Towering statue of India's independence leader unveiled

Work in full swing at the site of the Statue of Unity in Kevadia colony on Thursday for the unveiling ceremony

The world's tallest statue was unveiled in India's Gujarat state on Wednesday in a ceremony filled with pomp, circumstance and heightened security.

The "Iron Man of India", a moniker the first deputy prime minister of the country earned through his commitment to national integration in the Forties, will in fact be clad entirely in bronze when dedicated by Shri Narendra Modi on Wednesday morning; 1,850 tonnes of bronze to be precise.

The Statue of Unity website, which has given the structure the tagline, "the statue as grand as the stature", says: "Built in less than five years, it is the world's tallest, grandest and giant statue".

However, many have criticised the project for being a waste of money and some political parties have argued the expenditure for the statue should have gone towards other priorities like women's safety, education and agricultural schemes.

Balloons in the colours of the Indian flag were release, and air force planes showered flower petals on the statue, which was built at a cost of over $881 million - a bill which proved controversial. Hundreds of Chinese have been among the 3,500 workers.

Students sit in formation to pay tribute to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, one of the founding fathers of India, ahead of the unveiling of the Statue of Unity portraying Patel.

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Dedicating the "Statue of Unity" to the nation, PM Modi said the statue is a symbol of India's integrity.

Online booking to visit the Statue of Unity has opened with a 350 rupee admission fee for the 153m-high observation deck.

The accusations are a distortion of history, says Congress, which ruled India for much of its independence history and is now led by Rahul Gandhi, the great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister. Farmers and members of India's tribal communities protested the statue before it was unveiled.

Indian authorities hope the statue will attract 15,000 visitors a day.

The BSP leader also said that if BJP leaders had regard for Patel, then the party, which has been ruling Gujarat for a long time, should have constructed the statue earlier. The current design would make it 212 metres high.

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