – the money that they collected as revenues from our people which should have been spent for our welfare. Even the princes followed the same course, installing statues of their forefathers in their respective principalities. I remember to have seen some such statues of Scindias in Gwalior. Scindias had a short rule over Gwalior and yet the Gwalior town had almost their entire genealogy scattered around it in the shape of statues. I remember the satue of Mahadji Scindia, Jayajirao Scindia, Madhavrao Scindia and there was a small bust somewhere of Daulatrao Scindia. While the statues of Britishers have been removed those of former princely rulers have been allowed to remain as they were our own people.

The statue of Unity reportedly cost the exchequer a large sum of more than Rs. 3200 crore. The height of the statue and the amount spent on it alarmed the Westerners who always looked down upon the inhabitants of their former colonies. They thought these people were good for nothing and therefore wondered how they could build a statue that was taller than the Statue of Liberty. A lie was, therefore, spread in the media saying that Britons were outraged that their tax money handed over to India as aid was used to build this monstrously tall statue. The Daily Mail of England published a report that said that the money spent on the statue was, in fact, the aid of a billion pounds that was given to India by UK.

People in India did not allow this canard to go un-rebutted. A fact check was carried out and the facts tumbled out. It was the Central Government and its public sector units like ONGC, BPCL HPCL, Indian Oil and OIL pumped around 146 crore towards the project out of their CSR funds, their ticket sales in the future and revenues received from the 3 star hotel located at the site. Clearly the news spread in the Western media about the funding of the project of Statue of Unity out of the British aid was a lie and a check of the facts nailed it.

So far so good! The question that now emerges is whether use of CSR funds for the statue was proper or rather ethically proper. The CSR was defined by one Carroll as use of corporate funds for ethical and philanthropic purposes. It is also defined as a company’s sense of responsibility towards the community and environment (both ecological and social). The companies express these responsibilities through waste and pollution reduction processes, by contributing to social and educational programmes and by obtaining adequate returns on the resources deployed by them.
If tested on any of these parameters, expenditure out of CSR funds only on educational and social programs would perhaps qualify as legitimate. Spending these funds on erecting of a statue, however, under the parameter described as social and/or educational would seem to be farfetched. If that were to be done it would seem as if an activity like erection of a statue is dragged miles away to make it fall under a parameter to which it did not conform.

To my mind, therefore, the use of CSR funds of the Public Sector Units for installation of the Statue of Unity was not quite ethical especially when the concept of CSR itself is based on principles of ethics in relation to their application to business.

Be that as it may, expenditure of crores of rupees on statues of various personages on the whims and fancies of political class is sheer waste of public money. This money could be better utilized to open schools and hospitals in areas where educational and healthcare facilities still remain wanting. India is not yet an affluent country and hence it can ill-afford this kind of waste of financial resources. A corrective policy in this regard seems to be indicated


More by :  Proloy Bagchi

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