Indians balk at $33 million statue in new budget

Indians balk at $33 million statue in new budget

Posted: Updated:
(AP Photo/Manish Swarup). An Indian worker carries a sack containing copies of the 2014-15 union budget at the Indian parliament in New Delhi, Thursday, July 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup). An Indian worker carries a sack containing copies of the 2014-15 union budget at the Indian parliament in New Delhi, Thursday, July 10, 2014.
  • NationalMore>>

  • Ohio State marching band chief fired after probe

    Ohio State marching band chief fired after probe

    Thursday, July 24 2014 7:04 PM EDT2014-07-24 23:04:35 GMT
    Ohio State University has fired the director of its celebrated marching band amid allegations he knew about and ignored "serious cultural issues" including sexual harassment.More >>
    Ohio State University fired the director of its celebrated marching band on Thursday after determining he ignored a "sexualized" culture of rituals including students being pressured to march in their underwear and...More >>
  • Doctor fired back at gunman in hospital attack

    Doctor fired back at gunman in hospital attack

    Thursday, July 24 2014 6:54 PM EDT2014-07-24 22:54:37 GMT
    Police in suburban Philadelphia are investigating a shooting at a hospital campus and say they have reports people have been injured and a suspect is in custody.More >>
    A doctor who was grazed by gunfire from a patient in his office at a suburban hospital on Thursday helped stop him by apparently returning fire with his own weapon and severely injuring him, but not before a caseworker was...More >>
  • Tornado slams Virginia campground; 2 dead

    Tornado slams Virginia campground; 2 dead

    Thursday, July 24 2014 7:01 PM EDT2014-07-24 23:01:51 GMT
    Albert Thorn awoke in his rental cottage Thursday to the sound of heavy rain and wind. Then, there was screaming. Within minutes, the sky turned dark, cellphones pinged with emergency messages and a tornado tore...More >>
    Albert Thorn awoke in his rental cottage Thursday to the sound of heavy rain and wind. Then, there was screaming. Within minutes, the sky turned dark, cellphones pinged with emergency messages and a tornado tore through a...More >>
By MUNEEZA NAQVI
Associated Press

NEW DELHI (AP) - In a country grappling with poverty, sluggish growth and a daunting deficit, India's new budget has set aside 2 billion rupees ($33 million) for a colossal iron-and-bronze statue almost twice the size of the Statue of Liberty.

The plans in Thursday's budget for a 182-meter (nearly 600 feet)-tall replica of Indian independence leader Vallabhbhai Patel caused an outcry, with many people saying the country has far more urgent priorities.

"How can they waste money on statue like that?" asked Rohtash, a vegetable vendor in the Indian capital who goes by one name. "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 Patel statue than for women's safety nationwide, which got 1.5 billion rupees ($25 million), or the education of young girls at 1 billion rupees ($16.5 million).

The move was criticized strongly on social media, with one sarcastic Twitter user saying: "Truly #budget2014 has something for everyone, even Sardar Patel." The move was rated "most disliked" on the website of NDTV news channel, and the Times of India newspaper started a Twitter poll asking if the statue is a "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 Modi say the decision to lavish federal funds on the project is a political ploy to upset his foes in the rival Congress party.

Patel was one of the most important members of the Congress party, which dominated Indian politics for almost 60 years after the country won its independence from British rule.

Modi, who belongs to the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, humiliated Congress when he came to power in May in the most decisive election victory India has seen in three decades. And now, his critics say, he's trying to appropriate one of the Congress' most revered independence-era icons.

Chonchui Ngashangva in New Delhi contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Powered by WorldNow