In its race to stake claim on Sardar's legacy, the Gujarat government announced construction of an iconic 182 meter tall statue, the only of its kind in the country, as a tribute to the Iron Man of India. However, it appears that in its haste to publicise its novel intentions, the government missed or ignored several important steps which was revealed in the response to an RTI filed by activist Bharat Solanki on March 22.
The list of alarming facts is long. From failing to make any Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report for its Statue of Unity, to take an Environment Clearance (EC) certificate for the project that was announced amid much fanfare on October 7. There's more. In its reply to the RTI, the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) also suggests that no public consultation had been made with regard to the ambitious project and there is no information regarding the villages to be displaced by it.
Driven by curiosity, Solanki filed an RTI to gain information about the ambitious project. But the response he received only left him stumped. “RTI states SSNNL has no information with regard to the EIA and EC. What does it suggest? It means that no EIA report has been prepared by the government while no EC has been taken by the government,” the activist said.
Similarly, to another query regarding whether any public consultation had been made, the RTI replied that the information sought by him is not clear and thus, there is zero information! “This states that government did not carry out any public consultation and didn’t even bother to take public opinion.” Solanki said, adding, “This is a democratic country and people's opinion must be sought.” To a query on how many villages will be displaced by project, the SSNNL again had no answer. “This only proves that government is not sincere and aware about the project,” the activist lambasted. To another question as to how much land will be required to set up the statue, and also which villages will be covered under the project, the reply said that the tendering process is in progress. “It is evident that government is providing misinformation,” said Solanki amazed at the zero information provided to him on such important issues.
Environment activist Mahesh Pandya said that Solanki's RTI is a proof that it was all about making propaganda in the name of Sardar Patel. “No work has been done and nothing is on paper. It is surprising that government is yet to decided on how much acre of land they are going to set up the ambitious project.” He further added that the silence on some queries only indicates that no EIA and EC was obtained. Not even public consultation was done. The land has not yet been transferred to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekata Trust, Pandya alleged.
On the other hand, Solanki has made the first appeal to SSNNL’s Public Information Officer stating that information provided to his RTI is inadequate and misleading.