Madhya Pradesh plans to go ahead with the construction of a ₹2,000 crore, 33-metre statue of Adi Shankara and a related museum.
Last week Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan addressed a meeting of the board of trustees of Acharya Shankar Sanskritik Ekta Nyas to discuss the project. Among the attendees was Avdheshanand Giri, “an unparalleled guru for the seeker of the ultimate reality”.
The opposition Congress has raised doubts about the project, and said it will only discuss it once funds are allocated in the state budget. The Congress has also pointed to massive debts that the state has incurred.
The CM said the project will connect the state with the world.
The height of the statue, called the ‘Statue of Oneness’, will be 33 metres and it will be installed on a 16.5 metre platform.
The statue and the Shankar Museum will be set up in an area of 75,000 square metres on the Mandhata Mountain. A ‘gurukulam’ will be developed on the other side of the Narmada River in a 50,000-area and an ‘Acharya Shankar International Advaita Vedanta Sansthan’ will be developed in a 100,000-acre area.
Chouhan said the project will bring practical Vedanta to life. “Let this world become one family. This is the aim behind it. The state government will implement the suggestions given by members of the trust and work will be done expeditiously to finalise the entire action plan,” he said.
The Leader of the Opposition, Kamal Nath, said the project should not be taken seriously. “When the money for the project is allotted in the budget, then we will discuss it,” he said.
The expenditure comes at a time when the state’s debt is more than the total budget allocation. The budget of the state is ₹2.41 lakh crore but the total debt is ₹2.56 lakh crore.
The Congress has demanded a white paper on the debt. Former minister and senior Congress leader Jitu Patwari said: “The state already has a debt of ₹2.56 lakh crore to repay but the Shivraj government is taking loans regularly on one or the other pretext. Now, it has decided to take a loan of ₹48,000 crore. The state government should issue a white paper on the status of its finances.”