The Print carried an article by a famous YouTuber regarding the statue of unity and the article deserved a strong rebuttal to refute the inconsistent analogy being made by the person concerned. I had requested someone at Shekhar Gupta’s The Print to publish a rebuttal of the article, however, they declined my request. Perhaps, people at the organization were well aware of the fact that the article could not be defended.
Never the less, the article makes economic rationale behind the statue the crux of his argument. He argues that even if the Statue of Unity becomes as famous as Taj Mahal, it would take 120 years for it to just break even. This is patently untrue and if we calculate only the direct revenue that the Statue of Unity will generate through entry fees then it might take more than what has been computed by Dhruv Rathee because clearly, he hasn’t discounted future revenue while doing his computation.
But then again, I am not aware if he is an economist or someone from a finance background, so I wouldn’t expect him to know such intricate details. Thus, what he has not taken into consideration is the Net Present Value of direct benefits and thus, his entire computation must not be taken seriously as it’s based on more rhetoric than a well-researched methodology.
Another important thing missing from his computation is a calculation of the indirect benefits that such a Statue can generate to the local ecosystem. You see, if at all tourist attraction does increase then it’d generate a local economic ecosystem and he hasn’t taken that into consideration at all, leave alone taking a projection for the same. Thank god, his article was not a detailed serious Net Present Value review of the statue and it shouldn’t even be taken as one! If at all, it shouldn’t be taken as a serious article altogether because it tries to use an incorrect tool for the purpose of reviewing the Statue of Unity.
The conventional tools such as Net Present Value or Payback Period, god knows how much I swear by them have their own sense of limitations as they cannot quantify the value of culture, of belonging and of values that are integral to such abstract feelings.
Even if we used such conventional tools correctly, we’d always get a case where we’d probably be guided to pick development even if it came at the cost of environment. But of course we value the environment as an important factor towards development and we cannot sacrifice one for the other. Using the same logic, the use of such a tool to analyse the Statue of Unity is in itself incorrect.
So, by now we’ve established that the tool used in the article is incorrect along with the fact that he hasn’t been able to apply the incorrect tool correctly either. Now the next important thing worth noting is how has the Statue of Unity financed. The statue has got a grant of Rs. 300 crore from the Central Government, Rs. 554 crores from the State Government, CSR contribution is around Rs. 455.88 crores while the donation is Rs. 102.33 crores. These were the initial grants and the cost of the statue is definitely more than this but the point I am trying to make is that not all of the cost is being borne by the government alone.
That being said, the article somehow came across as another desperate attempt to run down Sardar Patel’s legacy and his contribution towards the unification of India. We must ask ourselves why is the statue important and revisit the historical occurrence of facts to appreciate the contribution made by Sardar Patel. Unfortunately, India never gave its due to most of our freedom fighters and it is only now that we’ve started ensuring that we do consider the contribution of people like Netaji and Sardar Patel when we talk about India.
The sense of belonging, in a country like India with such diverse linguistic and cultural identities is possible only because of a common identity of an Indian and this identity came because of Sardar Patel’s relentless pursuit towards unification of India. Sardar wanted to create a strong and modern India, we’ve made considerable progress on that front so isn’t it time that we gave our unsung heroes their due?
If Sardar Patel would have been alive and in the government, and we were discussing whether to have a statue of Pt. Nehru, then Sardar Patel would have definitely agreed to build it to ensure that India remembers the contribution Nehru made for India’s independence.
The objective behind the construction of a statue of unity is not to make a profit or tourism-driven revenue from it, those are the indirect benefits that will eventually accrue due to the project. The sole objective was to give Sardar Patel the appropriate space he deserves in Indian culture.
Thus, the issue is not about the cost or profit as a bulk of India’s monuments can be visited for free; the issue is about recognizing the contribution of Sardar Patel towards building the strong modern Indian nation-state that we know of today, and no, nobody, not even Dhruv Rathee can put a price on that.
Karan Bhasin is a political economist by training and has diversified research interests in the field of economics. He tweets @karanbhasin95.