Very sad that UK government cannot find money for Mahatma Gandhi statue: Lord Swraj Paul


London: NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul has said that he “feels very sad” that the British Government cannot find little money for the proposed Mahatma Gandhi statue to be installed at the Parliament Square in London.

“Why this statue was announced with such fanfare by the Chancellor (George Osborne) and the then Secretary of State (William Hague) during their visit to India and then (we) find that we have to collect money for this statue,” asked Paul, himself a philanthropist who had donated one million pounds to save the London Zoo from closure in 1992. “Don’t get me wrong, I am delighted that Mahatma Gandhi’s statue should be in the place where people who have fought for democracy, who have fought for freedom. It should be there because it has become the centre point.

“But what makes me very sad is that the British government cannot find little money. If Indians can find 1 million pounds, can’t the British Government find that amount? They spend that much on the public relations of the whole thing,” 83-year-old Paul told a news channel. Asserting that he is 100% British and 100% Indian, Paul said: “I feel hurt that as British if (Britain) wanted to make a nice gesture to India, why we couldn’t finance that 1 million pounds for the statue.

“That feeling is as a British person, that our government spends and wastes a lot of money in lots of other things but cannot pay for this statue. I would have liked to show this gratitude to India, recognising a man who first time in the history of the world showed that you can win freedom without bloodshed. I come from a family who fought for the freedom.” Paul, the Chancellor of two British Universities – Wolverhampton and Westminster, said, “My only feeling is that you don’t offer somebody a gift and say can you pay for it please. What’s wrong with the (British) government funding it? It is the Westminster Council that has given the permission, not the government. It’s (the statue) a good thing. I don’t say that it’s not a good thing but I think the fanfare with which it was announced, someone needs to answer what was the big necessity to announce it in India. What was behind it? The bronze statue, created by sculptor Philip Jackson based on Gandhi’s last visit to London in 1931, will be the last one to be placed on Parliament Square.

The statue depicts Gandhi without a stick, draped in a heavy shawl, but bare legged and contemplative. “The people behind the announcement need to answer that.  I have a simple answer for that: it was trying to please India and that pleasure has not been reflected after it was revealed that they would have to raise the money. The explanation has been that for all other statues money has been raised but I don’t know if Nelson Mandela’s (statue) announcement came in South Africa when you go for a visit to do trade,” he added.