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Proposed statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in France faces opposition


Images of General Allard, Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the wife of Allard, Bannu Pan Dei

In July 2015, the Punjab Government announced the proposal of installing a statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh at Saint-Tropez, France.

The Punjab government is set to place orders for two statues of legendary Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh — one to be installed in a French tourist town associated with his army general and another at his own ‘birthplace’ in Sangrur. A statue of Banda Singh Bahadur is to be installed in Delhi as well.

While the Sangrur fibreglass statue will be placed at Badrookhan village, a 100-kg bronze bust of the Maharaja will be installed at Saint-Tropez in France, the birthplace of his army general, Jean-Francois Allard.While senior Akali leaders have justified the move saying there is nothing wrong in promoting history, the Congress has targeted the government for such spending “when they are unable to pay a large section of employees on time”.The tender process, it is learnt, has been completed and the agencies will soon be finalised “for fabrication and installation of both the statues”. The Department of Cultural Affairs, Archaeology and Museum has been assigned the task to float tenders to select the sculptor.

The offer to install a statue in France was made by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal last year during a meeting with Henri Allard, the Deputy Mayor of Saint-Tropez, who is a direct descendant of General Allard. While the initial idea was to have a “white marble statue”, the government has now opted for a bronze bust.Henri had narrated the contribution of General Allard along with General Ventura in the army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and how both raised Fauj-i-khas, the “royal” brigade. NPS Randhawa, Director, Tourism and Culture, said, “The project will be completed within four to five months and the agencies crafting the statue will be responsible for shifting these to the place of installation and maintain these for three years.”
He refused to disclose the allocated budget. Several Punjab ministers have gone on record to state how the present SAD-BJP tenure could be compared with the rule of the Maharaja.

Punjab Congress senior vice-president Lal Singh said the government should think 100 times before spending even a single rupee of the taxpayers’ money on such wasteful expenditure that serves no purpose. “We are not against raising statues, but when the finances of the state are in a mess, the government should desist from extravagant expenditure,” he added.Leader of Opposition Charanjit Singh Channi called for a public debate before deciding to spend crores on installing such statues.

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