Ram Setu: Facts, Faith and National Security
By P.C.Dogra (Speech delivered in the seminar held on Nov. 3, 2007 at Chandigarh)
Ram Setu became a very big emotional and religious issue for the Hindus all over the world and all Indians by and large after the Govt of India filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court questioning the very existence of lord Ram. This seminar is an attempt to apprise the intelligentsia of Chandigarh about all aspects of Sethusmudram Canal Project ie Facts, Faith and National Security. This seminar made me dig the relevant literature on the subject. Sh. Kalyan Raman ji was a great help.
I have a few posers:
Dredging of Ram Sethu was started in 1838 by the British rulers. It was abandoned due to the high cost. Since independence, the government had appointed the Ramaswamy Mudaliar committee in 1956, Nagendra Singh committee in 1967, Venkateswaran committee in 1968, and Lakshminarayanan committee in 1981 and decided against the project. Sir A Ramaswamy Mudaliar Committee (1956) had categorically ruled out a channel cutting through Rama Setu citing three reasons: a. shifting sandbanks in the project area which is the world’s sedimentation sink; b. impossibility of providing protective works and locks in a mid-ocean channel passage as distinct from a land-based canal; and c. creating an international waters boundary.
According to the authoritative reports, the 152-km long and 12 meters deep Sethusamudram shipping channel is a furrow in the seabed involving dredging to a depth of 12 metres and width of 300 metres to allow passage of ships of 32,000 DWT and below. Sides of the channel cannot be lined or protected by any artificial wall. The favoured size of merchant ships today is of 60,000 DWT and above. SSCP will need constant dredging to keep shifting sands out of the dug out trough otherwise a strong tidal wave is enough to level the channel laboriously dredged at a heavy cost.
As per the experts who command international reputation, the sailing distance of course will be reduced by about 400 nautical miles as ships can avoid circumnavigating Sri Lanka. But to navigate the 152-km stretch of the SSC, ships will end up spending more time than going around Sri Lanka. Before entering the SSC, ships will have to drop anchor and wait for a pilot to board the ship to steer it through the fragile channel. According to Vice Admiral Arun Kumar Singh “Ships of 7 to 10.7 metric draught would have to move in SCP at low speeds of 6 knots (kts) increasing sailing time as against their normal open water speeds of 12 to 15 knots due to “shallow water and squatting” effects. It will practically take the same time”
The Indian Meteorological Department had classified the Palk Bay as a “High Risk Area” for cyclonic storms.
The Livelihood of fishermen:
The traffic of vessels close to the coast as per the drafted plan from Chennai to Tuticorin will hinder the fishing operation of the traditional twenty million fisher people and mechanised boat owners along the entire coast and continuous dredging will result in drastic sea erosion, resulting in the displacement of about of about 330 fishermen villages.
Concerns of Environmentalists
Leading environmentalists have observed that Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve is a geographical and physiological unique marine system in India. A busy continuous navigation in this region with sizeable waste and effluents from the ships will offset and trigger devastating ecological imbalance, affecting the lives of millions of fishermen and many endangered organisms such as corals, sea horses, sea cow, etc.
No Indian culture without Ram: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
“Negating the existence of Sri Ram is like negating all that represents our country’s culture. People have questioned how Virgin Mary conceived, but the idea of a supernatural birth is central to the idea of Jesus. How can the existence of Moses be proved? There is no scientific evidence to suggest that he existed”
Dr Karan Singh has said “Historical evidence” for most of the outstanding religious figures in the world would be difficult to find, particularly as many are lost in the mists of antiquity. This is not a question for the Ph D dissertations but one that affects the beliefs and sentiments of crores of people around the world. It is now well accepted by the historians that so called myths and legends very often have a strong basis in actual events and personalities”.
You would have been following the research based serial on Ramayana by Zee T.V. Recently there was an article titled “Ramayana Recall” by Harinder Sikka in Indian Express of Oct. 24-2007. He was associated with the Zee T.V journalist researching Ramayana in Sri Lanka.
He says that a place known as ‘Sita Eliya’is according to the locals the original Ashok Vatika where Sita was detained by Ravana. There is a temple there now. To the immediate left of the temple flows a stream of fresh water. On the left of the stream is a flat rock which bears a large imprint of a foot on it. It is believed to be of Lord Hanuman who is said to have visited Sita in Ashok Vatika in the form of a giant. Zoologists date it back to 7000 BCA which coincide with Rama era. The fine foot impressions are amazingly clear to date.
What is most incredible is that on the left of the stream, the colour of the soil across hundreds of acres of land is black. This is in complete contrast to the light brown soil that lies to the right side of the stream, testifying the version in the Balmiki Ramayan that Hanuman had burnt Sri Lanka to ashes. I was equally astonished to see the presence of a mountain on the beach near Ruma Sulla, about 150 Kms north of Colombo. Surrounded by the ocean and sandy beaches, it looked almost out of place there. It was as if some one had manually picked a huge mass of soil from some place else and placed it on this stretch of sand. On the mountain grows the most wonderful herbs and medicinal plants. The soil on the mountain does not appear to match other soils in Sri lanka.
Madras HC in its judgement of 19 June 2007 has directed that Rama Setu should be declared as an Ancient Monument under the 1958 Act, saying that irrespective of whether the Rama Setu is man-made or natural, it meets the criteria for such a declaration.
Dr Homi Jehanghir Bhabha, a great scientist of India had worked out a strategy more than 50 years ago for harnessing vast resources of thorium available in the country, one of the largest in the world for generating nuclear energy for electricity. India began the construction of the Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) in 2005. The AHWR will use thorium, the "fuel of the future," A stretch of 150 kms. south of Rama Setu is nuclear zone of the world, with enormous thorium deposits in monazite sands. According to Dr Prasad, ex Director Bhabha Atomic Research Station of India “ No country in the world has achieved this level of proficiency in the thorium fuel cycle technology and in the years to come India could well be world leaders in this field” We need to protect and preserve the Thorium for the future of our nation. SSCP will lead to a very fast depletion of Thorium.