The Statue of Poverty!

The world has been reeling under severe economic depression for the past few months. Our nation has also felt the gloom and experienced several financial setbacks. To make matters worse, the delayed monsoon has further complicated the plight of our agrarian economy. The state of Maharsahtra, the worst hit due to the irregular monsoons, apart from many other issues is also insanely cash strapped. So what is the solution for the drought hit Maratha-land? According to the state’s ingenious government, a Rs. 350 crore (3.5 billion).

The statue, an election promise by the congress-NCP alliance, way back in 2004, will be green-lit pretty soon as the state has already sanctioned the funding for the same and only awaits a nod from the environmental lobby. The reason for undertaking this project? A tribute to the greatest Maratha, who shaped the destiny of this state. Having studied about this Maratha legend in school, I am well aware of his valor, brilliance and sacrifice. There is no doubt that his contribution commands greater respect than many others and so rightly deserves some form of momument dedicated in his memory. However, a gigantic statue in the middle of the sea is not what I would deem appropriate.

At a time when agriculture is taking a severe beating due to seasonal and geo-political reasons, this project seems frivolous. The previous year, the nation was shocked to learn about the suicides of hundreds of debt-ridden farmers from our state. Perhaps the funding allotted to this “prestigious” project could find its way into the houses of the families of these sons of the soil. The money could be used to pay-off the financial institutions and give the other agri-men a fresh start.

There is a parallel argument being made by proponents of the statue that the cost of the statue is a fraction of the cost which was borne for the recent MSRDC mega-project, the Bandra-Wroli Sea-Link. Although they hold some merit in their line of thought, comparing the sea-link to the statue is akin to comparing apples and oranges! the sea-link, albeit without the high toll, is a great addition to the heavily clogged asphalt arteries of the metropolis.

One could argue that the proposed 371 ft. monument (the statue of Liberty in New York towers at a mere 305 ft.!) could serve as a major tourist destination and rake in some serious phoren and desi moolah. Hmmm…somehow, I don’t see a tourist from Denver, Colorado (or for that matter from Vikhroli, Mumbai) travelling all the way to Mumbai, struggling through the city’s ill- maintained roads, making his way through a crowded Virar local, walking amidst piles of open garbage, dealing with incourteous authorities to come and take a fleeting glance at a statue.

Now I’m no economist, but as an employed bloke, I know simple household budgeting and money management 101 clearly states that when you are broke, you don’t squander on lavish purchases. Considering the cost that would be borne for a monument of this magnitude and the alternate outlets for the money, the state government should seriously rethink their “patriotic” decision.

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