It is well understood that if PM Modi were to advocate breathing tomorrow, his deranged critics would start a campaign against oxygen. When the Statue of Unity, the tallest in the world, was unveiled on Sardar Patel’s birthday last year, it became an instant magnet for naysayers.
Their target: the eye-popping cost of building the statue, a hefty Rs 3000 crore. An all-round campaign was run, listing other possible productive uses for the money: primary schools, hospitals and the like. Curiously, not one journalist suggested building a journalism school with the money: it is almost as if they know that their line of work produces no tangible good for society.
One of the most widely shared commentaries during this period was by social media-based economist Dhruv Rathee, who produced this estimate for the revenue that the Statue would bring in every year.
The Taj Mahal earns Rs 25 crore in revenue a year. Rathee estimated that the Statue of Unity would be lucky to get even 10% of that, suggesting that the Statue would expect to make just about Rs 2.5 crore.
Before we get into what actually happened, it is important to understand why such thinking is deeply flawed. The returns on the Statue of Unity cannot be calculated by adding up ticket sales. It has to be calculated on the basis of the total economic value generated.
This is simple. Does anyone seriously believe that the Taj Mahal adds just Rs 25 crore to the Indian economy every year? Obviously not. The real return is in terms of the visitors who flock to Agra to see the historic monument, spending on travel, hotels, shopping and eating out.
The Statue of Unity does something very similar. Quite cannily, it has been built in the vicinity of the small town of Kevadiya in Gujarat, among mountains and forests. Far from urban centres, which necessitates at least a day of travel to see the place.
Now for the hard numbers.
As many as 26 lakh visitors in 11 months! Imagine how this transforms the economy of Kevadiya, which used to be a town of a few thousand people. Now it caters to food, travel, eating and shopping needs of over 25 lakh people! Think of how much employment and business the brand new tourist attraction has generated.
And because social media-based economists would be wondering, how much money did they make in ticket sales?
Rs 71.66 crore of ticket sales in 11 months. October was the month of Diwali and Dussehra, so this will go up significantly in the remaining 1 month. But let’s stick to the Rs 71 crore figure.
Remember the estimated earnings through ticket sales were a meagre Rs 2.5 crore or less. In other words, the estimate was off by a mere 2700%.
Not bad. We can expect more of such expert commentary from liberals in the coming years.
This year, the Prime Minister has inaugurated a whole host of new facilities such as river rafting and jungle safari at the spot, which will bring in even more people, make them stay longer and spend more.
Clearly, the Statue of Unity is a hit. The amazing publicity generated around the Statue has worked. Liberals should concede that.
Yes, the investment of Rs 3000 crore was a risk. But every investment involves risk. Without risk, there would be no wealth creation. There would only be social media-based economists who have nothing at stake.