Setu project: Justice on trial, does Transport Minister run the Defence Ministry? Can he dictate to the Admiral of the Navy?

Setu project: Justice on trial, does Transport Minister run the Defence Ministry? Can he dictate to the Admiral of the Navy?

The following report should be submitted to the Hon’ble Supreme Court through an affidavit.

There has been an attempt by a Union Minister to pressurise an expert to change his position in such a way as to support the Shipping Ministry’s Setu channel project. This is a gross violation of natural justice and the fundamental right of an expert to express his views freely, honestly and untrammeled by political pressures or command performance.

This is an illegal interference and should be taken note of by the Hon’ble Court.

Further, how does the Minister for Transport know about the types and sizes of naval vessels operated by the Indian Navy. It is reasonable to assume that this is top-secret military information.

It is also surprising that a Minister for Transport should be offering advice on Defence issues. It is for the Defence Ministry to determine if the Setu channel project will strengthen the nation’s defences and it is certainly beyond the pruview of the Transport Minister.

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Source: Dinamalar, Chennai Edition, Page 11, 24 January 2008

Translation from Tamil:

New dispute about Setu Channel project

Baalu’s letter to Antony

Our New Delhi reporter

A view expressed by the Indian Naval chief, Admiral, that after implementation of the Setusamudram Channel Project large-sized naval vessels cannot use the channel. This view has created a controversy. “Being in a high position of authority, expressing an opinion against the Government of India is unfortunate. On this issue, he should be prevailed upon to issue a clarificatory statement,” said Baalu in the letter written to Defence Minister Antony. A few days ago, in Chennai, Indian Navy Chief, Admiral Suresh Mehta gave a media interview on the Setusamudram Channel Project. He had said: “Setusamudram Project is a beneficial project. But, after completing the Setusamudram project, only small naval vessels can navigate through the channel. There is no possibility for large vessels to navigate through the channel. Yet, this is an sentimental issue related in Tamilnadu.”

This interview of Suresh Mehta has created a controversy. In a situation when there are already many issues and controversies related to Setusamudram Project., since a person heading the naval forces of the nation has issued such a statement, there is furore in political circles. Yesterday, in Delhi, Minister for Shipping and Transport TR Baalu has written a letter to Defence Minister Antony. What is stated in the letter is as follows:

“On 22nd January 2008 in Chennai, Suresh Mehta’s statements made in an interview have been publicized. It is unfortunate that a person in a high position of authority in the Indian Navy has made such statements. It was unnecessary for a person in a very responsible position to make such statements. These are not also acceptable. His information is false. When the Setu channel project is completed and the project gets commissioned, 80% of the maritime vessels navigating along major ports of India, carrying goods, can navigate through the channel. This Setu channel is 12 metres deep. All the naval vessels owned by Indian Navy can navigate through the Setu channel. Setusamudram channel project is a harbinger of economic development of southern states. Apart from this, the project will help strengthen the nation’s defence. In such a situation, Suresh Mehta has given a press interview which causes embarrassment to the Central Government. So, I request you to impress upon him that a clarificatory statement should be issued by him.” So said the letter.

From informed sources who commented upon the present controversy, it is noted: “There are 12 major ports in India. During 2006-7, at an international level, 20,860 shipping vessels have carried goods. Of these, 80%, that is, 16,.442 shipping vessels can potentially use the Setu channel.”

Kalyanaraman

25 Jan. 2008

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