Rama Setu: Govt. won’t reveal what Baalu Committee said

All the submissions made to the Baalu Committee should be produced before the Court and the people. This will be consistent with the great stand announced in the SC by the Addl. Advocate General that a transparent procedure will be followed to receive objections and suggestions in the highest democratic traditions.


Govt won’t reveal what experts said about Ram Sethu


New Delhi: The UPA is in a bind whether or not to publicly acknowledge what its experts are saying: that the controversial Ram Sethu is not a man-made structure.

Agreeing with the political script of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, an expert panel has made its findings known to the Government.

But UPA cannot go with simple scientific reasoning and is buying time to study various options by setting up a Group of Ministers (GoM).

The GoM comprises top politicians like Kapil Sibal, Pranab Mukherjee, H R Bhardwaj, P Chidambaram, Ambika Soni and T R Baalu and will find ways of deferring any decision that polarises opinions.

Already, the experts by insisting Ram Sethu is not man-made have ensured that the Archaeological Survey of India is kept out from the process of finding solutions to the problem.

In less than a fortnight, the Supreme Court will list the matter again and for the Government, a tightrope walk on the Ram Sethu is turning out to be a difficult proposition.


UPA scores another self-goal on Ram Sethu, panel quotes German scholars that Ramayana a ‘fairy tale, no fact’

Posted online: Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 0008 hrs IST




The ambitious Rs 2427-crore Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project has once again hit a political wall with the expert committee formed to look into concerns raised by diverse sections on the project committing the same mistake that sparked off the controversy in the first place. It has quoted the work of two German scholars calling the Ramayana a “fairy tale,” just months after its affidavit that there was no proof that Ram existed touched off a political storm.

It’s learnt that the two-volume report of the 10-member committee has included a quote from the work of two German scholars from the 1880s which states: “The narration of the Indian epic (Ramayana) appears to us nothing more than a pious fairy tale without factual basis.”

This has put the government in a spot not only forcing it to seek more time from the Supreme Court but also delaying decision on accepting the report despite pressure from Shipping Minister T R Baalu.

Sources, however, said Culture Minister Ambika Soni is unwilling to accept the report and this sense is shared among senior Congress ministers as the contents will only ignite another controversy.

Further, the committee, while concluding that the structure in question was a natural formation and not man-made, concedes that “no archaeological study” has been conducted to verify the same. This has only complicated matters with the Culture Ministry being extra cautious now and pointing out that a sensitive issue of this nature cannot be brushed aside without a proper study.

Moreover, the committee leaves the question of the structure being a cultural corridor between India and Sri Lanka an open-ended one which many feel contradicts the final conclusion. “The possibility of it being used as a cultural corridor between India and Sri Lanka cannot be precluded,” states the report.

The consensus, therefore, in the Congress leadership is to first carry out a detailed archaeological and geological study of the structure before arriving at any conclusion. The committee, sources said, focuses largely on rebutting the petitions from various quarters that argue in favour of the structure being the Ram Sethu as described in Ramayana.

What has annoyed the Congress leadership is the committee’s needless qualification about the epic. It was the same mistake that started this controversy. In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court in September last year (withdrawn later following a major uproar), the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) had stated: “…contents of the Valmiki Ramayana, the Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas and other mythological texts, which admittedly form an important part of ancient Indian literature…cannot be said to be historical record to incontrovertibly prove the existence of the characters, or the occurrence of events, depicted therein.”

The BJP and Hindutva organizations came out strongly against this, holding protests across the country. The Supreme Court then asked the government to examine the diverse views filed by way of different petitions and come up with a report on the nature of the structure, its historical relevance and other related aspects.

But with the expert committee report running into trouble, the DMK, a key ally of the Congress, is bound to increase pressure on the government as it wants work to start project at the earliest. While forming a Group of Ministers could help buy time, sources said, it is clear that this report cannot be accepted in totality and a separate study may have to be conducted before work can start again on the project.

When contacted, Baalu refused to comment. “I don’t have to say anything on it. The matter is being dealt by the Cabinet Secretariat,” he told The Sunday Express. The project involves dredging of about a 90 km-long channel across the Palk Straits between India and Sri Lanka that will allow a straight passage to ships sailing between the east and west coasts of India. This will cut an estimated 780 km and up to 30 hours in sailing distance and time as ships will not need to go around Sri Lanka.

The members of the expert committee included S Ramachandran, Vice Chancellor of the Madras University; S R Wate, Deputy Director of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute in Nagpur; R K Jain, Managing Director of the Indian Ports Association; Prof R S Sharma, a former professor of History in Delhi University among others.


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