Thursday, February 28, 2008

Centre hurts peoples’ sentiments insisting on cutting through Rama Setu

Centre hurts peoples' sentiments insisting on cutting through Rama Setu
In the affidavit approved for submission to SC, Centre reportedly asks
SC to decide on Sri Rama. This is disgraceful buck-passing, a cop-out,
without admitting the reality of Sri Rama in the nation's identity and

If the reports are true, the proposed new affidavit is an insult, a
deep hurt on sentiments of millions of people by proposing that the
mid-ocean channel (SSCP) will desiccate the sacred Rama Setu. This is
politics at its worst, just to stay in power with the support of an
atheist group (synonym in vogue for 'secular'). Taking such a stance,
it is political dishonesty to aver in media reports that peoples'
sentiments are being respected.

Kindly write/Email to authorities in India with a request to –

(a) notify the 'Ramsetu' (Ram's Bridge) sited in the Rameswaram sea
as a "protected, historic national heritage of Bharat";

(b) notify the 'Rameswaram' Island as a "Holy Pilgrimage Place

(c) leave the Ramsetu totally unscathed,;

(d) use the existing Pamban gap (with a cantilever BG
Railbridge) to tranship goods between Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay,

(e) adopt an alternative to improve the lives of coastal people
and for 'real' development of the nation by establishing "Marine
Economic Zones" (MEZs) to extend upto 200 kms. of the ocean from the
coastline. MEZs have the potential to realize Rs. 40,000 crores of
foreign exhange per annum by exporting marine products juxtaposed to
the Rs. 200 crore earning from a shipping channel (SSCP).

Government should notify Ramasetu as a 'National Heritage Monument'
under section 4(1) of the Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites
and Remains Act, 1959. The Ram Setu comes well within the expression
'ancient monument' just as the Brahma Sarovar at Kurukshetra – the
land of the Gita (in Haryana and 160 kms north of Delhi) was on a
similar consideration declared by the Punjab and Haryana High Court
{cf. Air 1993 P&H 204} as an ancient monument.

Besides it being a matter of belief, faith, deference and reverence of
all of us to save the Ram Setu, it is nevertheless our national cause
for the sake of national security, promotion of heritage-/eco-tourism,
protection against future tsunami threats, preservation of marine
flora, fauna, environment and ecology, banking upon one of our
indigenous sources of nuclear energy (about 32% of Thorium deposits of
the world in the area) and ensuring livelihood for 20 lakh coastal

Jallikattu (bull fight) was allowed by SC on the ground that banning
it would hurt the sentiments of people in some districts of Tamil
nadu. Desiccating Rama Setu would hurt sentiments of millions of
people world over. Government should be reminded to respect the
peoples' sentiments. PM may recall the sage advice of former Supreme
Court Justice VR Krishna Iyer that no patriotic Indian can support
this SSCP.

Dr. S. Kalyanaraman

Faxes/Emails may be sent to:

Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil
President of India
Rashtrapati Bhavan,
New Delhi, India – 110 004.
Fax : 00-91-11-23017920 / 00-91-11-23017824
Telephone : 00-91-11-23015321
Email ID: <>

Dr Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister of India
Prime Minister's Office (PMO)
South Block, Raisina Hill,
New Delhi, India-110 011
Fax: 91-11-23019545 / 91-11-23016857.
Telephone: 91-11-23012312.
Residence: 7, Race Course Road, New Delhi
Tel. - 23018939, 23011156, 23018907, 23019334, 23015470

Hon'ble Mr. K. Gopinathan Balakrishnan
Chief Justice of India
C/o-Secretary General,
Supreme Court of India,
Tilak Marg, New Delhi-110 001 (India)
E-mail :

Shri Lal Krishna Advani
Leader of Opposition, Lok Sabha (House of People of Parliament of India)
Member, Committee on Home Affairs, Government of India
Residence: 30, Prithviraj Road,
New Delhi - 110 003 (India)
Tels. (011) 23794125, 23794124
Fax: (011) 23017015
Govt asks SC to decide on 'Lord Ram'
2/28/2008 11:32:54 AM (TimesNow TV)

Under pressure from its allies down south, paticularly the DMK, the
Govenment in a draft affidavit to be filed in the Supreme Court has
said that the Ram Sethu is not man made and that work on the Sethu
Samundaram project must resume.

The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs has approved the final
draft of the Centre's affidavit on the Sethusamudram project to be
filed in the Supreme Court.

The CCPA has decided that the Centre can go ahead with the filing of
the affidavit in the Supreme Court on March 5.

As per the affidavit, the Government will seek to remove the stay on
the project. It will also seek to dismiss all PILs on the issue. The
government is filing the revised affidavit after withdraiwng its first
controversial affidavit on September 14.

The draft of the second affidavit is a toned-down version as it says:
"There is no scientific evidence that the Ram Sethu is a man-made
structure. It is a matter of faith of millions of Indians it was built
by Lord Ram. The Government to seek SC direction on how to honour
matters of faith."

The initial affidavit had created a furore after the Government had
stated that there was no proof of the existence of Lord Ram.

Govt to ask for lifting stay on dredging

Speaking on the latest development, Culture Minister Ambika Soni told
TIMES NOW that the Government had decided that the Shipping Ministry
headed by the DMK's T R Baalu would be responsible for readying the
affidavit asking for a vacation of the stay on dredging work.

Commenting on this, TIMES NOW's Political and Economy Editor Navika
Kumar said this decision effectively kept the Congress' important ally
the DMK which has been pressing for the project, happy while at the
same not giving any political ammunition to the BJP with questions on
the existence of Lord Ram or the nature of the Rama Sethu, manmade or

"DMK has obviously put its foot down and got its way - the Shipping
Ministry will ready the affidavit to be filed next week. Soni did not
go into the details of the affidavit, however sources say the Congress
is trying to appease the DMK while trying to anticipate criticism from
the BJP - clearly a tightrope walk for the UPA and Congress. The
affidavit will ask for a vacation of the stay on dredging given after
the Lord Ram controversy and the series of PILS filed afterwards. It
will not question the existence of Lord Ram like its predecessor,"
said Kumar.

The CCPA is leaving matters of faith and the prudence of tampering
with the Rama Sethu, for the Supreme Court to decide on.

The Government will likely argue in its affidavit that the Rama Sethu
is almost 30 kms long whereas the area in which the dredging is
expecetd to interfere with it spans just just 300-400 metres - hence
dredging should be allowed to begin with some minor realignments.

This would suffice for the DMK which feels pressured to show some
progress on the Sethusamudram project to its votebank.

The exact contents of the affiavit will only be known on March 5. If
the SC passes the ball back into the Government's court, it may
decided to buy time and hand over investigation of the Sethu area to
the Archaeological Survey of India which would take months to submit a
detailed report on the nature of the Sethu, Navika Kumar observed.
Whatever the moves, the Government is sure to navigate with caution.

Affidavit approved, UPA to go ahead with Setu project

CNN-IBN (28 Feb. 2008)

SETU ISSUE: UPA is ready to consider an alternate alignment that would
not affect the structure.

New Delhi: The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs has approved a
new affidavit on Ram Setu. The Government is seeking to lift the stay
on the construction of the controversial project off the Tamil Nadu

The affidavit will be filed in Supreme Court on March 5. Sources have
told CNN-IBN that the Government wants the project to go ahead,
something which the DMK — a key ally of the Government — has been
demanding for some time now.

However, the UPA has been more cautious this time around. It says
there is no available scientific evidence to prove that Ram Setu is a
man-made structure but adds that the Archaeological Survey of India
doesn't have the expertise to either support to contradict this

The affidavit also says that the legend of Lord Ram in literature,
philosophy and religious sentiment occupies a significant place in the
psyche of a large segment of Indian society.

Significantly, the Government is also ready to consider an alternate
alignment that would not affect the structure. The Government wants
work on the project to start in November should the Supreme Court give
its go ahead.

The views of the Culture Ministry and the Archaeological Survey of
India on the historical and cultural aspects of the case also have
been taken note of.

In the first affidavit which was filed by the centre on the
sethusamundram project (and later withdrawn) the Centre had made the
following controversial statements:

Ram Setu is not a manmade structure, but a natural formation made up of shoals
Valmiki's Ramayan and Ramcharitmanas are mythological texts and they
cannot be reiled upon
Ram Setu is at best a case of disputed mythology and not a matter of
historical importance

Sethusamudram Project

The Sethusamudram Project was originally conceived by a British
commander of the Indian Marine, A D Taylor, in 1860. And while he may
have been inspired by the Suez Canal at that time, nearly one and a
half centuries later, India's decision to revive his abandoned dream
project will have very little similarity to the vastly profitable Suez
Canal or Panama Canal.

At least that's what this study done by a group of researchers led by
Jacob John and Sudarshan Rodriguez claims.

"What we find is that the project has based its economic rationale
only on distance saved for coastal shipping which is the highest which
is 22 hours and the time saved is 22 hours," said senior research
associate Sudarshan Rodriguez from Ashoka Trust for Research in
Ecology and the Environment.

But Rodriguez says for ships coming from Europe and Africa, the time
saved is only 30 per cent of what is claimed by the project. From Aden
time saved is just 8-12 hours. From Mauritius ships will actually lose

"The tariff for this project is based on the savings from," said Rodriguez.

Coastal shipping saying that 50 per cent of time saved will be the
tariff charged. So for a vessel which is around 20,000 Dead Weight
Tons (DWT) we find that the savings by using the canal will be around

"So ideally tariff then would be $9000. However the savings for a ship
coming from Aden is only $4000. So if a ship from Aden is using the
canal they are losing $5000," said Rodriguez.

This study also found that 70 per cent of shipping traffic in the
Indian Ocean are big shipping vessels like oil tankers and bulk
carriers. So it becomes next to impossible for them to navigate this
narrow channel.

Captain Balakrishnan, a retired Indian Navy frigate commander who's
done a parallel study says that ships would go around Sri Lanka rather
than have to go through a canal with draught restrictions and with a
need for a pilot to embark and disembark from the ship.

Let SC decide on Sethu: Cong
28 Feb, 2008, 0343 hrs IST, TNN

NEW DELHI: Even as the UPA's top leadership gears up to decide the
Centre's stand on the Sethusamudram issue in the affidavit to be
submitted to the SC shortly, the Congress has made it clear that it
wants 'development' and 'people's sensitivities' to go hand-in-hand.
It has also added that a final decision will have to be taken by the
SC, setting the tone for the government's stand on the political

The party's search for a middle path on the contentious issue comes in
the wake of its ally, DMK's, insistence on not putting the work on the
ship channel project on hold. The project, when completed, will cut
through a portion of the Adam's bridge or Ram Sethu.

This has raised the hackles of the BJP and Sangh Parivar outfits. The
BJP has lumped the Sethusamudram decision with the government's
withdrawn affidavit in the SC — about there being no historical
evidence that the characters in the Ramayana existed — and the
Congress worried over losing votes to the Opposition party's 'Hindu'

Party spokesperson Manish Tewari, articulating the Congress' stand on
the issue in response to questions from mediapersons in Parliament,
said: "The effort is to try and find a way so that both development
and sensitivities (of people) can be taken care of". He also said that
ultimately the apex court would have to decide on the matter.

The Congress has so far been focusing on NDA's role in getting the
project sanctioned and also their role in selecting the alignment for
the project.

It has talked of the matter being sub judice and even earlier left it
to the SC to decide on the matter. Party spokesperson Jayanti
Natarajan has even said that the Congress-led UPA will keep in mind
'public opinion' on the subject. However, the party is now veering
closer to Union culture minister Ambika Soni's stand on the issue by
factoring in 'people's sensitivities'.

Ms Soni has been at loggerheads with DMK's shipping minister T R Baalu
over what the government affidavit, to be submitted in court on March
5, should say. She has been opposed to Congress taking a decision on
the matter that will 'alienate Hindu voters' and said that the
Archeological Survey of India cannot take a definite view on whether
the Ram Sethu can be declared a 'site of national importance' without
undertaking a 'survey'.

Those who agree with her say that such a stand when expressed in court
will help putting off an immediate decision on the matter. However,
with the DMK insisting that the government ask the Supreme Court to
vacate its stay order on dredging near Adam's Bridge, the issue has
become a sticking point in Congress-DMK relations.

Mr Baalu, in reply to a question in Lok Sabha on Wednesday, said that
the project can be operational by November 2008 depending on SC
clearance to it.

This is the stand that the DMK is sticking to at the moment. This
signals that that the party and its minister are factoring in the apex
court's stand on the issue. In the months leading up to the next
general elections, this could create discord between the Congress-DMK
but it does seem to be threatening the alliance at the moment.

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