The colossal bronze memorial – almost twice the height of the Statue of Liberty in New York – was immediately condemned as an expensive vanity project when it was unveiled on Wednesday.
In the 56 months it took to construct the £330million Statue of Unity, UK taxpayers gave India £1.17billion in foreign aid, according to official figures.
India’s prime minister Narendra Modi attended the statue’s opening ceremony amid great fanfare. It stands on a bend of the Narmada river in Gujarat, Mr Modi’s home state.
He was chief minister of Gujarat when the vast statue was commissioned.
The engineering project started in 2012, when British taxpayers donated almost £300million to India.
In 2013 a further £268million was given, in 2014 the figure was £278million and in 2015 it was £185million, followed by smaller amounts after that.
As the cash rolled in from Britain, the Indian authorities poured billions of rupees into building the 597ft tall bronze likeness of Sardar Patel, one of the heroes of India’s independence movement.
Last night Tory MP Peter Bone said: ‘To take £1.1billion in aid from us and then at the same time spend £330million on a statue is a total nonsense and it is the sort of thing that drives people mad.
‘What it proves is that we should not be giving money to India. It is up to them how they spend their money but if they can afford this statue, then it is clearly a country we should not need to be giving aid to.’
The British aid money was spent on projects ranging from improving women’s rights to funding solar panels and investment in low-carbon transport. Some £14,000 of the cash was spent in Gujarat in 2014, when the statue’s foundations were being laid, to ‘increase religious tolerance among young people’.
India is the world’s fastest-growing economy, has sent a mission to Mars, boasts more billionaires than the UK and itself hands out millions to needy nations. It currently gives more foreign aid than it receives despite its problems with disease and healthcare.
The British aid money did not go directly to building the statue but was spent funding projects that India could have afforded had it not been pouring cash into the 2,000-tonne memorial.
The Statue of Unity took 3,500 workers four years to construct and the project involved a land-grab affecting 72 nearby villages, forcing thousands out of their homes, according to tribal chiefs.
Indian air force jets flew over the giant figure on Wednesday and clouds of rose petals were dropped from helicopters as Mr Modi officially opened what he described as ‘a symbol of our engineering and technical prowess’.
Britain’s former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said in 2012 that the UK would stop ending India aid in 2015, but £92.6million was sent to India last year.
The UK has funded schemes in India including £86.616 to see if yoga helps people have heart attacks and another £100.000 to bring female scientists from India to Cambridge.
While the Department of International Development has said that it ended its traditional aid to India in 2015, but they are still giving some funding to help boost their economy and to try to counter climate change.
A spokesman said: “The UK now provides world-leading expertise and private investment – while generating a return for the UK – to boost prosperity, create jobs and open up markets, which is firmly in our interests.”