SSCP – Controversies, Consequences and the Collapse!

via HARAN B.R published on February 1, 2008

When the project was proposed, every one involved knew that it was not viable. Both the central & state governments knew that they have not done proper studies on the impact of environmental & security factors on the project and despite that they inaugurated it. Prime Minister being an expert in economics must also have been aware of the economical non-viability of the project. When the Rama Sethu movement was at the initial stages, both the governments knew that the issue would magnify into alarming proportions and despite that they continued the dredging. When the cases were filed in the Courts of Law, both the governments knew that the dredging at the site of Rama Sethu would be ‘stayed’ and even then they continued the dredging. The controversial ASI affidavit was submitted deliberately knowing the volatile nature of the issue. Even after withdrawing the affidavit, the Center allowed DMK to constitute a subservient committee of eminent persons knowing pretty well what sort of recommendations would be submitted by such a committee. The DMK also knew that the center would dump the project at one point of time and both the governments knew very well that they cannot win the case at the Courts of Law. But, still dredging is continued. The shipping minister had recently conveyed that baring the location of Rama Sethu, 80% of dredging has been completed and once the stay is lifted by the SC, the balance 20% would be completed. But, RTI applications filed by former government officials and citizen committees such as ‘Coastal Action Network’ have not been answered until now.

Recently, when the Naval Chief Admiral Suresh Mehta was in Chennai, he has opined with a lot of ‘Naval Sense’ that the SSCP doesn’t make any nautical sense, particularly regarding the navigation of bigger vessels through the canal and when the media men asked him to elaborate on the issue, he wisely refused by saying, “This is Tamil Nadu and it is a sensitive issue”. He must have definitely had the Dravidian Leaders in his mind when he made that statement and T.R.Balu’s letter to the Defense Minister asking for a clarification statement from the Naval Chief, proved it right. It is human tendency to get agitated and react in a rude manner when literally cornered and a certain defeat is staring at one’s face. The Union Shipping Minister Mr.T.R.Balu is exactly in that kind of a situation now, especially when the Central Government has allegedly decided to put the project in cold storage, which might eventually lead to the scrapping of this worthless project proposed by the DPA leaders to hoodwink the people of Tamil Nadu in the name of progress & prosperity. When the entire cabinet has stood against the Shipping Minister in a recently held meeting on SSCP, how can he expect Mr.A.K.Antony to impress upon the Naval Chief to issue a statement of clarification, especially when the Defense Minister is also aware of the navigational limitations & implications of the project? Nevertheless, the Defense Minister’s reaction (reply) has come now, in the form of statement from Director General of Coast Guard. Vice Admiral R.F.Contractor, the DG of Coast Guard, has stated that the SSCP poses a grave threat to National Security and that the movements of militants & terrorists would increase after the commencement of ship movements through the canal. He has also opined that organizations like LTTE would make use of it posing danger to civilian ships as well. The people are also aware of the fact that the Naval Chief and the Coast Guard Chief are more qualified than Mr.Balu and his committee of “eminences” – the committee didn’t have a marine expert – in matters concerning SSCP.

In this context, the AIADMK supremo Ms.Jayalalitha has scored a political point over her archrival Chief Minister Karunanidhi by demanding the sacking of the Shipping Minister T.R.Balu for sending an uncouth letter to the Defense Minister. Mr.Balu in turn, has said that Ms.Jayalalitha is childish and that her statements are half-baked & ignorant rattling. He also defended the project and proclaimed that the project would be completed at any cost at the earliest! But unfortunately, his proclamation doesn’t seem to have any takers in the Congress and other allies, baring the Left front. Also, Rama Sethu Protection Movement’s activists have paid back the DMK with the same coins by asking, “Is Balu an engineer? In which engineering college he studied?”

So, it seems the government had deliberately spent hundreds of crores of taxpayers’ money on a half-baked worthless project knowing pretty well that it would be dumped after some time. Now, it becomes the responsibility of the government to tell the people all the details pertaining to the expenses incurred so far on the project. The government is accountable to the people, and the Congress, DMK and the allies must share this loss and give back the country the amount which has been spent. Otherwise the government and the concerned politicians must come under legal scrutiny. Here, it is worth mentioning the latest statement from Janatha Partry President Dr. Subramaniam Swamy that, “The Rs.800 crores that have been spent so far have been done at the behest of the Union Shipping and Transport Minister Mr.T.R.Baalu without security clearance from the armed forces and intelligence agencies as well as without obtaining prior clearance of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, and hence the amount should be recovered by prosecuting Mr.T.R.Baalu and by attaching his assets and his benami companies”. Dr.Subramaniam Swamy had also said that he would file an interlocutory petition for the scrapping of the project itself, based on many factors.

In the meantime, The AIADMK supremo Ms.Jayalalitha’s petition against the implementation of SSCP and for the declaration of Rama Sethu as a heritage national monument has been tagged with other pending petitions on Rama Sethu. While her petition is also based on a research paper written by naval expert Captain. Balakrishnan on the security, navigational and economical view points, the SC has made some unfortunate & shocking observations such as, “you are asking for a structure to be declared as a national monument which nobody has seen and which is under water” and “Nobody had ever seen the structure and nobody thought of declaring it as a national monument and it is surprising that a petition is coming from a public personality after three years”. The Supreme Court must have been aware of the facts that, UNESCO has declared many under water sites as Cultural Heritage Monuments;Madras HC had accepted prima facie the existence of a man-made Rama Sethu and Madras HC had suggested for a survey by ASI. The SC had also asked, “How many cases will be filed against this project?” When a Post card or an E-Mail can be considered as a petition, it is surprising that the SC is worried about the number of cases! It must have been aware that ‘Hindu Munnani’ submitted a memorandum of protest signed by thirty million people against the demolition of Rama Sethu to the then President Dr.Kalam! Though the Supreme Court had made such surprising observations, now it has placed the centre in a catch 22 situation of filing two affidavits, one on the alignment and the other on the studies undertaken so far to ascertain the antiquity (ancientness) of the monument (Rama Sethu). On one side the DMK is standing on the center’s head to destruct Rama Sethu and on the other side the center has to break its head on the ‘studies’, which it has not undertaken so far!

At this juncture, the best thing to do for the government is to scrap the project on the grounds of economy, environment and security and save its face. The state government can also claim that the project has to be scrapped on genuine grounds and not on the grounds of religion and say, “Thalai kuppura vizhunthalum meesaiyil mann ottavillai” meaning, despite falling face down, dust has not settled in the moustache! But, the truth will remain as, the central government scrapped the project on religious grounds and the state government lost the project on the same grounds.

The most important point to note in this long and sordid episode is that “those who are voicing for the implementation of SSCP are the very same persons who are supporting LTTE!” Both LTTE-support and the SSCP-campaign are made in the name of “Tamil” and those who oppose both LTTE and SSCP on “National Interests” are branded as “Anti Tamils”! If the opponents are branded as “anti-Tamils”, what is wrong in branding the supporters as “anti-Nationals”? The problem with this mediocre bunch of “Dravidians” is that, they fail to understand that the majority of Tamil people are having National Interests on top priority. In the meantime the Tamil Nadu Government has said that the SSCP is a “prestige” issue! One is compelled to ask, “Which is important, DMK/DK’s prestige or Nation’s security?” In this ongoing war on SSCP, who will win, the so-called “anti-Tamils” or the well exposed “anti-Nationals”? The result is written on the wall!

The activists of the Rama Sethu Protection Movement are of the opinion that “Ram Lila” has just begun and the scrapping of the project is imminent, and what follows along with the arrival of the new government (BJP led NDA) at the centre, will be a series of actions on SSCP and its collapse.They feel that it is not only defeat, which is staring at the face of the UPA, but also these series of actions and many inconvenient questions. Will the next government act accordingly? We have to wait and see!

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