Monday, 22 October, 2007 , 03:24 PM
Sri O P Gupta, an Officer be longing to the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) 1971 batch and a Former Diplomat who had served with distinction as India’s Ambassador in several Countries has sent a strongly worded letter to the Office of the Committee of Eminent Persons in Chennai on 17.10.2007 inviting their attention to their known attitude of contempt and their calculated indifference to the ‘Safety’ and ‘Security’ DIMENSIONS/ ASPECTS OF SSCP. Here is his letter:
Sub: Prosecution of civil servants u/s 304(A) IPC for selecting maximum casualty alignment without comparative study of casualties in each of six alignments.
I am not against the SSC project but I am against that alignment which entails making a gap or breach in the Ram Sethu as a gap/hole in Ram Sethu will allow tsunami waves in future to hit beaches of our South India with their full force causing loss of lives of much more number of our fellow citizens. At present Ram Sethu offers a natural barrier, a natural protection to coastal people moderating adverse effects of tsunamis which the present alignment would take away.
From the information available in public domain, it appears that at least six possible alignments were examined. Kindly let me know if the Government of India and its Consultants ever estimated the number of likely casualties in each of the six alignments in wake of tsunami of Dec 2004 magnitude. If so please make me available a copy of this comparative study of tsunami caused public casualty in each route.
In my view the present alignment is the maximum public casualty route attracting penal actions under IPC against ‘casual & cavalier’ officials.
My guess is that the SSC Project in the present format has been commissioned without study of likely public casualties due to tsunamis which is a punishable offence under section 304(A) of the Indian Penal Code. Officials who approved the present alignment can be personally & individually prosecuted even after retirement. I am enclosing my paper which may be got examined from angle of personal accountability of civil servants involved in selecting the alignment under the IPC. Please acknowledge”
The main thrust of O P Gupta’s argument is that as there have been six alignments on the table, whether the decision makers examined the number of possible casualties that may arise by the selection/adoption of each of the six alignments proposed for the channel in the event of Tsunami (which very fortunately or unfortunately will not act according to the dictates of Sonia Gandhi or T R Balu or Karunanidhi! or which cannot be dismissed by them as a superstitious Hindu or a communal Brahmin!) and if so where is that comparative table, and if no such study was or has been made, each one of the decision makers can be prosecuted under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for being casual and cavalier towards the lives of innocent fellow citizens.
And if in fact such a study was made, then the Government of India can follow only that alignment which will cause the minimum of casualties in the event of a Tsunami. O.P. Gupta is of the considered view that the present alignment will cause the maximum number of public casualties following any Tsunami. The current mid sea channel under partial construction, cutting through Rama Sethu, will give an easy passage for tsunami to hit the southern coast of India with full force.
To quote the exact words of O P Gupta in this context: “I am not against the SSC Project but I am only against that alignment which entails making a gap or breach in the Rama Sethu as a gap/hole in Rama Sethu will allow tsunami waves in future to hit beaches of our South India with their full force causing loss of lives of much more number of our fellow citizens.
At present Ram Sethu offers a natural barrier, a natural protection to coastal people moderating adverse effects of tsunamis which the present alignment would take away”. Through his letter to the Committee of Eminent Persons, fortified with inexorable logic, incisive analysis and irrefutable facts grounded in terrestrial reality, Sri O P Gupta has convincingly proved that the Rs 2400 Crore SSCP was sanctioned by the UPA Government on 19 May, 2005; and, was inaugurated in indecent haste by Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister on 2 July, 2005 at Madurai.
Sri O P Gupta has also raised the following issues relating to SSCP evaluation and appraisal. To quote his exact words: “It is estimated that about 84.5 million cubic metres [mcm] of sand and silts will be dredged under sea from the project area; about 32.5 mcm sand will be dredged in the Ram Sethu area and 52 mcm in the Palk Bay area.
Para 6.1 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report [prepared by NEERI] suggests that dredged sand and spoils will be discharged at Pamban and in the Bay of Bengal but contradicting it, the very next para 6.2 of the same EIA says that dredged material will be not be disposed in the sea. If it is so, the EIA is half baked and should not have been relied upon by the PMO in approving the project. Debris in large volumes in sea will definitely affect the direction and force of undercurrents. Non-finalisation of debris sites is clear indication that final studies of undercurrents could not have been undertaken so how could the government finalise the alignment? It shows that SSCP was finalised based on incomplete and infirm data. It is a fatal flaw”.
Sri O P Gupta has also invite the attention of the Committee to the fact that the Expert Committee (Dr. M. Ravindran) appointed by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board had concluded that the initial Environmental Impact Study made by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur, had a number of critical and crucial deficiencies.
He has also said in his letter that the then Chief Minister Dr J Jayalalitha had categorically stated and asserted in public that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests without obtaining the statutory ‘No Objection Certificate’ from the Government of Tamil Nadu under the Law, gave environmental clearance to this project”.
As per principles of good governance and obligations flowing from the Indian Penal Code, (IPC) the Government can choose only that alignment [when more than one alignments are on the table] which will cause the bare minimum loss of public lives in the wake of any natural disaster like Tsunami.
The public and Courts will be well within their rights to ask whether the alignment selection done by T R Balu in May 2005 was subjected to this test, or, not. Therefore, it is not clear as to why ignoring the renewed security concerns of public in wake of the December 26, 2004 tsunami experience, the present alignment was selected which cuts across the Ram Sethu. So the project appears to have been cleared by the UPA government without studying the impact of future tsunami on the SSCP and the very stability of 12 metre high underwater walls of the SS channel. This lapse is scandalous as well as criminal.
It should be noted that the tsunami of Dec 2004 has radically altered the bathymetry (sea-depth) of the region. Any responsible government would have got updated these pre-Dec 2004 reports before acting on these so as to keep the number of loss of lives of fellow citizens at the bare minimum in wake of future tsunamis but it seems it was not done reflecting “callous, casual and cavalier” attitude of concerned Union Ministers and civil servants towards lives of fellow citizens attracting various provisions of the Indian Penal Code. Charges of criminal negligence would be that PM and his team approved an alignment without due care to guard against the dangerous consequences to lives of lager number of fellow citizens.
O P Gupta’s spirited defence of public interest and the common people of India against the mechinations of T R Balu and his men, reminds me of the bold stand taken by Vidhura in the Mahabharata when Dhuriyodana made up his mind to get Draupathi to get her modesty outraged by Dushashana in open court. Mahakavi Bharathi described the horrible scene in his Panchali Sabatham:
If such a letter had been sent to the Committee of Eminent Persons by Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi or for that matter Kavignar Kani Mozhi (the greatest poet (!) in the history of Tamil language and Literature), the Committee of Eminent Persons would have considered the issues raised by O P Gupta with great care and caution on a war-footing, not having regard to the deathless public interest, but having regard to the global and time-defying greatness and stature of the three Eminences! Such a letter from such ‘Eminences’ in the Eternal Hall of Fame (definitely not ‘Communal’ Shame!) would have been blown out of proportion through the Print and the TV Channels by the ‘Organized Pseudo-Secular Mafia of Mass Media’ in India in the bonded labour of corrupt Governments, unscrupulous Political Leaders and irresponsible Political Parties of India.