Friday, November 2, 2018

Indian priorities on display -- world's tallest statue

Here it is, dear readers, a photo of the World's Tallest Statue, unveiled just in time for Hallowe'en in India's western state of Gujarat.

Nearly 600 feet tall -- twice the height of the Statue of Liberty -- the "Statue of Unity" really is a biggie! Indeed so! It depicts Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (or "S.V. Patel" for short), a leader of India's independence movement. Mr Patel, who orchestrated the annexation of India's self-governing "princely states", is not exactly a champion of unity. His political philosophy fits better with the aggressive nationalism of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party than more famous heroes of independence, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, who stood for the softer ideals of peace and tolerance. However, Mr Patel, like his millions of namesakes aroound the world, is a "Guj" -- a Gujarati. So that explains it.

Another prominent Guj is India's Prime Minister, Narendra Damodardas Modi, who was the Chief Minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014. Prime Minister Modi is a member of the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Mr Modi's administration has been blamed for the Gujarat anti-Muslim riots of 2002 Gujarat riots, but a Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team found no evidence to initiate prosecution proceedings. So that's all right then.

Mr Modi's administration has also been criticized for failing to significantly improve health, poverty, and education indices in Gujarat, and now in India as a hole. [Ed., don't correct my spelling. Quod scripsi scripsi!] Which brings me the question of priorities. The Patel statue is said to have cost upwards of $400 million dollars. This in a country where according to the World Bank, nearly two-thirds of the people still defecate in the open. Makes you think, doesn't it? If you're an Indian politician, maybe not.

Further reading: "Shitting in fields leads to gang rape, hanging of Indian girls", WWW 30/5/14.

Footnote: Another famous Indian who, although he's not named "Patel", is almost certainly a Gujarati, is Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, who is being written out of The Simpsons following NPC criticism that he is just a racist caricature. In an episode last April, Lisa said to her mother, "Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?" Indeed.

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