India set to splash out £19m on giant statue

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A newly announced budget in India has attracted criticism after setting aside two billion rupees (£19m) for a colossal iron-and-bronze statue almost twice the size of the Statue of Liberty.

The plans for a 182-metre (nearly 600 foot) replica of Indian independence leader Vallabhbhai Patel have caused an outcry, with many people saying the country has far more urgent priorities.

“How can they waste money on a statue like that?” asked Rohtash, a vegetable vendor in the Indian capital. “The government could have used that money to reduce the price of rice. That would have been some help for poor people like us.”

It was the first budget of a new government elected on promises to revive stalled economic growth.

Others lamented how the budget earmarks more money for the statue than for women’s safety nationwide, which got 1.5 billion rupees (£14.6m), or the education of young girls at a billion rupees (£9.6m).

The move was criticised strongly on social media and was rated “most disliked” on the website of NDTV news channel. The Times of India newspaper started a Twitter poll asking if the statue is “wasteful expenditure”.

The statue, which Indian officials say will be the tallest in the world, will stand on an island in the Narmada River in western Gujarat state, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi was chief minister for more than a decade. The project was originally meant to be financed by the local government and donations of iron and cash from across the country.

Critics of Mr Modi say the decision to lavish federal funds on the project is a political ploy to upset his foes in the rival Congress party. Mr Patel was one of the most important members of the Congress party, which dominated Indian politics for almost 60 years.