A prominent British Indian business tycoon and philanthropist says he is confident that a permanent memorial to Mahatma Gandhi in London’s Parliament Square will be ready for its official unveiling next year.
Dr Rami Ranger, the businessman behind the Sun Mark group of companies, was made a Trustee of the Gandhi Statue Memorial Trust last week alongside the well-known Indian diplomat and Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopal Krishna Gandhi, in a bid to bolster the Trust’s efforts to raise the £750,000 required for the memorial.
The appointments follow concerns that the Trust – founded and chaired by London-based Indian economist and writer Lord Meghnad Desai – was struggling to raise the funds required for the statue which is set to be unveiled at the end of January 2015.
Several reports had suggested that the Trust had managed to raise just over 15% of the total required by November, more than three months after the memorial was first announced by Chancellor George Osborne during his visit to India in August.
However, Dr Ranger said that a “substantial” amount had thus far being raised.
He told the UKAsian: “The end of the year is usually a very bad period in terms of fundraising what with the holiday season coming. But a substantial sum has been raised and there are lots of pledges both from the UK and India”.
The Trust has steadfastly refused to put a figure on the amount raised.
According to Dr Ranger, part of the reason for the delay in raising the total funds required is the due diligence that needs be carried out in an endeavour of this nature.
“There is a tremendous amount of due diligence that needs to be conduct. We can’t just accept money. There are a lot of constraints.
“If there is a pledge from India for example, a transfer of funds would require clearance from the Reserve Bank of India. Similarly, there needs to be checks if we get pledges from the UK. The last thing we need is a controversy to come up at a later stage.
“What’s more, we want to do it (fundraise) in a dignified manner”.
There is little doubt that Dr Ranger’s appointment to the Trust will speed things along.
The tycoon made a very public and impassioned defence of the Memorial after several prominent British Asians – most notably the historian and author Dr Kusoom Vadgama – called for the idea to be abandoned citing the murkier aspects of the Mahatma’s life, not least his alleged impropriety with his young nieces.
“For some he was a controversial figure”, Dr Ranger continued.
“For me, he was a great man. He was an educated man and he had everything to live for but he gave it all up for the sake of a greater cause. Today India is free and we are punching above our weight on the global stage because of the efforts of individuals such as Mahatma Gandhi.
“It’s easy to promote yourself, but far more difficult to promote a cause. All those people who promoted a cause and who will share Parliament Square with Gandhiji have been controversial figures. But you have to look at the whole picture and not just individual aspects of one’s life”.
The man charged with creating the 9-foot statue of Mahatma Gandhi is the acclaimed British sculptor Philip Jackson who unveiled the clay model of the statue last month.
The statue is inspired by a picture of Gandhi taken outside 10 Downing Street in 1931 after he had met with then-Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald for the famous Round Table conference.
The Gandhi statue will be the final memorial in the famous patch of greenery in front of the Palace of Westminster.