Statue of Unity: Govt on overdrive

Ahmadabad

The Gujarat government has only one thing on its mind now — the Statue of Unity (SoU). As most states are readying their annual budgets, in Gujarat, all bureaucrats - from chief secretary to heads of at least six other departments - are busy co-ordinating events for this mega project which is seen as a surrogate campaign for Chief Minister Narendra Modi's prime ministership ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The officers maintained that daily work has been affected, with many undecided policies, bills and other decisions piling up.

The state government has already planned to go for vote-on-account, instead of presenting a full-fledged budget, apparently because of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The reason: Modi and his Cabinet will be mainly busy in the campaigning. Besides, with the code of conduct likely to be placed soon, the Modi government may hold a short Assembly session before end of January itself.

Usually, the yearend, for any government department, is the busiest time - they prepare and send notes to the finance department for budget preparations. But, this time, they have other important assignment in hand. The seniormost bureaucrats, including Chief Secretary Varesh Sinha and six Additional Chief Secretaries, who head important departments - finance, energy, industries, forest, road and building - form the core team of member secretaries of the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust, a special-purpose vehicle floated to carry out the Statue of Unity project.

These officials, headed by a Cabinet minister and a host of other IAS and IPS officers in a batch of 25, have already been to nine states to accelerate the mobilsation, which includes Run for Unity (held on December 15), essay competition in nearly 2 lakh schools in India's urban pockets and the collection of 5,000 metric tonne of iron pieces from 7 lakh villages across the country.

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