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'Sethusamudram a stupid project...': BJP TN chief Annamalai points out 'multiple' objections
New Delhi: The BJP's Tamil Nadu chief K Annamalai has reiterated his claim that the 'Sethusamudram' waterway project 'fails on multiple fronts', one of which is the potential damage to the 'Ram Setu' (bridge), which according to the epic 'Ramayana' was created to rescue Sita from the clutches of Ravana.
In ANI Podcast with Smita Prakash, Annamalai said, "When the UPA government was in power, the DMK government wanted the 'Setu Samudram' project to be implemented. Under this project, ships can avoid a longer route around Sri Lanka and reach the Toothukudi port directly. The DMK said it (the project) will save money and attract cargo traffic towards India." The Sethusamudran project aims at creating a continuous, navigable route around the Indian peninsula, so that ships, instead of going around Sri Lanka because of the shallow water, can reach the Tamil Nadu coast directly, resulting in siginificant economic benefits to India, according to reports.
"It is the Adam's Bridge in English and Ramarpalam in Tamil. It means Ram's Bridge. Also called the 'Ram Setu' in Hindi, the 58-km-long landmass bridge connects India and Sri Lanka," the BJP's Tamil Nadu chief said.
He said the primary objection to the project is the potential damage to the 'Ram Setu'.
"The DMK presented a drawing of an alignment '4A' for the Setu Samudran project, which breaks through the Ram Setu. In 2018, the central government submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court, saying that it had an objection to the '4A' alignment as it will destroy the Ram Setu and the Union government was considering other alignments where the 'Ram Setu' won't even be touched," he said.
He further alleged that the stand of the DMK and the Congress-led UPA has been that there is 'nothing like' Ram Setu and it is all a figment of imagination.
The central government has been saying that it is not against the project, but will find some other alignment for it, he added.
"In January 2021, PM Modi set up a committee to scientifically study Ram Setu and the committee is functioning as of date," he said.
The BJP's Tamil Nadu chief also pointed to Union Minister Jitendra Singh's reply in the Parliament regarding the Ram Setu.
"Recently in Parliament, Union Minister Jitendra Singh replied to a question on whether the connection of Ram Setu with Ramayana is confirmed. He replied that 'structures' do exist, but since they are 18,000 years old, as of now, the Ram Setu 'bridge' is not confirmed. But the structures do exist. The committee is functioning and will submit a report," he said.
Targeting the DMK government further, Annamalai said, "The Tamil Nadu government picked one line of minister Jitendra Singh's speech, saying that since the central government is itself saying that Ram Setu does not exist, we are implementing the project."
"Even then, our members in the Assembly said we don't have an objection to the project, but they should not go for alignment '4A' as it will damage the Ram Setu bridge, and opt for other alignments," he added.
The Tamil Nadu BJP chief said another objection to the project is that it will benefit only a few big DMK leaders and not the fisherfolk of the state.
"This 4A is a very stupid project. I am using the word 'stupid', because former CM Jayalalithaa had also used the same word," he said.
"The sea between Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu is a very peculiar and shallow area. We have coral reefs and 'Ram Setu' there. In some areas, you can see the land below the water for kilometres. Every time, a ship has to come, the sand will come and close the route. So, a dredging operation has to be done for the ships to pass through the area," he said.
Further citing former CM Jayalalithaa, Annamalai said as the dredging operation has to be continuous, huge ships won't be able to come from this route and the project will fail.
"She said that it will only benefit two people -- (DMK leader) TR Balu, who owns a shipping company and (fellow party leader) Kannimozhi, who owns the logistics. No fisherman will benefit from this. She also challenged them to put on record that they don't have any stake in the shipping business. Today, Kannimozhi is the Toothukudi MP, and TR Balu-ji is an MP in Chennai. But, they are yet to answer if they have any stake in the shipping business," he further said.
Raising another objection, the BJP's Tamil Nadu chief said the shallow water in the region protects the coast from tsunamis.
"A recent study says that when Tsunami came, a lot of damage happened, but the coastline between India and Sri Lanka didn't get damaged because the shallow water absorbed all the energy. Technically, it protects us from tsunamis because the Indonesian plate is also very fragile," he said.
He further highlighted the RK Pachauri report which called the project 'unsustainable'.
"The RK Pachauri report called the report 'unsustainable'. For a 25000 crore project, it will be sustainable only if it provides a 12 per cent rate of return. But, the project does not get even 4 per cent. There is no saving of cost and no saving of fuel. The cost of dredging will offset the saving that will be done by skipping Sri Lanka and coming inside," he said.
Annamalai said the reason behind their objections to the project is that it fails on multiple fronts.
"So, far we can see that the project fails on multiple fronts. So, if you want to go ahead with the project, you will have to work completely out of the box, along with the central government," he added.
On January 14, Annamalai alleged that the Sethusamudram waterway project straddling India and Sri Lanka would benefit only a few shipping companies owned by leaders of the ruling DMK.
A grand waterway project straddling India and Sri Lanka, the Sethusamudram project proposes to connect the Palk Strait with the Gulf of Mannar. The project is seen as key to bringing economic prosperity to the state and the country.
Commissioned in 2005, the project came to a halt in light of protests by rightwing groups claiming that the project may harm the 'Ram Setu' bridge, which is believed to have been built by Lord Ram to reach Sri Lanka.
Environmentalists and activists, too, had claimed it might pose a potential threat to the environment in Rameswaram, the southernmost tip of the country.
In the resolution, the DMK government had promised to complete the project while campaigning for the upcoming Assembly elections. (ANI)