Rama Setu and national security — Kalyanaraman

November 11, 2007

Ram Sethu: A question of security of the nation
By Dr S. Kalyana Raman

The approaches to a channel would be far too open with no possibility of construction of protective works. A channel at this site—even if it can be made and maintained (which is unlikely)—would entail definite navigational hazard.
It is the responsibility of any civil government to incorporate tsunami warning systems and tsunami protection systems in the project area. Failure to do so is criminal negligence. There are no tsunami or cyclone protection measures in the project design. Japan has provided for huge walls like dams to protect its coastline against recurring tsunamis.
Madras Presidency Administration Report, 1903 and a Travelogue, 1744 refer to the bridge Glossary entry: Adam. …” Called the bridge of Ram… It really joined Ceylon to India until 1480, when a breach was made through rocks during a storm. A subsequent storm enlarged this and foot traffic then ceased…Partly above and partly below water; but when covered has now here above three or four feet of water…” Source: Manual of the Administration of the Madras Presidency. C.D. Maclean (1903). New Delhi, AES, 3 Vols., 2440 pp.)

Ram Sethu is not a political party or state issue. It relates to the security of the rashtram. It is an issue of national sovereignty.
The benefits of the channel project listed by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, M. Karunanidhi, such as building four-lane roads, can take place even without the Sethu Channel Project, though the list does not mention a single new port coming up between Tuticorin and Nagapattinam. Since the channel passage envisaged is about 15 to 20 kms. away from the coastline how does it benefit the coastal people?
M. Karunanidhi justifies the Sethusamudram channel project using 150 year old inquiries during the British regime. It should be underscored that the British ABANDONED the idea of building a canal across Ram Sethu because they found alternative ways to loot the nation’s mineral wealth, by laying a Railway line from Kolkata to Bombay. Encyclopedia Brittanica, published from USA in 2002, mentions on page 88 that dredging of Ram Sethu was started in 1838 by the British rulers. It was abandoned due to the high cost. It further mentions that at that time the depth of water on the sethu was not more than 4′.
However, the first committee which went into this proposal was after Independence was the Committee headed by Sir A Ramaswamy Mudaliar, who submitted a report in 1956 recommending establishment of a port at Tuticorin and a land-based canal across Mandapam to connect Tuticorin port with eastern ports. M. Karunanidhi conveniently forgets that Sir A Ramaswamy Mudaliar stated as follows in Para 16 of the Committee Report:[quote] “We are convinced that the Adam’s Bridge site is unsuitable for the following reasons: First: The shifting Sandbanks in this area present a far more formidable problem—both at the stage of construction and during maintenance—than the sand dunes on the island site. Secondly: The approaches to a channel would be far too open with no possibility of construction of protective works. A channel at this site—even if it can be made and maintained (which is unlikely)— would entail definite navigational hazard. Thirdly: The channel would be bordering on the Sethusamudram Medial Line. In these circumstances we have no doubt, whatever that the junction between the two sea should be effected by a Canal; and the idea of cutting a passage in the sea through Adam’s Bridge should be abandoned.”
Serious, acts of neglect in formulating the project which impact on the integrity of nation’s coastline, may now be listed:
1. Geological Survey of India was NOT involved in the project design/project monitoring. The project area is riddled with tectonic fault-lines, is an intense heat flow zone (with hot springs in the coastline between Nagapttinam to Kerala) and mannar volcanics 105 m. years old have been identified. Project work is likely to trigger mini-tsunami’s with devastating effect on the coastline. There has been a total failure to study the cultural and national wealth aspects of the entire project area south of Ram Sethu with placer deposits of very rich heavy minerals and rare earths: ilmenite, monazite, rutile, zircon, rutile sands containing thorium and titanium—nuclear resource and space age metal respectively. It should have been known to the project designers that the 150 kms. stretch south of Ram Sethu is nuclear region of the world accounting for 32 per cent of the thorium reserves of the world-thorium which is critical for ensuring energy independence for the nation. Sand godowns have come up along this coastal stretch south of Ram Sethu and there is an ongoing loot of rich mineral placer deposits.
2. To quote a tsunami expert, Prof. Tad Murty’s words of warning in this context: “I like this Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project (SSCP) but there is a flaw. The entrance to the channel should be re-oriented towards the eastern side. Otherwise, there is a chance that it may create a deepwater route for another devastating tsunami. This may cause huge destruction in Kerala”. The project design was NOT re-examined, re-evaluated in the wake of the impact of the tsunami of December 2004. Tsunami impact has been so severe that the bathymetry of the Indian ocean had changed drastically, resulting in the rise of the seabed by as much as 200 m. in some regions.
3. Nature magazine reported on 6 September 2007 that another tsunami more devastating than the December 2004 tsunami is likely putting at risk over 6 to 7 crore people in the Bay of Bengal coastline. This warning by scientists should have resulted in immediate suspension of all project works along the coastline (including Ram Sethu) until scientists investigate the report and incorporate safety measures, saving lives and property along the coast. As former Ambassador O.P. Gupta notes: “Prosecution of civil servants u/s 304(A) IPC for selecting maximum casualty alignment without comparative study of casualties in each of six alignments… A project 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.”
4. It is the responsibility of any civil government to incorporate tsunami warning systems and tsunami protection systems in the project area. Failure to do so is criminal negligence. There are NO tsunami or cyclone protection measures in the project design. Japan has provided for huge walls like dams to protect their coastline against recurring tsunamis. M. Karunanidhi should explain why such safeguards have not been incorporated to save the lives of coastal people of Tamilnadu and Kerala. By not providing for locks on the channel, Gulf of Mannar serene waters which are breeding grounds for many aquatic species will be devastated by the incursion of the turbulent waters from the Bay of Bengal through the channel. There are over 3,600 unique aquatic species in the Ram Sethu region, in 24 Gulf of Mannar Bioreserve national parks. Kilakkarai and other places produces’ankha, a cultural symbol venerated in Bharatiya traditions (West Bengal Development Corporation. In Kilakarai has an annual turnover of Rs. 100 crores to procure s’ankha from Ram Sethu coastal zone). Karunanidhi may be aware that Wild Lift Act clearance has to be obtained for such projects; this was not done in the case of this project, and hence is an illegal project. Another illegality is that Law of the Sea commitments have been violated by adversely impacting the habitats of aquatic flora and fauna, an act prohibited under Law of the Sea, 1958.
5. Mid-ocean channel passage alignment is created under US pressure — US diktat (US Navy operational directive of 23 June 2005 as evidenced by the hasty inauguration of the channel project, within 7 days thereafter, on 2 July 2005. This arbitrary and high-handed decision to create an international waters boundary where none existed (under Sirimavo Bandaranaike-Indira Gandhi declaration of June 1974, the area was declared as ‘HISTORIC WATERS’ that is, waters shared as a commonwealth between India and Srilanka under UN Law of the Sea 1958). The violation of this declaration under US diktat is an assault on nation’s sovereignty, national security and survival. Today the Pamban gap (with the cantilever railway bridge) is in use for small ships with 11 ft. deep waters. Why not re-examine the use of this existing channel?
6. Srilankan experts’ concerns on the impact on environment have been ignored. The concerns included the possibility of impacting fresh-water supplies to Jaffna and Rameshwaram by the desiccation of limestone freshwater caves in the project area during project dredging/blasting work. Good neighbourly relations demand that India respect these concerns.
7. Salvage operations for a grounded naval vessel have not been discussed in any of the project reports. In Suez canal, special arrangements using bollards every 200 ft. and metal wires are in place to salvage a grounded ship in any segment along the entire stretch of the canal. No such arrangements exist in the channel project; in fact, such salvage operations are virtually impossible in a mid-ocean channel. There is no experience anywhere in the world for maintaining the stability of such a mid-ocean channel passage. Suez and Panama canals are land-based canals. Any prudent designer should have carefully evaluated the option for a land-based canal and issues of navigational hazards, before venturing into creating a veritable international boundary exactly three kms. west of the medial line between India and Srilanka and calling it a Sethusamudram Channel.
8. Project cost-benefit estimates were padded. One instance is the wrong computation of time saving through this channel. It is clear that for navigation between Kolkata and Tuticorin, the proposed channel will save only one hour and 45 mts. as Capt. Balakrishnan has demonstrated. This fundamental parameter puts the economics of the entire project in question. Another instance is the wrong computation of maintenance dredging. In this sedimentation sink, perpetual dredging will be needed to keep the channel stable and open. Costs of such dredging could be prohibitive rending the entire project a sick unit from day one.
If a reason is needed to protect Ram Sethu, it evokes Sri Ram who is vigrahavaan dharmah, the very embodiment of dharma. Forgetting dharma, we forget our very identity and meaning of our very social life, either for nihs’reyas or for abhyudayam. We are trustees of the punyabhumi for the present and future generations; a trust which can be betrayed only by rendering the state as an instrument of high-handedness, arrogance and utter disregard for human sentiments. The state has chosen to ignore the thousands of pages of evidence produced to and accepted by Madras HC about this world heritage monument.
Karunanidhi, as a Tamil scholar, should also explain the meaning of the Tamil word, ‘sethu’ according to Abhidanakos’am. This encyclopaedia notes that sethu means : man-made bund. (The word ‘bund’ comes from bandha as in sethu-bandha). Sangam literature is replete with references to Sethu in Akananooru, Puranaanooru, and also in Tamil classics S’ilappadikaaram, Manimekalai. S’ilappadikaram refers to the embodiment of Tamil culture, Kannagi who adores Kotravai (Durga); the same classic also refers to Ram Sethu. Karunanidhi should surely accept the evidence of this classic for both Kannagi and Ram Sethu. He is also a Tamil historian and should know that there are Sethu coins found in thousands in Jaffna (Yaazhppaanam) referred to as Aryachakravarti coins of the 10th century. He should know that Parantaka Chola I has a Velanjeri Copper plate inscription which refers to the monarch offering setutirtham and tulaabharam at Setukkarai. He may not know that many Tamil saints had sung the praise of Sethu, Sethubandhanam and Sethubandha Rames’waram as a tirthasthaanam. He may also not know that are sculptural panels in Prambanan (Brahmavana) temple in Indonesia showing Sethubandhana construction—photographs of these sculptures are published by Archaeological Survey of India. Surely, Karunanidhi should know the many epigraphs of Setupati Raja’s referring to their responsibility to protect and save Ram Sethu. Surely, Karunanidhi has read Abhidaanakos’am which gives the meaning of the word, ‘sethu’ in Tamil as ‘ceyarkkarai’ (meaning, artificial bund). The word, ‘bund’ as noted comes from bandha, sethubandha. Surely, M. Karunanidhi the politician should know that his colleague in the party Hon’ble T.R. Baalu went to Sarasvati Mahal Library and saw the 5X6 ft. map of 1788 showing Ramarcoil and Rama’s Bridge, a map drawn by Joseph Parks, an Australian botanical explorer.
In a book titled, Ramanathapuram District Gazetteer published in 1972, Shri Karunanidhi, the then Chief Minister writes a foreword and praises the contents. The book refers to Ram Sethu (also called Adam’s bridge or Nala Sethu
Madras Presidency Administration Report, 1903 and a Travelogue, 1744 refer to the bridge Glossary entry: Adam. …” Called the bridge of Rama… It really joined Ceylon to India until 1480, when a breach was made through rocks during a storm. A subsequent storm enlarged this and foot traffic then ceased…Partly above and partly below water; but when covered has now here above three or four feet of water…” Source: Manual of the Administration of the Madras Presidency./C.D. Maclean (1903). New Delhi, AES, 3 Vols., 2440 pp.)
Travelogue a book by Alexander Hamilton, 1744, A New Account of the East Indies: Giving an Exact and Copious Description of the Situation, P. 338 describes his visit to ‘zeloan’ (alt. spelling for Ceylon) by walking on the bridge.
Asiatic Society, 1799, Asiatick Researches: Or, Transactions of the Society Instituted in Bengal, P. refers to the bridge called Setband (alt. spelling, sethuband like Allahband; setu-bandha): “The people call it a bridge; or otherwise it appears to have wood growing on it, and to be inhabited.”
Under the Ancient Monuments and Protection Act, 1958 it is the responsibility of the state to declare Ram Sethu as an ancient monument and recommend to UNESCO to declare it as World Heritage.
Aasetu himachalam is the Survey of India logo of 1767 attesting to Ram Sethu as defining the boundary of Bharatam spanning Hindumaha-sagaram and Himalayas.
Karunanidhi should, as a statesman talking of Tamil Nadu as vallaras’u, and like Hon’ble CM of AP who declared Tirumala as divyakshetram, declare Ram Sethu as a divyakshetram. This will surely earn him the political credits needed as a person who respects Hindu sentiments and Hindu civilizational ethos. This will restore glory of Bharatam, including Tamil glory as kappalottiya tamizhan and create an Indian Ocean Community, Hindumaakkadal (Hindumahasagar) samudayam.
(The writer is President, Rameshwaram Ram Sethu Raksha Manch, Director, Saraswati Research Centre, and can be contacted at Kalyan97@gmail.com)

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4 Responses to Rama Setu and national security — Kalyanaraman

  1. […] Rama Setu and national security – Kalyanaraman https://kalyan97.wordpress.com/2007/11/06/1209/ […]

  2. The benefits of the channel project listed by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, M. Karunanidhi, such as building four-lane roads, can take place even without the Sethu Channel Project, though the list does not mention a single new port coming up between Tuticorin and Nagapattinam.

    For your kind information, there are many small to medium ports along the Tamilnadu Coast line in between Rameshwaram and Tuticorin. There are 11 minor ports at Kattupalli, Cuddalore, Thiruchopuram, PY-3 Oil Field, Thirukkadaiyur, Nagapattinam, Pamban, Rameshwaram, Valinokkam, Punnakkayal, Manappad.

    Proof Source: http://www.tn.gov.in/policynotes/archives/policy2004-05/highways2004-05-5.htm
    http://www.tn.gov.in/per-budget-1999-2001/hrw-pb-e-3.htm

    Recently a Malaysian company signed a JV to run Karaikal port. Phase I of the project, costing Rs416 crore, will start operations in October next year with two common berths

    Proof Source: http://www.livemint.com/2007/10/25230244/JV-with-Malaysian-co-to-run-Ka.html
    http://www.hindu.com/2007/11/04/stories/2007110457561900.htm
    http://pondicherry.nic.in/kklport.htm
    http://www.projectsmonitor.com/detailnews.asp?newsid=10567

    Please do not spread false proclamation. Please collect the right information before stating them publicly.

    The most funny part is,

    Otherwise, there is a chance that it may create a deep water route for another devastating tsunami. This may cause huge destruction in Kerala”.

    How would a deep water route in the east coast cause a huge destruction in Kerala. He should have said that it would affect the southern coastal region on Tamilnadu.

  3. […] kalyan97 placed an interesting blog post on Truth about setusamudram â MV Kamath.Here’s a brief overview:From this we can deduce that if someone were to fill these intermittent minor channels with sand and stones, it would still be possible to acquire a continuous link between India and Sri Lanka, practically a roadway—call it a ‘bridge’. … […]

  4. […] kalyan97 added an interesting post today on War between Rama Bhaktas and Ravana Chelas.Here’s a small reading:The Department of Earth Science, of the Government of India, in a report to the President of India has stated that shoal stones placements make out that they were “deliberately placed there”. This is based on a study done by the now … […]

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