PM inaugurates Sardar Patel's Statue of Unity, world's tallest at 182 metre

Work in full swing at the site of the Statue of Unity in Kevadia colony on Thursday for the unveiling ceremony

Modi, who ordered the statue built on the Narmada river when he was Gujarat chief minister, said previous year there had been efforts to "belittle" or "remove from history" the contributions of Patel, who helped unite India's 562 princely states as the first home, or interior, minister. The villagers claim that there has been widespread destruction to the environment due to the memorial and that the government has done little to rehabilitate those who have been displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Dam and statue projects.

"Patel wanted India to be a forceful, strong, sensitive, vigilant and accommodative nation, and we're working toward that", Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at Wednesday's ceremony.

India's prime minister on Wednesday unveiled a towering bronze statue of Sardar Vallabbhai Patel, a key independence leader and the country's first home minister after British colonialists left in 1947. "In order to build the Statue of Unity, lakhs of farmers from all over India came together, gave their tools, portions of the soil and thus, a mass movement developed".

The launch of the giant statue, which stands almost twice the height of New York's 305-ft tall Statue of Liberty, is widely seen as the unofficial launch of Mr Modi's re-election campaign.

This "Statue of Unity" has been built in a record 42 months' time by the engineering and infrastructure major L&T on river Narmada in South Gujarat. It was designed by Indian sculptor Ram V Sutar.

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Posters of Mr Modi with Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani were torn down or had their faces blackened at the weekend. The Communist Party of India has criticised the government for splurging money on the statue.

A viewing gallery has been created at a height of 135 metres inside the statue to enable tourists to have a view of the dam and nearby mountain ranges. They were detained before Modi visited the tribal area to inaugurate the multi-crore Sardar Sarovar Project ahead of the 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections.

The chiefs of 22 villages around the statue signed an open letter calling on Mr Modi to stay away from the inauguration.

Officials expect that the site, located some 200km (125 miles) from Gujarat's main city, Ahmedabad, will attract about 2.5 million annual visitors and will help boost local economy.

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