Ground gets set for Statue of Unity

ZdThe jawans of the Narmada Battalion stand guard at the site where Modi will lay the foundation stone for the proposed statue, on Thursday.

The stage is set for Chief Minister Modi to lay the foundation of the ambitious Statue of Unity at Sadhu Bet, with workers of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) being engaged to clear the ground facing the hillock for tree plantation and gathering of audience on October 31, the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel.

Meanwhile, the district administration and the SSNNL are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the grand ceremony passes off without any eventuality, particularly since the tribal villagers around the hillock made vocal their opposition to the plan to set up the statue.

The government in mid-June deployed three jawans of the specially created Narmada Battalion, a special task force carved out of the State Reserve Police Force (SRP), to secure the dam site, following a rally taken out recently by the local tribals against land acquisition by the Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA) for tourism infrastructure around the statue. The neighbouring villages laid claim on the Tekri, which according to the tribals is of religious importance. Villagers maintained that the hillock, located 3.2 km from the Narmada dam, is originally called Varata Bawa Tekri, named after a local deity, and hence is a site of religious importance. Now the district administration fears that villagers may walk up to the hillock and place a religious flag on it.

Chief Minister Narendra Modi plans to take out a rally on Sadhu Island, located 3.5 km from the construction site, to mobilise farmers to donate iron pieces for building the statue, which will be placed right in front of Sadhu Bet, facing the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river at Kevadia in Narmada district. The crowd is likely to be restricted up to 20,000 to 30,000, given the relatively small size of the island, sources said.

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