Centre toying with Courts and peoples’ sentiments on Rama Setu

Centre toying with Courts and peoples’ sentiments on Rama Setu

What is the Govt. of India upto releasing the excerpts from Baalu committee report in bits and pieces? The petitioners should ask for ALL the 10,000 plus pages of submissions made to the Committee. It ain’t no expert committee and has no sanction to make recommendations.

The Hon’ble Court should direct that all the submissions made be made transparent for review as a fair and transparent procedure for airing and resolving public grievances. What was done by the data collection committee was NOT a public hearing.

The Environmental Impact Analysis under the legal provisions makes it mandatory to analyse the archaeological context BEFORE the project is approved. That this was NOT done makes the project illegal. The Culture Ministry has first to respond to the Madras HC judgement of 19 June 2007 where 11 pages of evidence were summarized clearly pointing to the fact that Rama Setu is an ancient monument which should be declared as such and protected under the 1958 Act. The Act says whether it is a piece of stone, cave, or water, if it is over 100 years old, if people reasonably believe in the sacredness and antiquity, the monument should be declared as an ancient monument of national importance. Nowhere in the Act is it mentioned that a monument should be man-made to be deemed a protected monument. Whether it is man-made or vaanara-made or divinity-made, it is a world heritage according to the UNESCO criteria and also the 1958 Act criteria. Why is the Govt. of India dodging the issue, and dodging acting on Madras HC judgement?

There are very serious concerns raised by scientists and true experts, that lead to the conclusion that the entire project should be scrapped. The Hon’ble Court should appoint an advocate commission as was done in the Tehri dam to get to the facts and reality of the real and imminent danger to the coastline if a 170 km. channel is dug in the Setusamudram creating a funnel to channel the energy of the next tsunami which will be more devastating than the 2004 tsunami putting at risk 6 to 7 crore coastal people of India according to the Nature magazine report of Sept. 6, 2007. The livelihood of the coastal people will be devastated since it is impossible to have both navigation and fishing for marine products in this narrow stretch. Alternatives to the project disaster is not another channel route, but a total rethink by setting up a Marine Economic Zone and laying alternative transport modes (such as pipelines for oil and gas movement from west coast to east coast, railway lines linking Colombo and Madurai, Jaffna and Nagapattinam and coastal railway linkint Thuthukudi (Tuticorin) and Chennai). The environmental situation in Setusamudram is so fragile yet so rich that it has been declared a South Asia Marine Bioreserve by UNESCO. India will be violating the international conventions to which India is a signatory if the habitats of over 3600 species of flora and fauna are devastated and exposed to the serious, real, high risks of oil spills.

Methinks, Hon’ble Court should intervene forcefully and not allow the Centre to play games with peoples lives and national sovereignty and security.


Experts say Ram Sethu natural but involve archaeologists during dredging, Culture Ministry says no need

Posted online: Wednesday, January 16, 2008 at 0028 hrs


: Convinced that Adam’s Bridge in the sea between India and Sri Lanka — otherwise known as Ram Sethu — is a natural formation and not a man-made structure, the Ministry of Culture has come out against any involvement of archaeologists during the dredging process in the Sethusamudram Canal Project.

So while it is in complete agreement with the entire report of a government-appointed committee of “eminent persons” on the Sethusamudram project, the Ministry has proposed that one of its suggestions (in Para 10.11 of the report) not be accepted: that of associating archaeologists during the dredging process.

The reason: dredging material cannot be studied “out of its archaeological context” to determine historical value and in view of the “procedural requirements before archaeological work is undertaken under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.”

The 10-member expert committee, which submitted its report to the Government last month, had concluded, as first reported in The Sunday Express, that that there was “no evidence, archaeological or scientific, to prove the existence of any man-made structure”. However, it recommended that archaeologists be associated during the dredging work of the project in the Adam’s Bridge area in order to report and recover artefacts and archeological features, if any.

The Culture Ministry’s view on the report was made known during a meeting of the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) on January 3 and 4. After discussing the expert committee’s report, the CoS was of the opinion that the Adam’s Bridge was “clear cut natural stratigraphic of cyclic sedimentation process and not a man-made feature.”

The CoS, headed by the Cabinet Secretary, has accordingly recommended that the government accept the report except the suggestion that calls for involving archaeologists during the dredging. The politically-explosive recommendations of the CoS were informally discussed at the Cabinet meeting last week but no decision was taken. “The government is still considering the CoS recommendations,” an authoritative source said. With a final decision still awaited, the Centre has made up its mind to ask for more time to file its affidavit when the Sethusamudram case comes up for hearing in the Supreme Court tomorrow.

The members of the expert committee include: S Ramachandran, Chairman of the Monitoring Committee on Environmental Impact Issues for the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project and Vice Chancellor of Madras University; S R Wate, Deputy Director, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur; R K Jain, Managing Director, Indian Ports Association; M. Sakthivel, president of Aqua Culture Foundation of India; R S Sharma, former professor of History, Delhi University; Dilip K. Biswas, former chairman of the Central Pollution Control Board; J R B Alfred, former Director of Zoological Survey of India, Kolkata; P. Jagadeesan, former Vice-Chancellor of Bharatidasan University, Tiruchi; Y. Vaikuntham, former VC of Kakatiya University and K. Paddayya, director, Deccan College, Pune


Congress faces crisis of faith over Sethusamudram project

The Centre plans to seek more time from SC to file revised affidavit; spread word that BJP had initiated canal plan

Ashish Sharma (mint, Jan. 15, 2008)

Fearing a possible backlash in assembly polls expected to be held in five key states later this year, the Congress has developed a sudden crisis of faith over the Rs2,600 crore Sethusamudram project, which envisages dredging the coral walkway between India and Sri Lanka to reduce sailing time for ships.


Show of sentiment: A 30 December photo of a protest in New Delhi organized by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which has been demanding that the dredging be stopped and Ram Sethu be declared a national heritage.

Right-wing Hindu organizations have been protesting the project, which they allege would destroy an ancient bridge, believed by them to have been built by Hindu god Ram. The Congress, which leads the United Progressive Alliance coalition government at the Centre, had been defending the project, citing lack of evidence of any man-made structure at the site.

However, following setbacks in state elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, both won by the principal opposition, the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, the Congress is loath to gift an electoral advantage to the opposition by triggering a possible majority outrage.

Especially as four of the five states going to polls this year are in the north, where the BJP has a strong base. The BJP has a significant presence in the lone southern state in the list, Karnataka, expected to go to the polls in April.

The Congress-led UPA has, therefore, adopted a twin strategy. On the one hand, it has decided to seek more time on 16 January from the Supreme Court, where the project has been challenged, to file a revised affidavit explaining the cultural significance of the so-called Adam’s Bridge or to present an alternative development plan.

The government also needs to make amends for an earlier affidavit, filed in September by the Archaeological Survey of India, which concluded there was no historical proof that Ram ever existed, provoking a public outcry that led to a hasty withdrawal of the affidavit.

Simultaneously, the Congress will reach out to people to tell them that the project was actually initiated by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government, which also approved the technical alignment that would lead to the alleged demolition of Ram Sethu.

“The government needs more time to study all aspects of the project,” said M. Veerappa Moily, chairman of the Congress party’s media department and a former chief minister of Karnataka. “We don’t want to rush into anything that would hurt the sentiment of the people. In this case, it is just a question of respecting the faith of a section of the society without hindering the development of the country.”

While the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani said it was premature to comment on the government’s stance, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which has led the anti-Sethusamudram project protest, said stalling the project was not enough.

“We will not stop fighting this project until it is officially called off and the government declares Ram Sethu a national heritage,” said S. Vedantam, a member of the VHP’s national committee.

The VHP will meet in Bangalore on 20 January to discuss further strategy.

Analysts said the Congress could easily find itself in a lose-lose position.

“It is an unfortunate change of stance,” said veteran analyst B.G. Verghese, who is an honorary visiting professor at the Centre for Policy Research, a New Delhi-based think tank. “Does this mean the Congress was defending the project without a proper investigation of its implications in the first place? The Left has been blackmailing this government all through. Now, the Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK), which has rallied behind the project, will do the same. So governance at the Centre will suffer further.”

C. Kuppusami, leader of the DMK in the Lok Sabha, though wasn’t surprised by the proposed shift in the stance of the Congress. “The Congress is afraid that the BJP might benefit from this issue in north India. Here, in Tamil Nadu, and the rest of south India, this is not an electoral issue. We understand the fears of the Congress, but we will continue to support the project and seek its implementation.”

The Tamil Nadu-based DMK’s support to the project underscores the party’s confidence that Ram, perceived as an upper-caste god, does not find quite the same resonance in south India, where anti-Brahmin parties hold sway, as in the north.

Congress leaders, however, concede that the issue can cost the national party dear in north India. Unlike the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue, in this case the Congress does not stand to gain non-Hindu votes by displeasing the Hindus, since this is not an issue of protecting minority interests.

Besides the DMK, the Left parties, which don’t depend on upper-caste Hindu votes either, have been supporting the project. Speaking at a rally in Kolkata on the eve of the party’s 22nd state conference on Sunday, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat admonished the BJP for raking up the Ram Sethu issue.

The Congress is, however, not the only party that has changed its stance. The DMK’s rival in Tamil Nadu, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) has also done an about-turn.

“It’s true that our party had earlier supported the project,” said V. Maitreyan, a Rajya Sabha member of the AIADMK, which has been a member of the BJP-led NDA earlier and is expected to join ranks once again.

“However, as our leader J. Jayalalithaa has publicly stated, we now believe the project will be economically unviable, ecologically harmful and a disaster in every possible way,” said Maitreyan.

According to the Congress, even the BJP staged a similar shift. Party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi recently released a long list of announcements and decisions taken by the NDA government to push the project. Singhvi pointed out that the NDA government had formulated and endorsed the project, including the technical alignment that it later found so objectionable.

The NDA’s election manifesto of 2004 also promised, “Sethusamudram project will be speedily completed.”

The BJP, on its part, simply maintains that it is not opposed to the project but the destruction of Ram Sethu.

In any case, V. Maitreyan of the AIADMK reasoned, “It is merely of academic importance as to who initiated the project. The aam aadmi (ordinary citizen) does not remember such details. The government that implements such a project will have to bear the brunt, at least in north India where it could become an electoral issue.”

Union shipping minister T.R. Baalu, of the DMK, had claimed, while talking to reporters, more than three months ago that “most of the work on the channel is done”. Moily, however, stressed, “Nothing has been demolished so far. The Congress hasn’t demolished anything. It is only the BJP that tramples on faith and demolishes structures.”

Priyanka P. Narain in Mumbai contributed to this story.


Not every thing in the world can be decided by Courts of Law, faith and belief is one such thing. Ramayana is a great epic respected by millions of people around the world. It is called an “ithihasa” in Sanskrit, meaning History passed on from generation to generation. We must understand at the time of Sage Valmiki who compiled the great epic, he did not have the modern facility of satellite imaging, but he described the geographical details accurately in the epic. He could not have done this unless it had happened truly at one time. You will find many things similar to Ramayana in Religious literature of other religions too. No one can question the authenticity of them. Rama-Seth the remnants of the bridge built by Rama and his associates to reach Sri Lanka is still there. It is of great heritage value and it should be guarded and saved . Instead of saving this Ancient heritage site for future, steps are being taken now to demolish some portions of the site to make way for shipping. This should be stopped.



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