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A graphic representation of the huge statue planned by the Indian government, celebrating a Hindu warrior who fought the Muslim Mughal dynasty.
Statue of Shivaji

India has begun building a HUGE new statue that will cost over €500 million

India’s far-right BJP government presides over a population that remains one of the poorest in the world.

INDIA’S PRIME MINISTER Narendra Modi today laid the foundation stone for what is set to be the world’s tallest statue, as its projected multi-million-dollar cost sparked criticism and an online petition against the project.

The statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji, a 17th-century Hindu ruler who fought the Muslim Mughal dynasty, will be more than twice the size of the Statue of Liberty and five times higher than Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.

The structure, a pet project of right-wing Hindu nationalist Modi, will rise 192 metres (630 feet) from an island off the western coast of Mumbai in the Arabian Sea.

When finished, it will tower over the 128-metre Spring Temple Buddha in China’s Henan province, which is currently the world’s tallest statue.

“Even in the midst of struggle, Shivaji Maharaj remained a torchbearer of good governance,” Modi said at the inaugural event.

So many aspects of his personality inspire us.

The government of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, is expected to spend some 36 billion rupees (€508 million) on the statue, which is scheduled for completion by 2019.

But the project has drawn protests from many people who instead want the government to devote its resources to infrastructure, education and development.

Despite spending billions on a huge army, nuclear weapons, and a space programme, India’s far-right BJP government presides over a population that remains one of the poorest in the world.

India Modi Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Saurabh Das / PA Saurabh Das / PA / PA


Hamstrung by a stubbornly resilient caste system, some 80% of Indians are in the lower half of the global wealth distribution – a higher proportion than in Africa.

About half the population defecates in the streets daily, while over 170 million Indians are still considered ‘Untouchable’ by many caste Hindus.

Around 1.2 million Indians are ‘manual scavengers’, forced by their caste superiors to clean dry latrines by hand every evening in exchange for some dry bread. The vast majority are women.

Over 90 women are raped each day in India, meanwhile, although the government insists the country is safe for women.

Already, more than 28,000 people had signed an online petition on urging the government to drop the plans.

The petition says:

Apart from a waste of money, this statue is going to be terrible for the environment, for the traffic situation in South Bombay – and a security nightmare

India Air Pollution Indian tourists take smog selfies in Mumbai. Manish Swarup / PA Manish Swarup / PA / PA

Hindu nationalism

Shivaji is revered by many Hindus in Maharashtra.

Mumbai’s main train station and airport are named after the ruler, who is also one of the symbols of Hindu-centric cultural revival promoted by Modi.

Prior to coming to power nationally, Modi was an international pariah for a decade due to his alleged role in mass killings of Muslims during his time as a regional minister in Gujarat, his home state.

His time there also saw the declassification of Buddhism and Jainism as separate religions, following mass conversions of Dalit and Untouchable Hindus to Buddhism, due to its promise of equality. Instead, all Buddhists and Jains were considered Hindus.

The plans for the latest memorial follow an earlier initiative by Modi to build a 182-metre tall tribute to Indian independence hero Sardar Vallabbhai Patel in Gujarat, at an estimated cost of 25 billion rupees (€353 million).

Construction on that statue began in 2014.

© – AFP, 2016 with reporting from Darragh Peter Murphy.

Read: India’s rape epidemic: The survivors speak

Read: Spending a day in Delhi is the equivalent to smoking 40 cigarettes. We went to see for ourselves

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