Rama Setu: no bar on visiting — Indian Navy



AIADMK stage demos, demands dismissal of DMK govt. Chennai, Sept. 26 (PTI): The opposition AIADMK, led by its supremo Jayalalithaa, today staged a statewide demonstration, protesting against Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s remarks against Lord Ram and sought the dismissal of the DMK Government for having “violated the Constitution by hurting the sentiments of Hindus.” Jayalalithaa, who had been camping at her Kodanadu estate in Nilgiris district for the past one week,led the demonstration at Udhagamandalam. Talking to reporters there,she alleged that Karunanidhi, forgetting his constitutional responsibility, was making “derogatory” remarks against Lord Ram, revered by crores of Hindus across the world. The Centre should dismiss the DMK Government and remove DMK Ministers from the Union Cabinet, she urged. Jayalalithaa dubbed as “anti-constitutional and anti-people” the bandh call given by the ruling DMK and its allies on October 1 to press for speedy implementation of the Sethusamudram project. “My party will move the High Court against the bandh,” she added. Making it clear that the AIADMK was not against the implementation of the Sethusamudram project, she said the DMK had launched a misinformation campaign that her party was working against the project. “No comments and the question is not necessary now,” she said when a query was raised about the third front. Earlier over 3,000 party workers raised slogans against the State government which were read out by Jayalalithaa during the demonstration at Udhagmandalam. The slogans were mainly confined to Chief Minister M Karunanidhi like seeking his resignation and apology for “hurting the sentiments of Hindus” by his anti-Ram remarks over the Sethusamudram project, “attacks” on offices of other political parties and also “functioning against the Indian constitution.” Similar demonstrations were also held in other parts of the state.While over 750 party workers staged demonstration and raised slogans in Coimbatore, nearly 1500 workers demonstrated in Tirupur and 850 in Pollachi in rural limits. In Chennai, AIADMK Presidium Chairman E Madhusudhanan led the demonstration in which scores of party cadre, including women, took part and raised slogans against Karunanidhi. They also demanded his apology and resignation for having “hurt the sentiments of Hindus by making derogatory remarks against Lord Ram.” Hundreds of AIADMK volunteers held demonstrations at different places in Madurai district.MDMK party functionaries also participated in the demonstrations held in front of the Head Post office. About 150 members of ‘Ramar Sethu Protection Committee’ held a seperate demonstration demanding action to protect the Ramar Sethu. Police said about 600 activists including legislators A Anbalagan, Ohm Sakthi Segar and M V Omalingam, were taken into custody in the Union Territory of Puducherry when they tried to proceed towards Rajnivas and present a memorandum to the Lt Governor,urging the Centre to dismiss the Karunanidhi government. http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/000200709261551.htm  

Setu row: BJP wants Centre to sack DMK ministers
26 Sep 2007, 1217 hrs IST , PTI

CHENNAI: The UPA government at Centre should “disassociate” itself from DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi’s anti-Ram remarks and ask him to withdraw them, BJP president Rajnath Singh said on Wednesday.

“Otherwise, the Prime Minister should sack the DMK ministers from the Union cabinet,” Singh told reporters at state BJP headquarters ‘Kamalalayam’, which was damaged allegedly by DMK workers recently.

He charged the Centre with adopting double standards on the issue and encouraging “blasphemy”.

“While it banned the Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’, it was allowing Karunanidhi’s remarks hurting the Hindu sentiments,” he said.

Condemning the BJP office attack, he said,”Some ministers who had taken oath to protect the Constitution have indulged in the attack. We will not be cowed down by such threats”.

On the October 1 bandh called by DMK and its allies in Tamil Nadu, he wondered how a ruling party could do that, particularly when the Supreme Court and various High Courts had banned bandhs.

He said the BJP was not against the Sethusamudram project but against the demolition of Ram Sethu.

On Union Shipping Minister T R Baalu’s remarks that the Centre would not change the alignment of the Sethu project, he said, “if they don’t change it, people will change them”.

Singh recalled that BJP had disassociated itself from Ram Vilas Vendanti’s alleged call to “behead Karunanidhi”.

Senior BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu was also present when Rajnath Singh visited the BJP office.  http://tinyurl.com/33bjsy Karunanidhi’s call for bundh violative of court order — Subramanian Swamy

Develop internal peace to be strong
26 Sep, 2007, 0008 hrs IST,

By M Y Khan
In the debate about the Sethusamudram Ocean Link project, one wonders how Lord Ram would have reacted were he to be present among us? Public interest would have been paramount to Him so he’d have heartily approved the project.
Of course, this begs the question of his ‘existence’: whether he is a mythical figure or was a real-life hero and an ideal king whose exemplary life ennobled him to Godhood.
But such questions should not be raised. For, in my opinion, the defining of Lord Ram and his message as ‘mere myths’ is a rude shock for the entire Indian community, no matter to which religion they belong. It’s our national duty not to hurt religious sentiments or the faith of any community. Never mind if this is done by atheists or those belonging to the same religion, let alone by those from another faith.
In this context, casting personal aspersions on a cultural icon like Lord Ram by politicians is saddening. They are first of all elected representatives of the people, under oath to uphold the rule and dignity of law. Can this be achieved by hurting deeply-held cultural beliefs and convictions of a people?
Indeed, hurting religious sentiments can never be viewed as a ‘fundamental right’ guaranteed under the Constitution. Free speech has limitations, even in these pluralistic modern times. And there ought to be a legal cap on blasphemy masquerading as modernity. If we want our nation to be strong, we must develop internal peace and harmony. And this can only be achieved by fair treatment of all communities.
When I was a boy growing up in rural UP, I remember reading the wonderful dohas of the Ramcharitmanas of Goswami Tulsidas. It was sheer verbal music. At that time, I marvelled at not only the faith but also the noble principles and functions of Lord Ram, which had been systematically and logically documented by Goswamiji in his magnum opus.
Surely, this couldn’t have been done without having the basic facts at the time of composition. Otherwise who or what magic could have conceived such a grand canvas for such a perfect character?
In a similar context, recall what an enlightened editor of The New York Sun said (he was talking about Santa Claus) to an eight-year-old girl in 1897: “He exists as certainly as love and generosity exist and you know that they abound and give your life its highest beauty and joy!”
(The author is chairman of Inter-connected Stock Exchange of India)


The leaders, including the former Haryana Chief Minister and INLD supremo, Om Prakash Chautala, said the people would teach a “lesson to a government which was not ready to accept the existence of Lord Ram.”

Those who attended the meeting were the former Chief Ministers, Mulayam Singh, N. Chandrababu Naidu and Madan Lal Khurana. The former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah, could not reach the venue due to a traffic jam. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Samajwadi Party MP Amar Singh, Asom Gana Parishad leader Brindaban Goswami, Telugu Desam Party leader Yerran Naidu, BKU leader Mahendra Singh Tikait and the former Tripura Governor, Sultan Singh, were present.


Raging controversy turns Ramar Sethu into a tourist attraction

Staff Reporter

http://www.hindu.com/2007/09/26/images/2007092661620701.jpg VIGIL: A marine commando of the Navy checking vehicles carrying pilgrims at Dhanushkodi in Rameswaram island.

RAMANATHAPURAM: With the word Ramar Sethu hitting the national headlines, Adam’s Bridge, otherwise known as Ramar Sethu, has become a must-see destination for pilgrims and tourists visiting Rameswaram.

The 30-mile bridge, believed to be constructed by Lord Rama, is a chain of limestone shoals between Dhanushkodi near the Rameswaram island and Mannar in northern Sri Lanka.

No road link

From Rameswaram tourists have to reach Dhanushkodi, which lost the road connectivity after the 1964 cyclone that destroyed the coastal town. From there they have to go to the chain of unmanned sand dunes by hiring country boats.

Reaching Dhanushkodi is a laborious and expensive task. Tourists and pilgrims have to hire four-wheel drive vehicles from Muhuntharayar Chathiram, as normal vehicles cannot ply on the seashore.

Due to rising demand, vehicle operators have raised the cost of the 10-km trip to Dhanushkodi from Rs.700 to Rs.1,000.

The tourists, on reaching Dhanushkodi, have to furnish information at the Forward Observation Point of the Indian Navy for going further.

According to Commander S. Mukherji, Area Commander, South, Naval Detachment, Rameswaram, there is no bar on visiting the Adam’s Bridge area. People can go up to the International Maritime Boundary Line.

“We apply some restrictions on pilgrims going beyond Dhanushkodi as this is a sensitive area from the security point of view because of arrival of refugees from Sri Lanka.”

Hurdles no bar

With the naked eye, pilgrims can see only the sand dunes in the Ramar Bridge area. But, in spite of the hurdles, tourists and journalists – national and international – are making a beeline for the Ramar Bridge area.

“During the last few months, tourists, particularly from North India, have been showing immense interest in the Ramar Bridge.

Though only a small number of pilgrims actually make it to the area, the number of pilgrims going to Dhanushkodi has risen drastically,” says K. Muralidharan, a travel agent in Rameswaram.


Can Sri Lanka Speak?

By Dr. T T Sreekumar

25 September, 2007

One of the important issues in the Sethusamudram debates is the near total obliteration of the Sri Lankan perspective(s) by the Indian Media. Understanding the Sri Lankan perspective(s) is critical for two reasons. First, it is more than evident that the canal will be in India but its impacts would cross Indian territories with the suspended sediments and dredged toxins affecting the bio-domains surrounding Sri Lanka. Second, given the shared concerns of food security, arms race, unresolved national struggles (Elam, Kashmir etc.) and continuing sectarian social conflicts in the region, an India-centric view on bilateral and multilateral issues such as defence, environment, foreign policy and economic growth is politically inadequate.

To develop and uphold a larger South Asian perspective on the Sethusamudram project appears to be as critical as the need for such a position on the India-US nuclear deal. Both issues have some striking similarities. The Indo-US 123 deal would culminate in an increased mutual distrust between Pakistan and India, inducing unprecedented escalation of defence expenditures in both countries in particular and South Asia in general resulting in further State withdrawal from public investments and infrastructure projects leading to increased rural unemployment, marginalization and pushing food insecurity along threatening boarders. Sethusamudram project has also been similar in its impacts given the strategic, environmental and economic import of its long term impacts for the region. It threatens the livelihood of millions of people and make whole of South India and Sri Lanka vulnerable to natural calamities in unimaginable proportions comparable to that of the sublime terror unleashed by Tsunami waves.

The discourses on the Sethusamudram project in India have tended largely to ignore the various views and concerns raised by civil society and media in Sri Lanka. The Indian debates are cantered on an astonishing ignorance and/or indifference about the decade long deliberations on the topic by social, environmental and human rights movements, scientists, writers, intellectuals, artists and fisher communities in Sri Lanka. The movement against Sethusamudram project in Sri Lanka has a history that offers lessons on understanding the potentials and limitations of democratic struggles for right to livelihood in South Asia while pointing to the deepening crevasses between State and civil society in almost every nation and nationality in the subcontinent. The concern about the regional implications of the Indo-US deal is also peripheral to Indian media.

It is important to note that the Sri Lankan State appears to have given its nod to the project against the wishes of its people. The ‘official’ position has emerged in the last few years following bilateral discussions, which in many ways resembles Indo-US Nuclear negotiations. The Sri Lankan government, even as late as 2005 has been demanding the establishment of a standing joint mechanism for exchange of information. It wanted to set up a common data base on the hydrodynamic modelling, environmental measures and impact on fisheries resources, fisheries dependent communities and measures to cope with navigational emergencies. The discussions, however, has not led to the achievement of the level of transparency in the implementation of the project as these concerns still remain unsettled. The degree of coercion India might have employed to extract a forced consensus from the Sri Lankan State as US has been trying with Indian State in the 123 deal somehow does not figure prominently in Indian discussions.

Political parties including those preach internationalism have been guided primarily by parochialism and self serving patriotism typified in their differential positions on the issues of Sethusamudram and 123 Deal. Reports on the Indian side showing a resolute refusal to address the concerns raised by the various Sri Lankan delegations that visited India during the negotiations have been suppressed. The fact that every single evidence, challenging the economic and environmental viability of the project, has been dismissed by the Indian side and that it has not been subjected to the media criticism it deserves can be seen as an indication of the media complacence (if not compliance) in the hegemonic overdrive that characterizes India’s foreign policy in the region. It is difficult to dismiss as a coincidence that the issues of ‘sea tigers’ and Katchatheevu had always figured prominently in the mainstream media’s imaginative narratives as well as in affirmative technocratic discourses on Sethusamudram project in India.

The two meta-narratives in India, the one which wants everyone to view the issue primarily from a national security and/or economic angle and the Hindutwa view which wants to highlight the mythological importance of the Ramsethu as a cause and occasion for consolidating its waning influence have received the maximum attention in the Indian debate. Communalization and ‘nationalization’ of the issue by BJP led NDA and Congress led UPA–CPM alliance respectively has resulted in a highly uneven debate on the issue.

The fact is by now clear to observers that Hinduthwa nationalism would morph into an opportunistic economic nationalism while in power and would divorce it while in opposition. This is just one of the interesting crude empirics of fascism, an analysis of which does not necessarily hinge on its inevitable iteration. Hence invoking the genealogy of the project to NDA period to rebuff BJP’s current opposition to the project is only self serving for the ruling UPA-CPM alliance. Fortunately for the ruling alliance, no archives of past CPM position on the NDA initiative appear to be available. Against the grain, I want to believe that the old leadership of that party might have wanted to oppose it on internationalist and environmental principles.

Civil society would not necessarily want (or not want) BJP’s support in this struggle. But it certainly would want to oppose the UPA-CPM alliance’s rather hegemonic opportunism as reflected in their differential approach to US Nuclear deal and Sethusamudram project and an aggressive divisive politics of communalization unleashed by the NDA. Indian media taking a broader South Asian perspective in this regard would provide a critical support for the Sri Lankan movement against Sethusamudram canal and deeply challenge the collective hallucinations of the consolidated ‘secular’ Indian response.

Dr. T T Sreekumar is Assistant Professor of Communication & New Media Programme at National University of Singapore E-mail: sreekumar@nus.edu.sg , sreekumartt@gmail.com


150-year dream for 150-year old ships
23 Sep 2007, 0000 hrs IST,Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar
Religion and history do not mix well. I shrug my shoulders at those opposing the Sethusamunda- ram canal because it will damage the remains of the bridge that Ram’s army used in the Ramayana.
Now, i too oppose the canal, but on economic and environmental grounds. Its rationale is more political than economic. It will become one more public sector white elephant.
The Palk Straits, between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, are so shallow that only small boats can pass through. So, east-west coastal ships have to go around Sri Lanka. So do ships from Europe and Africa to the east coast.
Sethusamundaram will be a furrow dredged in the sea-bed of the Straits, deep enough to accommodate ships of 20,000 DWT. The canal will save ships both distance (saving fuel) and time (saving daily charges for chartering ships). So, it should be able to charge ships for passage, like the Suez and Panama Canals. This revenue is supposed to make the project economic.
The project is a political gift for Tamil Nadu. It will hugely help Tuticorin port, which today can receive ships only from the west, and not the east. It will improve the viability of existing and planned minor ports in the state. Hence, Tamils call the canal a 150-year dream about to come true (it was first proposed around 1850).
Dreams are costless, but canals are not. Project documents claim that the canal will save ships 36 hours of time and 570 nautical miles of distance. But a recent study by Jacob John in Economic and Political Weekly exposes these claims as highly exaggerated. Up to 70% of the
traffic through the canal is projected to come from Europe and Africa. and John estimates that the time saving from Europe to Kolkata will be only eight hours, and the distance saving 215 nautical miles. From Africa to Kolkata, the time taken will actually increase by 3.5 hours (being piloted through the canal is a slow process), and distance reduced will be only 70 nautical miles.
John calculates that ships could lose up to $4,992 per passage if they are charged the tariff laid down in project documents. In which case ships will find it cheaper to go round Sri Lanka. If the government cuts the proposed tariff to attract traffic, John estimates that the project’s rate of return could fall to an uneconomic 2.5%. I expect that the project will also suffer cost overruns in capital and maintenance dredging, and hence be in the red.
The canal is supposed to be ready by November 2008, not far off. So why has the project not been able to sign up potential users? The finance minister has appealed to private shipping companies to participate in a project that will benefit them, yet no shipping company has come forward. The economics of the canal look much too dicey.
The Suez and Panama Canals save ships thousands of miles, and that makes them profitable. Sethusamundaram is not remotely comparable. It is designed for small ships (the project documents talk of 20,000 DWT), whereas the Panama Canal takes ships of up to 65,000 DWT and Suez takes ships up to 150,000 DWT.
The Suez and Panama canals were dug through land corridors, and once dug stayed dug – they did not face sand inundation from the sea. However, Sethusamundaram will be a furrow in the sea-bed, at the constant mercy of currents bearing sand.
The government’s environmental assessment has cleared the project on ecological grounds. Yet, much of that assessment was not about sand incursion, but about fears of possible damage to coral reefs, coastal erosion, oil spills, and changes in ocean salinity and temperature. Besides, the ecological studies were done from the Indian side of the Palk Straits, and not the Sri Lankan side, and so are technically incomplete.
My own major fear is not so much that the project will ruin the environment, but that the environment will ruin the project. I fear that ocean currents will keep dumping fresh sand in the furrow of the canal. The Palk Straits are shallow not by accident but because sand-bearing currents have made them so. Combating the full force of nature is perilous, expensive and sometimes impossible.
The project envisages maintenance dredging of two million cubic metres per year, infinitely more than required by the Suez and Panama canals.

Jacob suspects (and so do i) that actual maintenance dredging will far exceed project projections, rendering the canal uneconomic. An extreme event (like the 2005 tsunami) could dump enough sand to close down the canal.
Finally, global shipping is shifting to ever-larger vessels. Bulk carriers and tankers often exceed 200,000 DWT, and those under 60,000 DWT are being phased out as uneconomic. Old general cargo vessels have been replaced by container ships, which started small but now exceed
35,000 DWT, and may soon touch 75,000 DWT. Such vessels cannot use the canal.
So, Sethusamundaram will be unsuitable for the large vessels of the 21st century. It is a 150-year old idea for 150-year old ships. That may be its epitaph.


One Response to Rama Setu: no bar on visiting — Indian Navy

  1. suryanarayanan says:

    The comments from Sri Swaminathan S.Ankelesaria Aiyar are very appropriate and and informativebased on unbiassed assumptions. As he concludes, it is a 150y old idea for 150y old ships. Hope he could inform pass on this write-up to the concenrened auhtorities and also publish in the media.

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