The world’s tallest statue will be built in India, but not by Indians

Statue of Unity
Statue of Unity
Image: Statue of Unity
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By April 2018, India will be home to the world’s tallest statue.

The colossal monument, known as the Statue of Unity, will be a statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a firebrand Indian freedom fighter and the country’s first home minister. When completed, the Statue of Unity will be 182 metres tall—or twice the height of the Statue of Liberty.

But Indians won’t be building it.

Instead, 700-odd workers in the eastern Chinese province of Nanchang will smelt and cast components for the statue at the Jiangxi Tongqing Metal Handicrafts Company, the world’s biggest foundry. Many of them are expected to come to India by the end of the year to help with the construction at Sadhu Bet, a river island in the western Indian city of Vadodara.

“We are at present making a 30-feet bronze statue here in our studio in Noida,” Ram V. Sutar, the 90-year-old Delhi-based designer of the statue, told Outlook magazine. “The main statue will be made in China and I will go there to supervise it. We are making the prototype and in China they will enlarge it before casting. It will be made in parts and assembled here.”

The making of this statue is in stark contrast with Modi’s ambitious Make in India campaign, under which he plans to scale up manufacturing in the country. It was Modi himself who had launched the ambitious Statue of Unity project in 2013, in the run-up to the Indian general election of 2014.

While launching the project, Modi had said, “Every Indian regrets Sardar Patel did not become the first prime minister. Had he been the first prime minister, the country’s fate and face would have been completely different.”

Patel is often referred to as the “Iron Man of India“ and widely acknowledged for coercing India’s princely provinces to join the Union of India, soon after independence in 1947. But, as Reuters wrote in 2013, “many in Gujarat feel Patel’s legacy has been neglected by the Congress party, and Modi has been quick to use that to his advantage.”

In July 2014, the construction of the project was awarded to local infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) after it bid the lowest among other companies. The project is expected to cost Rs3,000 crore ($770 million), making it one of the costliest statues in India.

“All details pertaining to project operations are internal to our company, and are bound by contracts with our clients,” L&T told Outlook. L&T is yet to respond to a questionnaire from Quartz.

Opposition parties have meanwhile mocked the government for outsourcing the statue to China. “The Modi government, which talks of Make in India, has been unable to get the statue of Sardar Patel, the builder of modern India, built in the country,” Abhishek Manu Singhvi, a Congress party spokesperson, said.