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Gujarat’s ‘Statue of Unity’ district divided over how much they benefit from Sardar Sarovar Dam

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Some voters claim 182-m tall Sardar Patel statue and the dam will boost tourism and help create jobs.

Narmada, Gujarat: The Sardar Sarovar Dam in Narmada district, inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi on his birthday in September this year after a delay of more than 50 years, is an achievement the BJP is hard-selling ahead of the Gujarat assembly elections.

The party has, and will, go to the people of the parched Saurashtra region with claims that the water of this dam would address its water crisis, but those living in Narmada district claim their own problem remains unsolved.

Along with the Sardar Sarovar Dam, the under-construction ‘Statue of Unity’ — a 182-m tall statue of Sardar Patel near the dam site — has been touted by the BJP as Gujarat’s ‘pride’, a sentiment it hopes to cash in on both during the state assembly polls and the 2019 general election.

Road sign to Statue of Unity, Gujarat. Ruhi Tewari/ThePrint

But the residents of Narmada district seem divided on these issues though. Some feel that they will boost tourism and their water problem will be solved too. Others, however, say these are mere gimmicks and won’t help their district in any manner.

The district has two assembly constituencies — Nandod and Dediapada, both with BJP MLAs.

Alpesh Patel, a resident of Rajpipla, the district headquarters, claims that both the dam and the statue have brought in “something extra” to the region. “Nobody knew of Narmada earlier. Now, we will become famous across the world. Tourism will take off, which will help the locals with employment,” he said.

“I have heard we will also start getting more water,” Alpesh added. He is of the view that the BJP has “done a lot for the state” and hence, he backs the party.

Just a few blocks away is Krishna Kathiadwari dhaba. Kishorbhai Patel, who owns it, however has a different view. “The dam is taking water only to Saurashtra. Nothing comes here,” he claimed.

“Water for irrigation is an issue. But what are we getting? And the statue is a pure marketing gimmick for BJP. Poor tribals have had to give up their land for this. The Congress should come this time,” he added.

Kanubhai Macchi, a customer at the dhaba, openly announced his support for Modi. “I see only Modi. I vote for him. He has given us the dam and the Sardar Patel statue, both of which will bring us a lot of tourists, prosperity and revenue.”

Ongoing construction. Ruhi Tewari/

Nathubhai Vasava, Kantibhai Vasava and Ramanbhai Patel, however, disagree strongly. They say “development work in Narmada has been minimal”. “Acche din aane waale the, nahi aaye (the good times promised to us never came). The dam takes water to Saurashtra,” said Nathubhai.

“And why do we need the statue after all? Everybody knows who Sardar Patel was and what he did. Why are we spending crores of taxpayers’ money on this? This time, a change in the government is needed. Congress has a chance,” he added.

Jasonhai Tadvi of Goragam village, 8 km from the dam site, had to give up about 14 acres of his land for the project. He believes the dam and the statue would help the district greatly and the benefits will “start showing in the next two years”.

The winding road that leads to the dam is dusty, with construction of the ‘Statue of Unity’ on in full swing. The place is frequented by tourists. At viewing point 3, Vinod Patel runs an Amul parlour.

As he was attending to customers lining up for a cool lassi or ice cream, he said he isn’t happy with his BJP MLA, but wants the party to form government in the state.

“I had gone to the US once. As I stood with my wife in the queue to see the Statue of Liberty, we saw there were passports of almost all countries. That is what will happen in Narmada, as tourists from across the world start coming to see the dam and the statue,” he said.

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  1. You have to see the Dam to understand the impact it will have on Gujarat … It is Bhakra Nangal to PrePartition Punjab!!!! Just the statistics are mind boggling in the Indian Context !!!

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