Hyderabad: The Statue of Equality, the mega 216-foot structure in Telangana which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi Saturday, was actually made in China.
The fact that such a prestigious project was awarded to a Chinese firm — at a time when the Narendra Modi government, the BJP and its ideological family, the Sangh Parivar, has talked of cutting down India’s dependence on Chinese goods — has raised eyebrows. But the BJP says it’s “irrelevant” where the statue was made, with Telangana party leader N.V. Subhash adding that the greater cause behind the statue is to preach humanity.
The statue, built on the outskirts of Hyderabad, commemorates the 11th-century Bhakti saint Sri Ramanujacharya on his 1,000th birth anniversary. The statue, which cost Rs 1,000 crore, was conceptualised by spiritual guru Chinna Jeeyar Swamy, who also belongs to the Ramanujacharya Ashram.
“Ramanujacharya was a great social reformer in the 11th century who preached equality and humanity. That is what matters here. It does not matter whether it is made in China or Africa — the idea is we are all equal, that’s the message. That is what the Prime Minister thought,” N.V. Subhash told ThePrint.
“This programme of the PM attending (the inauguration) was not decided in days. It has been on for six months now — all kinds of discussions may have happened and only then he came here,” he said.
According to the project website, Chinese company Aerosun Corporation secured the contract for the project. Vendors from across the world, who make the tallest statues, were sought for the project. An Indian company was also in the race for the contract.
The installation of the statue happened over 15 months, and its casting was done in China. The statue was brought to India in 1,600 pieces, and about 70 members from Aerosun Corporation flew down to the project site to help assemble it.
Hiring Chinese firms not new phenomenon
Hiring Chinese firms for such huge projects is not a new phenomenon. Chinese companies have the required infrastructure, track record and offer cost-effective projects, pointed out M.V. Ramana Reddy, sculptor and president of Hyderabad Arts Society.
“Be it government, private or big corporate projects, they prefer to see a track record of the company if they’ve been hired for such a project before. It is not like we cannot do bronze castings here. But they want to see a track record,” Ramana Reddy said.
“Chinese companies have the infrastructure, the track record, offer cost effective projects and have minimum labour costs — which is why it is not uncommon to prefer them for such projects,” he said.
Ramana Reddy, who is also a general council member of Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, said ultimately, local sculptors barely get a chance to work on such projects.
Even the world’s tallest statue, the Statue of Unity in Gujarat, had its surface created with 553 bronze petals, which were cast in a foundry in China.
Moves to cut down on Chinese goods
As raw material supplies from China were hit in the wake of the Covid pandemic and Indian and Chinese armies faced off at the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh in the summer of 2020, there was a determined push by the central government to promote Indian manufacturing.
As the 2020 border clash contributed to a strong anti-China sentiment in India, a nation-wide call was given, among others, by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), to boycott Chinese goods.
The Indian government, in June 2020, had also planned to impose stringent quality control measures and hike tariffs.
In June 2020, the Modi government also banned 59 Chinese apps, citing security, integrity and defence concerns.
In December 2021, Minister of State of Commerce and Industry Anupriya Patel had noted the demands from the public and industry to boycott the import of Chinese goods, citing strained relations with China.
“India and China are both members of the WTO and any trade restriction imposed must be WTO compliant. Government has from time to time reviewed and taken WTO compliant measures… To address the concerns raised by various stakeholders to have a holistic global trade strategy,” Patel, who belongs to BJP ally Apna Dal (S), had stated in a written reply in Parliament.
Statue becomes flashpoint between TRS-BJP
A political tiff between the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the BJP has also surrounded the Statue of Equality.
The row came about after Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao skipped the inauguration, and his son and IT Minister K.T. Rama Rao took a dig at PM Modi, calling him an “icon of partiality”.
Icon of Partiality unveiled #StatueOfEquality
And Irony just died a billion deaths!!
— KTR (@KTRTRS) February 6, 2022
The BJP targeted KCR as he skipped the event and failed to receive PM Modi when he arrived in the city, lashing out at the CM for “violating protocol”. However, TRS Rajya Sabha MP K. Keshava Rao told ThePrint that the CM was “down with a fever”.
Both the PM and the CM were formally invited to the inaugural ceremony by Chinna Jeeyar Swamy, who happens to be a spiritual guide of KCR.
The Telangana government had overseen the arrangements for the inauguration.
Other features of the statue
Sri Ramanujacharya, who is depicted in the Statue of Equality — one of the world’s tallest statues of a sitting figure — was a social reformer born in the year 1017 in Sriperumbudur (now in Tamil Nadu). It is spread over 45 acres in Muchintal village on the outskirts of Hyderabad.
The project, built entirely using private donations from corporates and devotees from across the world, cost Rs 1,000 crore, according to the project managers. The initial cost estimates in August 2015 had pegged the figure closer to Rs 130 crore. The foundation stone was laid in 2014.
The statue is surrounded by replicas of 108 ‘divya desams’ (sacred Hindu temples in the country), which are built in stone and covered with ornate architectural detailing, accompanied with audio guides.
Apart from the 216-feet statue, the project also includes a 120-kg golden inner sanctum, with a deity of Ramanujacharya inside, to symbolise the 120 years of his life.
According to a statement by the project managers, President Ram Nath Kovind would unveil the inner chamber on 13 February.
The 54 feet high base building of the statue, called ‘Bhadra Vedi’, has dedicated floors for a Vedic digital library and research centre, a Omnimax theatre, an educational gallery and a multi-language audio tour detailing many works of Ramanujacharya, the statement said.
About 14 models of the statue were initially made, incorporating Agama and Shilpa shastra (ancient Hindu texts on art and architecture) sutras, out of which three models were picked and a final draft was made incorporating features from all the three models. What followed next was a 3D scan. A final model was then chosen and casting began in China, the statement said.
(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)
Source: The Print