Disband Sethu Samudram Panel- Jayalalitha

published on October 21, 2007



Chennai:Jayalalithaa issued sharply criticised the composition of the Government’s “expert committee” and questioning the neutrality of some of its members.

The former Chief Minister, who supports the Ram Setu movement and has begun endorsing objections to the Rs 2,427 crore Sethusamudram project based on ecological grounds and doubts about its economic viability, said the committee could hardly be described as one of experts, as claimed by the Union Government.

“At least three of its members are historians, and they can only vouch for the historical validity of the Ram legend,” she said. There was a representative from the National Environmental Engineering Institute, which conducted the environment impact assessment for the project, and was an “interested party”.

One member, RS Sharma, was a witness in the Ram Janmabhoomi case, while panel’s chairman Prof S Ramachandran, vice-chancellor of the Madras University, was one of those who had publicly supported the project. “He cannot be expected to take a different or unbiased view now,” Jayalalithaa said.

“All these facts hardly inspire any public confidence about the neutrality of the members,” she said.

Further, the panel contained no social scientists to discuss the problems of the coastal people, no maritime or naval experts to discuss navigational issues, no defence personnel to consider security concerns, and there were no oceanographers to discuss ocean currents and their effects, especially as it was a tsunami-hit area. And, there were no economists at a time when the project was being touted as one that would economically uplift Tamil Nadu, she said.

“These conspicuous and glaring omissions raise serious doubts about the credibility of the committee and the possible veracity of its report,” Jayalalithaa said.

She demanded that the panel be disbanded, a truly impartial and competent committee consisting of representatives of these disciplines, in addition to environmentalists and historians, be drawn up. She also favoured a transparent public debate, to which the public, media and various parties were invited. “The views of all should be recorded. Only then, the real truth behind the hasty implementation of the Sethusamudram shipping canal project and Karunanidhi’s vested interest in it will come out into the open,” Jayalalithaa said.

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