Monday, December 15, 2008

Hon’ble Union Minister Ambika Soni makes ASI Director a scapegoat to save herself

Hon’ble Union Minister Ambika Soni makes ASI Director a scapegoat to save herself

Sethu affidavit: ASI officer files case against Soni
Amitav RanjanPosted online: Dec 15, 2008 at 0010 hrs

New Delhi : An Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officer, suspended last year for not carrying out changes in a counter reply to the Supreme Court on the Ram Sethu project, has filed a case against Culture Minister Ambika Soni and her senior officials for making him a “convenient scapegoat” to save herself from the public furore that ensued.
Seeking to quash the chargesheet against him, Chander Shekhar, Director (Administration) in the ASI, has told the Central Administrative Tribunal that the “purpose and motive of issuance of chargesheet is oblique and aimed solely at providing cover to the respondents in respect to the situation, which are their own creation, resulting in political fallout causing serious consequential repercussion to them”.
Shekhar, along with Assistant Director (Monuments) V Bakshi, was suspended in September 2007 for not incorporating corrections in the counter affidavit that set off a political storm, with the BJP accusing the UPA Government of hurting religious sentiments of Hindus in stating that there was no historical or scientific proof about the existence of Lord Ram.
Soni had then said her officers had made corrections, including deleting paragraph 20, which argued that mythological texts Ramayana and Ramcharitmanas could not be called historical records that “incontrovertibly prove(d) the existence of the characters or the occurrence of the events, depicted therein”.
According to Shekhar, the ministry’s Chief Public Information Officer Roopa Srinivasan, while replying to an RTI appeal for information on who carried out the changes, wrote: “No such information is available”.
“Thus, after one year of carrying out the claimed corrections in paragraph 20 of the draft affidavit, the ministry has now accepted that there is nothing on record to establish as to who carried out these claimed corrections in paragraph 20,” says Shekhar’s petition, which also names former culture secretary Badal K Das and ASI Director General Anshu Vaish as respondents.
Five days after the political outburst, the ministry had informed the Prime Minister’s Office saying that Joint Secretary RC Mishra, Das and Vaish, discussed and approved the changes in paragraphs 20 and 29 on September 6. Shekhar has said that only Mishra critically examined the draft affidavit, noting that “Paras 19 and 20 of the CA categorically state the stand of the ASI. This may please be seen. Source for the phrase ‘army of monkeys’ used in para 29 may also be ascertained”.
“It may not be out of place to mention that in the counter reply filed before the Supreme Court the words ‘army of monkeys’ pointed out by Joint Secretary stood deleted,” Shekhar says.
But, claims Shekhar in his petition, Mishra made no mention of the September 6 meeting on the file while he did so in an identical situation on the same issue less than two months before the controversial event. There was also no mention of the alleged changes by the Additional Solicitor General to the Court while seeking withdrawal of the affidavit, says his petition.
http://www.indianexpress.com/story_print.php?storyid=398460
MONDAY, MARCH 17, 2008

ASI’s reply to my RTI application: Speaking Order & the right to non-comply with directions

V. Venkatesan

My continuing Right to Information battle with the Archaeological Survey of India on why the Government suspended two officials of the ASI following the controversy over the Sethusamudram affidavit has elicited one more reply. This time, the then Appellate Authority who had earlier agreed with me and directed the Central Public Information Officer of the ASI to provide the information I requested, has been overruled by his successor, Mr.D.S.Gehlot, who appears to have recently taken over as the Appellate Authority in the ASI. Mr.Gehlot’s order dated March 14, 2008 is interesting because it says he found the order of his predecessor not a speaking order, not mentioning either the fact, or reasons and silent about how the said information would not qualify for exemption under section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act.

The new order further says: “The Ministry of Culture has ordered an investigation in the matter and providing copy of the report submitted by DG,ASI at this stage is likely to affect the course of inquiry, which has been initiated under the CCS (CCA) Rules. Since the inquiry is still on, all the original papers related to the case are with the Ministry of Culture. The Nodal Officer of the Ministry of Culture was requested to take a decision about providing the information and take appropriate action. The CPIO Ministry of Culture concurred that the information related to the matter may be exempted under Section 8(1)(h).”

It adds: “The said exemption does not deny the information completely/forever but only till the matter is under investigation. The information sought by the applicant may be supplied as soon as the process of investigation is over.”

I agree that any order should stand the test of legality, fairness and reason. But I find the new Appellate Authority’s order difficult to comprehend. First, the RTI Act does not provide for amendment of order by one Appellate Authority by his successor Authority. Secondly, the failure of the Appellate Authority to provide a speaking order does not give freedom to the CPIO to non-comply with the AA’s order. If the CPIO is dissatisfied, then he should, one would expect, approach the CIC with a complaint or an appeal. But the Act does not contemplate that option to the CPIO. The Act is silent on this.

The Appellate Authority does not adjudicate between two disputing parties, in terms of hearing them. The AA simply goes through the RTI’s applicant’s appeal against the CPIO’s decision, and examines whether the CPIO’s decision was in conformity with the Act. In case the AA rejected my appeal without a speaking order, then how would I exercise my right of non-compliance with the AA’s Order? I have the option only appealing against the AA’s order, if I am dissatisfied. Therefore, to permit the CPIO to non-comply with the AA’s order, because it is not a speaking order, is likely to defeat the very objectives of the RTI Act, and its appeal mechanism.

Secondly, the new AA agrees with the Government that the matter is still under investigation, whereas one would assume that with the suspension order being issued against the two officials, and the Government having already submitted a revised affidavit in the Supreme Court in the Sethusamudram case, the so-called investigation must be already over. What sort of investigation is currently on? I am sorry to say the new AA’s order suffers from the same absence of “speaking order” which was cited to overrule the previous AA’s order. Once the report is submitted by the DG, ASI, it marks the completion of investigation, and the basis for the disciplinary action against the two officials. If the investigation is incomplete, then the suspension order must have clearly said, they were being suspended pending investigation. That was not the case.

Posted by V.Venkatesan at 6:46 PM

http://lawandotherthings.blogspot.com/2008/03/asis-reply-to-my-rti-application.html

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sethusamudram Project could damage marine eco system: Experts

Sethusamudram Project could damage marine eco system: Experts

London, Dec 11: Asking India to shelve the controversial Sethusamudram Project as it could damage the productive marine eco-system, an international group of environmentalists has suggested the Gulf of Mannar region should be declared a Cultural and Natural World Heritage Site.

Requesting President of India Pratibha Patil to cancel the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project, the Ecologists and Environmentalists group claimed that the government's decision to go ahead with the project was based on legal flaws and would have inevitable and disastrous ecological and social impact.

The project could disrupt and damage the productive marine eco-system through a massive increase in the burden of silting and sedimentation, the group said adding, it will also affect coral reefs, sea grass beds, oyster beds and food fisheries.

They further said that the salinisation of the shallow aquifers on both sides of the channel could endanger and even lead to the extinction of the important local species, including dugong, green turtle and at least 25 different species of sea snake, resulting in collapse of the entire ecosystem.

It also asked India and Sri Lanka to write an application to the UNESCO to declare the Gulf of Mannar region a mixed Cultural and Natural World Heritage Site.

Earlier, a resolution in this regard was adopted on the issue at a two-day meeting here attended by an international consortium of ecologists, academics, scientists and religious leaders.

Bureau Report
http://www.zeenews.com/nation/2008-12-11/490117news.html

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ram Setu case-- Varying sets of misleading affidavits by Union of India

Ram Sethu case-- Varying sets of misleading affidavits by Union of India

By Dr S Kalyanaraman December 14, 2008 News Analysis

Written submission of the advocate for Union of India made in October 2008 to the Supreme Court says: The Petitioners have not alleged much less proved that Ram Sethu forms an integral and essential part of the Hindu religion. Union of India also claims that belief of the community has to be proved like any other fact.

It is clear that Union of India holds the justice system in utter contempt. It holds the responsibility of the state under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India in utter contempt. It holds that the millions of people the world over who revere Ram, Ramayana and Ram Sethu which are central to the nation’s traditions to be treated with disdain and hence holds those who venerate Ram and Ram Sethu as a place of worship in utter contempt.
What does Union of India have to say about Ram Sethu?

This is an amazing set of hypocritical, misleading statements of Union of India (Respondents) containing varying shades of misleading statements.

Step 1: The existence of Ram Sethu is denied. Next it is said that Ramayana cannot be linked with the bridge. In another breath, a pledge is made that a viewing gallery will be constructed to enable pilgrims to pay homage to Ram Sethu.

Step 2: In a withdrawn affidavit, Ministry of Culture claims Ram Sethu to be a myth, adding that the Sethu is not man-made.

Step 3: In a withdrawn affidavit, Ministry of Shipping claims that there is no scientific evidence to justify declaration of Sethu as an ancient monument.

Step 4: On September 14, 2008, Union of India claimed total respect for all religions and Hinduism in particular… The Central Government is alive and conscious of religious sensibilities including the unique ancient and holy text of Ramayana…Having regard to public sentiments, the Central Government withdrew the prevailing affidavit to re-examine the entire matter.

Union of India also clarified that the affidavit did not intend to touch upon the freedom/ articles of faith or belief of any section of society.

Step 5: In a final counter affidavit, Union of India defined the role of the state and stated that the state cannot and should not be called upon to determine issues of faith. Union of India also added: “It is now for the Hon’ble Court to resolve the contentious issues raised by the petitioners in the context of evidence available.”

Step 6: Written submission of the advocate for Union of India made in October 2008 to the Supreme Court says: “The Petitioners have not alleged much less proved that Ram Sethu forms an integral and essential part of the Hindu religion. Union of India also claims that belief of the community has to be proved like any other fact. The further submission of Union of India is that it has not been proved undoubtedly to be the belief of the Hindu community that Lord Ram did not himself break the bridge. Nor has it been established that whatever remains of the Ram Sethu as a place of worship is an essential and integral part of the Hindu religion.”

So, what is the stand of Union of India as seen from these six sets of waffling averments?

It is clear that Union of India holds the justice system in utter contempt. It holds the responsibility of the state under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India in utter contempt. It holds that the millions of people the world over who revere Ram, Ramayana and Ram Sethu which are central to the nation’s traditions to be treated with disdain and hence holds those who venerate Ram and Ram Sethu as a place of worship in utter contempt.

This contemptuous behavior of Union of India is reprehensible. UPA has proved its incompetence to hold the reins of the state and to has failed to uphold the rule of law as supreme.

I wish the Supreme Court comes down heavily on the utterly irresponsible behaviour shown by the respondents’ misleading statements and calls them to order. The Court should also direct the Government of India to declare Ram Sethu an ancient monument under the 1958 Act and to direct Union of India to approach UNESCO to declare it a world heritage. The Court should also direct that Sethu project which is an ecological disaster should be declared a project disaster and scrapped forthwith.

I also hope the Pachauri Committee takes note of the waffling stances of the Union of India and does not succumb to any pressures from any functionary of the Union of India.

The arguments for the Ram Sethu being central to Hindu identity and nation’s identity are many and have been stated earlier which the Court will take note of and render justice.

Dr. Subramanian Swamy has filed on November 3, 2008 in the Supreme Court, fresh written submissions on whether Ram Sethu is an integral part of Hindu religion. This includes an annexure to page 31 comparing the six statements demonstrating progressively varying stances of the Union of India, the respondent in the transfer petition pending in the Supreme Court.

Here is an annexure demonstrating six varying stances:

Progressively varying stances of the respondents as reflected in that affidavit

There is nothing called ‘Ramar Palam’ excepting that the petitioners have chosen to name the ‘Adams Bridge’ as Ramar Palam. There is no question of sand sholes- - - being declared monuments of national importance.

Having failed in all their attempts now the forces probably thought easier to play with religious sentiments which they thought the Indians might fall to their prey, started instigating the religious sentiments of the Hindus….

3)70(14)(iv) several Indians experts…. have also declared that there is no evidence linking the mythical Lanka bridge built by Hanuman to the chain of sand banks …….. To link that with Ram or Ramayana is ridiculous.

4)P.76(17) It will also cut off Land’s End in Dhanushkodi island which is visited by hundreds of pilgrims every day.

….It will also cut off Kodandaramasamy Temple visited by thousands of pilgrims every day

5)P.77(17) The creation of the channel will also afford an opportunity to pilgrims to visit Adams Bridge, not possible today, and offer obeissance as the SCL is contemplating provision of a viewing galary along the channel alignment.

Step 2
Withdrawal of centre's affidavit by Ministry of Culture
1) P.3(4) The petitioners have attempted to reply upon mythological material such as the Ramayana.

2) P.9(19) the ASI, has reasonably concluded that the formation known as Ram Sethu/Adams Bridge is not a man made structure.

3) P.11(25) the aforesaid conclusions renders the entire theory proposed by the petitioners (by placing reliance on entirely mythological texts) wholly implausible

4) P.15(32-33) The same is merely a sand and coral formation which cannot be said to be of historical archeological or artistic interest or importance.

5) P.15(33) “The Adams Bridge site cannot therefore be said to be of any archeological interest.”

6) P.9(20)”The contents of the Valmiki Ramayana, the Ramcharitmanas and other mythological texts… which cannot be said to be historical record, incontrovertibly prove the existence of the characters, or the occurrence of the events depicted therein.”

Step 3
Withdrawal of centre's affidavit by Ministry of Shipping
1) P.11(10) “The absence of any cohesive scientific evidence which can support the formation of a legally tenable opinion, - - - of Section 4 of the Ancient Monuments Act, it is submitted that the instant writ petitions must fail.”

Step 4
ASG’s Gopal’s statement dated 14.9.2008
1) P2(2) “The Central Government has total respect for all religions and Hinduism in particular… The Central Government is alive and conscious of religious sensibilities including the unique ancient and holy text of Ramayana… Having regard to public sentiments, the Central Government withdraws the present affidavit to re-examine the entire matter.”

2) 2(3) It is clarified that the affidavit did not intend to touch upon the freedom/ articles of faith or belief of any section of society.

Step 5
Counter affidavit final
PP59-6
1) The state cannot and should not be called upon to determine issues of faith.

2) It is now for the Hon’ble Court to resolve the contentious issues raised by the petitioners in the context of evidence available..”

Step 6
Present written submissions
Submitted October 2008
P73II. The petitioners have not alleged much less proved that Ram Sethu forms an integral and essential part of the Hindu religion.

P.76. Belief of the community has to be proved like any other fact.

P.84 The submission is that it has not been proved undoubtedly to be the belief of the Hindu community that Lord Ram did not himself break the bridge. Nor has it been established that whatever remains of the Ram Sethu as a place of worship is an essential and integral part of the Hindu religion.
http://www.organiser.org/dynamic/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=267&page=26

Friday, December 5, 2008

Setusamudram: sacred site. Scrap channel project.

Setusamudram: sacred site. Scrap channel project.

Sacred Site nomination boosts campaign to save Gulf of Mannar

Friday, 12.05.2008, 07:31am (GMT-7)

NEW YORK: At the first international meeting of the campaign to protect the Gulf of Mannar, held at the Linnean Society in London recently, the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) made the dramatic announcement that it would be seeking to have the Gulf of Mannar designated as one of the world's first internationally recognized 'Sacred Sites.' Following agreements reached at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona last month, 'Sacred Site' is a now an international term of protection for sites that are spiritually, religiously, culturally and ecologically important.
In the fight to save the Gulf of Mannar from destruction by the creation of a deep shipping channel, the move could prove to be a strategically important one. Flowing between South-East India and Sri Lanka, the Gulf of Mannar is home to Ram Sethu, or Adam's Bridge, a site of immense spiritual significance to both Hindus and Muslims worldwide.

Situated in South-Asia's largest biosphere reserve, it is also one of the last remaining biological hotspots on the planet, offering sanctuary to numerous endangered plant and animal species such as the dugong and the green turtle. However, despite the clear cultural, natural and spiritual importance of the area, and in the face of an on-going challenge in the Supreme Court of India, the Indian government is pressing ahead with dredging for the planned Sethusamudram Ship Channel, risking destruction of the sacred bridge and the fragile eco-system of the area.

The announcement of nomination for Sacred Site status was made by Martin Palmer, Secretary General of ARC, and religion and ecology advisor to His Royal Highness the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. "The Gulf of Mannar has enormous spiritual significance within both Hinduism and Islam," he said during his announcement.

"Narratives in the Hindu Ramayana, which feature Ram Sethu, and the Muslim story of Adam being thrown out of Paradise and falling into what we now know as Sri Lanka, then walking across Adam's Bridge to become the vice-regent of God ruling the world, make the Gulf of Mannar the one place in the world - other than the Garden of Eden - where we could actually say 'this is a sacred site about our relationship with and our responsibility for the rest of creation.'

Cosmologically and ecologically the Gulf of Mannar is about as sacred a site as you could get. Our suggestion is that it should be nominated as one of the very first internationally significant sacred sites, along with places such as the sacred mountains of China and other such hugely holy and ecologically significant places. I have every confidence the nomination will succeed." Organizers of the campaign to protect the Gulf of Mannar have been quick to welcome the news. "Mr Palmer's announcement was dramatic and unexpected," says Kusum Vyas, founder of The Living Planet Foundation, based in Houston, Texas, which organized the London meeting.
"The meeting erupted into applause when he made the announcement - it was so thrilling. To get the Gulf of Mannar recognised on the international conservation stage will be a huge step forward in preserving its sanctity and ecology for future generations. We can't thank ARC enough." Asked to reflect on the current battle to preserve the Gulf of Mannar, Palmer said: "It is a classic struggle - to use Christian terminology - between God and Mammon, between those who see the world as a stage upon which a drama of cosmological significance is played out in which every aspect of creation has significance and meaning because it is created from love, and those who simply see this planet as a rather large supermarket to be raided."

ARC is a secular foundation designed to work both with the major religions, encouraging them to look into their own traditions in order to increase their environmental activities, as well as with major environmental organizations to get them to take the role of religions seriously.

IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, is world's oldest and largest global environmental network - a democratic membership union with more than 1,000 government and NGO member organizations, and almost 11,000 volunteer scientists in more than 160 countries - it helps find pragmatic solutions to pressing environment and development challenges. The first international meeting of the campaign to protect the Gulf of Mannar was held at the Linnean Society in London last week and was organized by The Living Planet Foundation USA.

India Post News Service
http://indiapost.com/article/usnews/4722/

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Demand for 'sacred site' status for Setu

Demand for 'Sacred Site' status for Sethu
PTI
Tuesday, December 02, 2008 15:02 IST

LONDON: Campaigners protesting against the dredging of the Sethusamudram Ship Channel have demanded that Gulf of Mannar, which is home to the Ram Sethu, be designated as 'Sacred Site'.

The announcement for seeking a 'Sacred Site' status was made by Martin Palmer, Secretary General of Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and religion and ecology advisor to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at a two-day meeting here.
"The Gulf of Mannar has enormous spiritual significance within both Hinduism and Islam," he said during his announcement.

"The meeting erupted into applause when he made the announcement. To get the Gulf of Mannar recognised on the international conservation stage will be a huge step forward in preserving its sanctity and ecology for future generations," Kusum Vyas, founder of The Living Planet Foundation, which organised the London meeting, said.

'Sacred Site' is now an international term of protection for sites that are spiritually, religiously, culturally and ecologically important.

Flowing between South-East India and Sri Lanka, the Gulf of Mannar is home to Ram Sethu or Adam's Bridge, a site of immense spiritual significance for both Hindus and Muslims worldwide.

Situated in South-Asia's largest biosphere reserve, it is also one of the last remaining biological hot-spots on the planet, offering sanctuary to numerous endangered plant and animal species such as the dugong and the green turtle.

http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?newsid=1210895

Monday, November 24, 2008

Scientists converge in London to stop destruction of Setu Samudram

To stop the destruction of the Sethu Samudram – Scientists, Academics and Religious Leaders Converge in London
Tue, 2008-11-25 05:23
By Walter Jayawardhana
London, 25 November, (Asiantribune.com) Ecologists, academics and scientists and religious leaders around the world organized by the US based living Planet Foundation are meeting today (November 25) at London’s historic Linnean Society, Burlington House in Piccadilly to ask Indian and Sri Lankan governments to persuade UNESCO to designate the Gulf of Mannar a World Heritage site and stop the imminent devastation that could cause to the environment by the controversial Sethu Samudram project. The seminar will last two days continuously.
The organizers said, "The aim is to prevent the destruction of the Gulf of Mannar , one of the last remaining intact eco-systems of the world and home to the famous Ram Sethu or Adam’s Bridge , a site sacred to one billion Hindus worldwide."
"The gathering is set to provide enough multi-disciplinary evidence to persuade" the two countries to ask UNESCO to grant World Heritage designation to the Gulf , the Living Planet Foundation said.
Interviewed in a London Hotel, one of the participating scientists of the seminar Dr. Ranil Senanayake told this correspondent, "Sethu Samudram canal project is a 140 years old idea proposed by the British imperialists not compatible with the thinking of the 21st century. Today, much better things could be thought about for better results. Dredging through this geological formation would cause innumerable damages that cannot be reversed."
Asked to pinpoint one, Dr. Senanayake said that the present waves in the gulf bring the mineral sands from which Thorium could be processed. The sea currents deposit tons of mineral sands on the South Indian and North Sri Lankan beaches .He said Thorium processed from these mineral sands is believed to be the source of energy of the future, from which atomic power could be produced without allowing any chance of producing nuclear weapons. Once, the bridge is destroyed such sand deposits would stop by the gulf basin currents, the scientist warned India and Sri Lanka.
Many scientists have assessed the Gulf of Mannar is a shallow stretch of water separating India and Sri Lanka. Despite its important ecological and cultural significance as one of South Asia’s largest biosphere reserves, the Indian government, under pressure from Tamil Nadu state politicians, is pressing ahead with plans to build a shipping channel called Sethusamudram , right across it, threatening the numerous endangered plant and animal species that live there as well as livelihood of local fishermen.
The proposal has been met with a chorus of international disapproval. It has also become the subject of a case in the Indian Supreme Court, which has temporarily delayed the devastating dredging.
Scientists have said the Gulf , free from oceanic currents , provides the calving grounds for a substantial part of the diverse whale population of the bay of Bengal. It is also identified as the habitat for rare and endangered plant and animal species including the threatened green turtle and dugong. The sea grass meadows of the gulf are the largest remaining feeding grounds for the globally endangered dugong. The centuries old pearl and conch shell fishing still exists there.
"The dredging will destroy this fragile eco-system. What we need is not an industry that will benefit only few shipping companies and dredgers. When, ships starts sailing along the canal even the limestone wells of Jaffna could become salty. What we need there is a sustainable development project," scientist Ranil Senanayake said.
- Asian Tribune -
http://www.asiantribune.com/?q=node/14376

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rama Setu: Tiruvalangadu copper plate inscription of Rajendra Chola

Rama Setu: Tiruvalangadu copper plate inscription of Rajendra Chola

From the Thiruvalangadu copper plates inscribed in the 6th year of the rule of King Rajendra Chola, son of Raja raja chola discovered in the year 1905:-

In the order of tracing the lineage of the Cholas, verse 80 makes a mention about Rama building a bridge on the ocean.


(V. 80.) The lord of the Raghavas (i.e., Rama) constructing a bridge across the water of the ocean with (the assistance of) able monkeys, killed with great difficulty the king of Lanka (i.e., Ravana) with sharp-edged arrows ; (but) this terrible General of that (king Arunmolivarman) crossed the ocean by ships and burnt the Lord of Lanka (Ceylon). Hence Rama is (surely) surpassed by this (Chola General).


http://www.whatisindia.com/inscriptions/south_indian_inscriptions/volume_3/no_205c_aditya_ii_karikala.html

Saturday, November 22, 2008

In defence of the Rama Setu: Dr. Swamy

IN DEFENCE OF THE RAMA SETU

By Subramanian Swamy (November 2008)

{The writer is a former Union Commerce Minister}

INTRODUCTION

The Rama Setu is a causeway connecting Dhanushkodi from the Rameshwaram island’s eastern tip all the way across the straits to Sri Lanka, and separates the turbulent Psalk Straits in the Bay of Bengal in the north, from the calm and tranquil waters of Gulf of Mannar in the south of the Setu. The 1.5 to 2.5 m thick zone of corals and rock, which is presently partially seen at points in the sea, is a construction atop, as the crustal portion of, the undersea ridge.
US’ NASA and NRSA of the Ministry of Space, Government of India satellite photo images clearly establish such a causeway-like formation between Dhanushkodi and Talaimannar island (Srilanka).
Rama Setu is without doubt an ancient causeway as vividly described in Valmiki’s Ramayana. The architect Nala assigned the task by Sri Rama had had taken advantage of the crustal portion of the ridge to minimize thereby the dumping of rocks and boulders, and also utilized the less dense but compact corals and boulders, so that these could be carried easily to greater distances and at the same time strong enough to withstand pressure from above, both by human as well as sea forces.
According to S. Badrinarayanan, former Director, Geological Survey of India, his investigations while as Consultant to NIOT, GOI, reveal that the Rama Setu is not a natural formation but a constructed causeway of at least 9000 years old. Hence it automatically qualifies to be an ancient monument to be protected under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites & Remains Act, 1958.
The Government had suppressed from public view his Report based on a 2002 investigation under the sea, near and at the Setu, which concluded that Rama Setu had been constructed (at least 9000 years ago). However, without consulting the GSI or the NIOT, the Ministry of Culture representing the Archaeological Survey of India {ASI} hastily filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court to aver that “there is no information or studies in the knowledge of the Government that Rama Setu is man made”. Former ASI DG, Dr. S.R. Rao went on record to ridicule this stand of the government. Following public criticism, the Union Government flip flopped in its stand in the Supreme Court (see Annexure).
The choppy tide and the associated sediments caused by severe cyclones that occur every year in the Bsay of Bengal are moderated in the intensity by the ridge of the Rama Setu and thereby it protects the delicate tranquil waters of the Gulf of Mannar. So too the researches of scientists now conclude that even Tsunami was moderated by the existence of the Rama Setu. Otherwise, there would have been a funneling effect of the Tsunami wages causing enormous damage several times over than what was experienced.
The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Mr. Karunanidhi and his lieutenant, the Union Shipping Minister Mr. T.R. Baalu have nevertheless been telling the public the Rama Setu is fictitious, that the existing causeway is a natural formation of sand, and that given the economic and environmental viability of the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project (SSCP), it should not be blocked because of an imaginary grievance based on such tales.
On environmental issues, it will suffice here to state that the Ministry of Environment & Forests in fact in a letter dated April 8, 1999 to the Ministry of Surface Transport had conveyed it’s opinion that the SSCP should be scrapped altogether as the project would be an environmental disaster. This opinion was based on an analysis of the NEERI Report of 1998. Yet in 2004 the Ministry reversed it’s opinion without any fresh data. There is no explanation given so far for this somersault.
The Government’s decision to implement the SSCP is thus vitiated by arbitrariness, unreasonableness, and obvious anti-Hindu bias of the decision-makers such as Mr. Karunanidhi. Hence it could not stand in court when I challenged it. In truth, the SSCP besides, an environmental disaster, is also economically unviable and a national security risk (because it will help LTTE to move it’s terrorist and narcotic base to Kerala Coast by a more secure and shorter route that is presently unavailable because the Rama Setu stands as a barrier). Details of arguments in all these dimensions are set out in Rama Setu: A Symbol of National Unity {Haranand, 2008}.

THE HERITAGE OF RAMA SETU

The Rama Setu sometimes called Sethubandha, is a symbol of the nation because Sri Rama on whose direction it was built, was the first national king of India who lived in North, West, East and South of India during his life time. The Rama Setu which paved the way for Rama’s army is thus not only sacred but it is regarded by the people as a heritage, a tirthasthana, and a divyakshetra. Rama’s art of governance is known as Ram Rajya, a term used by Mahatma Gandhi to mobilize the masses during the Freedom Struggle.
Rama chose to raise an army in Kishkinda, Karnataka to defeat Ravana, disregarding Lakshmana’s advise to send for the already trained army from Ayodhya, because Rama believed in devolution and in the local concerns of his people. His devotion to motherland was total and unconditional as revealed when he said to Lakshmana, according to Valmiki Ramayana, while in Lanka that: Jananee janmabhoomishcha svargaadapi gariyasi which as translated by Maharishi Aurobindo means: “Mother and motherland is greater by far than even heaven”. Lakshmana had queries why they should not settle down in Lanka, when that country now conquered was more beautiful and prosperous than Ayodhya, and Sita was already there. These immoral patriotic words attributed to Sri Rama will remain in the nation’s memory as long as Hindustan lives as a continuing civilization. Ramayana thus is a narration of Rama’s deeds, and thereby lays down principles of governance, which properly and faithfully re-interpreted is valid even today.
It is this deep background of the spiritual ambience in and of India that made Supreme Court Justice K.T. Thomas say at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi, on April 5, 2007: “Rama Sethu should not be broken”. After receiving the Padma Bhushan from the President of India at an investiture ceremony, he told the media in answer to a question.
“In projects like this (Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project), decisions are to be based not only on a study of geological implications; the religious sentiments of the people are also to be taken into account. The religious sentiments of the people of Bharat have to be honoured by every government of India. There is a tradition in this land, of honouring religious sentiments. So, it is my definite opinion that Ram Sethu must not be broken”.

For the sheer faith of the masses of India in Lord Rama, Rama Setu must be declared an ‘Ancient Monument’ within the meaning of the law and protected and nurtured as a revered national heritage. Since now Ganga has been declared as a national heritage, there is no reason now to block a similar status for Rama Setu.
In any case, the Rama Setu cannot be damaged or broken because it would then be a criminal offence. The Supreme Court had observed in its judgement in the S.Veerbhadran Chettiar v. E.V.Ramaswami Naicker case (AIR 1958 Supreme Court 1032 page 1035) as follows:
“…….. Any object however trivial or destitute of real value in itself if regarded as sacred by any class of persons would come within the meaning of the penal section (295 of the Indian Penal Code). Nor is it absolutely necessary that the object, in order to be held sacred, should have been actually worshipped. An object may be held sacred by a class of persons without being worshipped by them. It is clear, therefore, that the courts below were rather cynical in so lightly brushing aside the religious susceptibilities of that class of persons to which the complainant claims to belong. The section has been intended to respect the religious susceptibilities of persons of different religious persuasions or creeds. Courts have got to be very circumspect in such matters, and to pay due regard to the feelings and religious emotions of different classes of persons with different beliefs, irrespective of the consideration whether or not they share those beliefs, or whether they are rational or otherwise, in the opinion of the court.”

There is no room left after this judgment not to regard the Rama Setu as an inalienable heritage to be protected. To damage or break the Setu is a criminal cognizable offence under Section 295 of the IPC. To dismiss such sacredness as “imaginary” as the Government had done in court is dangerous. Even if there was no specific proof today of the claim that Rama Setu was built by Sri Rama more than 9000 years ago, later developments in science can establish the reality of the Rama Setu. For example, earlier, Sarasvati river and Dwarka city were considered as imaginary by secular historians. Now modern science based archaeology has established their existence. Even so, what if it is said the claim that the hair in Hazaratbal Mosque as belonging to Prophet Mohammed is imaginary since there is no DNA proof that it belonged to him? Or Jesus birth is to be dismissed as imaginary because immaculate conception is a scientific impossibility? Do they cease to be sacred to the people.
The Ramayana is in fact regarded as Itihasa (history) by the Hindus. Facts in Ramayana are testable. Dr. Ram Avatar spent 25 years in researching if the locations along Rama’s travel to Sri Lanka described in the Ramayana, can be located in modern India He was able to locate and photograph all the spots where Sri Rama had stayed as he went from Ayodhya to Sri Lanka, which Dr. Avatar has documented with photographs in his monograph Jahan Jahan Ram Charan Chali Jayi (wherever Rama went) published 2007.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF RAMA
Why is Rama such an attraction for the Hindu masses, irrespective of claste? After all, being a Kshatriya he had killed a Brahmin scholar that Ravana was. The question may puzzle some people who do not know India, because Sri Rama neither performed any miracle on his own, nor did he ever even allude to be avatara of Lord Maha Vishnu. Nevertheless, the myriad charm of Ramayana is something which is so evergreen and standing the test of times that Rama Lila is celebrated with gusto every year in every part of the nation. Rama and his associates immortalized in Ramayana have endeared themselves to millions of people all over the world, transcending even religious barriers.
Mahatma Gandhi, no communalist by any Anglized liberal standards had declared that to make Ramayana as the goal of state governance was the aim of the Freedom Struggle.
The greatness of Rama is not limited to humans on earth alone. In a dialogue between Lord Shiva and his spouse Parvati in the concluding part of Vishnu Sahasranamam in the epic, Mahabharata (Vishnu Sahasranama which is a recital of one thousand names of Lord Mahavishnu). Goddess Parvathi towards the very end is said to enquire of Lord Shiva, in the following sloka,
Kenopayena Laguna Vishnor Nama Sahasraham
Patyathe Pandithair Nithyam Srothumichamyaham Prabhoh:
{“Does there exist any abridged version of this garland of one thousand nmes, which will have the same efficacy as reciting all the thousand names”}.

Lord Shiva replied to Parvathi as follows;
Rama Rama Ramethi, Rame Rame Mano Rame
Sahasra Nama Thattulyum Rama Nama Varanane:
{recital of just the one word ‘Rama’ could produce an effect equival4nt to reciting all the thousand names of Maha Vishnu:}
Therefore, according to revered scriptures, even gods and goddesses themselves felt the power, the boundless charm of Rama, hence where is the surprise if ordinary mortals worship this Lord as if nothing else mattered?
Valmiki, the author of the original Ramayana text was a contemporary of Sri Rama. This has been explicitly stated in the text itself. This story was not penned a few hundred years after the life of Rama. In fact, Valmiki was the guardian to the wife and sons of Rama.
Ramayana being a popular story of India, many authors down the time line have written their own regional language versions of Ramayana. Kalidasa, the great Sanskrit poet of the 5th century CE wrote his Raghuvamsa, his poetry on Rama. The Tamil poet Kamban wrote his version of Kamba Ramayana over 1000 years back. Goswami Tulsidas wrote Ram Charita Manas in the 17th century.
These three and such other eminent authors across India have penned the story eulogizing the Indian hero and divinity of Rama and there is no inconsistency or contradiction in these texts to throw doubt about the existence of Rama.
The Puranas also mention the details on the story of Rama. The stories mentioned in the Puranic texts which texts all secular historians rely on and the original Ramayana of Valmiki cross-vandate each other in many a place. This adds further credibility to the Valmiki Ramayana text being rightly termed as Itihaasa i.e., it thus happened as a historical text.
Many Indian researchers have made use of computer software to arrive at historic dates for various events described in the literature based on planetary positions.
According to Pushkar Bhatnagar, in Historicity of Rama, based on astronomical data on planetary positions given in the Puranas and the Ramayana, the dates of the events in Rama’s lifetime are as in the Table below:

HISTORICAL DATES OF SRI RAMA
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Events of Sri Rama Data

Sri Ram Navami – Birthday January 10, 5114 BCE (i.e. 7122 years ago
Birth of Bharatha January 11, 5114 BCE
Pre-coronation eve January 4, 5089 BCE
Khar, Dushan episode October 7, 5077 BCE
Vali Vadham April 3, 5076 BCE
Hanuman’s Visit to Lanka September 12, 5076 BCE
Hanuman’s Return from Lanka September 14, 5076 BCE
Army march to Lanka September 20, 5076 BCE

The sheer divine beauty of Rama’s personality inspired even the poet, Iqbal, to declare him the ‘Imam-E-Hind’ in his poem paid him this glowing tribute:
Hari Ram key wujood pey Hindostan ko naaz
Ahl-e-nazar samajhte hain usko Imam-e-Hind
Ejaazous chiraagh-e-hidaayet kaa hai yahee
Raushantar azsaher haizamane mai sham-e-Hind.

In short, Ram is the spiritual head of India, even according to Iqbal, who was otherwise a hardline Muslim.
Abroad too, interestingly, Sun Yuxi, the Chinese Ambassador to India, told me that there has been an ongoing scholarly debate in China, about the origins of the Monkey-hero Sun Wukong in the Chinese epic novel Xiyouji viz., does his origin stem from Hanuman, or is Sun Wukong a product of indigenous folklore?
The theory of a possible connection between Sun Wukong and Hanuman was first proposed by Hu Shih, the well known poet and President of the famous Beijing University. In his famous speech in 1936 at the Harvard University Tercentennial Celebrations, titled “Indianisation of China”, Dr. Hu spoke disapprovingly of the Chinese people swallowing and digesting Hinduism in the garb of Mahayana Buddhism, and accepting idol worship.
Ironically while Mr. Karunanidhi in his speeches has debunked the Setu and Rama, the DMK State and the UPA Union Governments have been advertising and affirming the exact opposite: existence of the Setu and the historicity of Rama! For example, the Tourist Department of the TN Government has been advertising in Railway trains, urging the people to visit Rameshwaram and see where Rama set his “lotus feet”, to build a bridge (setu) to Sri Lanka with the help of the Vanar Sena (see enclosed photo), to rescue his wife Sita.
The National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA), of the Union Ministry of Space has published a book of satellite photographs {ISBN: 8177525 6524} claiming that “archaeological studies show “that the Setu may be ‘man made’” This book has been distributed to all MPs free by the Ministry of Space. Yet Ms. Ambika Soni as Minister of Culture to a question in Rajya Sabha (August 14, 2007) falsely stated that “no archaeological studies has been made in respect of the Rama Setu”. This is a breach of privilege of the House, for which she should be punished.
Thus Rama Setu exists and is sacred. No one can be permitted to damage or break it. Lord Rama is the inspiration of every India, especially the Hindus who constitute 83% of the population of India. Anything he has touched is sacred.

'Rama Set' rocks selling like hot cakes

'Ram Setu' rocks selling like hot cakes
22 Nov 2008, 1354 hrs IST, PTI

RAMESWARAM: Ram Setu, the mythical bridge which got embroiled in a controversy over the Sethusamudram project, is back in news. This time for the trade of coral rocks, considered to be a part of the holy structure.

Droves of pilgrims here are buying coral rocks being sold by the agents and tourist guides, who claim that the rocks were a part of the bridge built by the 'Vanara Sena' for Lord Ram to crossover to Lanka to rescue Sita.

"Pilgrims visiting this temple town buy these stones thinking that they are from the Ram bridge. But they are actually coral rocks," an official of the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park said.

As coral rocks tend to float naturally, pilgrims believe that the rocks are the ones used by Rama's army and buy it, he said.

Despite a ban on the trade of coral rocks under the Wild Life and Marine Life Protection Acts, they are being sold at five places -- 'Seetha Theertham,' 'Ram Theertham,' 'Lakshman Theertham,' 'Kandhamadhanaparvam' and at an ashram -- in the island at rates varying between Rs 500 and Rs 1000 per piece, he said.

Gopinathan, a tourist guide, said they get a nominal commission for each stone sold through them. The stones were even presented to VIPs visiting the island, stating that it was auspicious to keep them at home, he said.

According to officials here, many marine species like sea horse, turtles and dugong, whose sale is prohibited under the Marine Life Protection Act, are also being sold openly.

Denying receiving any complaint about sale of coral rocks in the area, Gulf of Mannar Marine National park officials say they are not in a position to monitor such a vast coastal belt but they would look into the matter.

The 'Ram Setu' (Adams Bridge) has been in the limelight after BJP and its allied outfits protested the present alignment of the Sethusamudram project, charging that it would damage the mythical structure.

Following the protest, dredging of the bridge has been stopped and the case is being heard in the Supreme Court which has suggested that the government explore alternative site for the project.

The Sethusamudram project aims to create a navigable channel from the Gulf of Mannar to the Bay of Bengal through the Palk bay and Palk Straits.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Ram_Setu_rocks_selling_like_hot_cakes/articleshow/3744644.cms

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Rama Setu: demolition a criminal offence -- Swamy

Demolition of Ram Setu a criminal offence: Dr. Subramanian Swamy tells SC
Nov. 5, 2008

Former Union minister and Janata party president Dr Subramanian Swami, in his written argument filed in the Supreme Court in Ram Setu case, has contended that demolition of the bridge will amount to a criminal offence under section 295 IPC.

According to this section, defacing, demolition or damaging a place of worship knowing well that it will hurt the religious sentiments of a segment of population, is a criminal offence.

Dr Swamy, who is one of the petitioners seeking declaration from the apex court that Ram Setu, also known as Adam’s Bridge, is a monument of national heritage and therefore, cannot be touched, has also pleaded that Sethusamudram project has already been rejected by the Planning Commission of India as economically not good.

Dr Swami has, however, said if Alignment six was changed and alternative route was taken sparing 35 km Ram Setu, then he has no objection to the completion of the project.

He has also submitted that if the alternative alignment was not chosen for completion of Rs 2240 crore project, then the entire project should be scrapped as it will turn out to be an economic disaster and shall also prove to be a grave threat to national security.

He has also contended that the decision making process adopted to approve the project was illegal, arbitrary, unconstitutional and also inspired by conflicting commercial interest.

The Supreme Court has already restrained the Government from damaging Ram Setu in any manner while carrying out dredging activity for completion of Sethusamudram Shipping Channel which will link Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka.

The Union Government, in its written arguments, has taken a stand that the bridge was not integral to Hinduism and was destroyed by Lord Rama at the request of Vibhishan, brother of demon king Ravana, who saw the bridge as threat to the security of Sri Lanka under his rule.

http://sks5005.wordpress.com/2008/11/04/demolition-of-ram-setu-a-criminal-offence-dr-subramanian-swamy-tells-sc/

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rama Setu: Centre’s stand contradictory, says Swamy

Rama Setu: Centre’s stand contradictory, says Swamy

Legal Correspondent (The Hindu, 5 Nov. 2008)

New Delhi: Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy has questioned in the Supreme Court the Centre’s stand that Ramar Sethu is not an integral part of Hindu religion.
In his fresh written submissions in the Sethusamudram case, he said the revised stand of the Centre, in its submissions filed on October 12, “has no basis either in fact or in law.” He refuted the averment that the “petitioners have not proved that Ramar Sethu is an integral or essential part of the Hindu religion to attract Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution.”

Dr. Swamy said: “The Union of India has taken contradictory and differing positions in various affidavits filed during the course of the proceedings, attributing each position to various Hindu texts without sourcing it to any credible religious scholar but based on dubious unauthoritative translations.”

These contradictions indicated that the government was not in a position to answer the question whether Ramar Sethu was qualified to be regarded as an integral part of the Hindu religion or to be designated as an ancient monument within the meaning of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act. “A Hindu will consider as an integral part of his or her religion that which would make his spiritual life incomplete if it is not prayed at or to at least once in his or her lifetime.”

On the Centre’s submission that Lord Rama himself had destroyed Sethu, Dr. Swamy said: “It is irrelevant to adduce this argument even if this interpretation of counsel is based on one of the sources quoted by one of the petitioners. What is necessary is that the interpretation or inference must be based on an authorised, scholarly, unimpeachable translation from the original Sanskrit language text.”

The averment by the Sethusamudram Corporation that it was “contemplating provision of a viewing gallery along the [shipping] channel alignment demolishes the stand of counsel, especially the averment that Ramar Sethu is not an integral part of Hindu religion.”

Dr. Swamy said the administrative decision-making process in choosing Alignment 6, if implemented, would be illegal and arbitrary. Hence the decision to pursue Alignment 6, entailing a rupture in Ramar Sethu, should be judicially invalidated. The court has already reserved verdict in this case.

http://www.hindu.com/2008/11/05/stories/2008110561341500.htm

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rama Setu: Who runs Union of India? Nariman? Who approved the false affidavit submitted to SC?

Rama Setu: Who runs Union of India? Nariman? Who approved the false affidavit submitted to SC?

This is yet another instance of the scandalous state of the union of India led by UPA government. Did Hon’ble PM approve the affidavit? How come the Congresss claims that they were not aware of the claims mad in the affidavit? Who is in charge? Nariman? Given the state of deterioration in ethical values in the government functionaries, this report is not a surprise. The people of the nation will decide when the date of reckoning comes. I think SC should take exception to the way the Court is being treated – in utter contempt -- in responding to cases in the highest court of the land.

Kalyanaraman

Congress in the dark on latest Ram Sethu affidavit in court

The submission filed in the apex court states, among other things, that Ram himself destroyed the Ram Sethu

K.P. Narayana Kumar and Malathi Nayak -- Livemint.com Oct. 21, 2008

New Delhi: The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, or UPA, has again been blindsided, with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) representative in the Union cabinet, T.R. Baalu, failing to inform either the Union cabinet or the coordinator for the legal defence of the government in the controversial Sethusamudram project, prior to filing a crucial affidavit in the Supreme Court.

The submission, among other things, states that the Ram Sethu was destroyed by Ram himself, and that it was not proved by the petitioners that the structure was integral to Hinduism.

Controversial topic: A Nasa photo of the Ram Sethu. Many Hindus believe the god-king, Ram, built this bridge to rescue his wife, Sita, from the clutches of demon-king Ravana. Others say it is a coral walkway.

It is a politically explosive argument with elections for six states in the next three months announced, including in four north Indian states where the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, has significant strength. The BJP has consistently opposed the project, using it to score political points.

The filing, while in line with the DMK’s own position on the issue, could quickly emerge as a political problem for the Congress party, which is already being subjected to the charge that it is soft on minorities at the expense of India’s Hindu majority.

The Sethusamudram project began in 2004 and proposed to create a shipping channel by dredging a walkway connecting India and Sri Lanka. Many Hindus believe the god-king, Ram, built this bridge with an army of monkeys to rescue his wife, Sita, from the clutches of demon-king Ravana. Others say it is a coral walkway.

A senior minister in the UPA government, who was tasked with coordinating the legal challenge on the channel project but didn’t want to be named, concedes: “I do not know how or why that submission was filed before the court. I am yet to see the document. This was not discussed during cabinet meetings either.”

When the case proceedings ended on 30 July, the court, while reserving judgment, had asked the parties to submit written arguments, including new contentions.

The written document submitted by the government on 14 October is dubbed a “Brief written Note by Counsel for the Union of India submitted after the close of oral arguments on 30 July 2008”. It has excerpts from religious texts including the Kamba Ramayanam and Padma Purana.

The document states that “it has not been proved (by the petitioners) undoubtedly to the belief of the Hindu community—that Lord did not himself break the bridge”. Quoting the religious texts, it argued that the “petitioners have not alleged much less proved that Rama Sethu forms an integral part of the Hindu religion”.

Moreover, it describes the petitions as “politically motivated” and goes on to say that the pleas of the petitioners smack of “a lack of bona fide”.

An officer in the culture ministry, who is in charge of the department that deals with the channel project, also said they weren’t consulted nor were they informed after the submission by the shipping and road transport ministry.

“I read about the submission in the next day’s papers. We were not informed,” said this officer who, too, didn’t want to be named.

Another senior official, who is in the shipping and road transport ministry and similarly didn’t want his name used, said “the minister has been directly dealing with the matter himself”, indicating that even relevant ministry officials were not briefed about the filing of the submission.

Calls to Baalu’s office weren’t returned. Fali S. Nariman, the government counsel on the case, too, was unavailable for comment. Additional solicitor general R. Mohan, who was handling the shipping ministry’s brief, declined to comment.

Commentator Cho Ramaswamy says Baalu and Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunandhi’s family are very keen on the Sethusamudram project proceeding. “However, this (the Sethusamudram controversy) is not an issue that will benefit any political party when it comes to the elections,” he added.

DMK spokesperson Ilangovan, who uses only one name, said: “We will invoke Sethusamudram during the polls to highlight how the BJP has deprived the benefits of such a good project to Tamil Nadu.” He refused to comment further.

On his part, Arun Kumar, a Congress party secretary who is in charge of the Tamil Nadu unit, said he will study the affidavit in detail before reacting to it.

BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said: “The government is not only indulging in interpreting religion but is also giving a new twist to Ram katha itself. In the first affidavit, the government said there is no proof of Ram’s existence. Then there was widespread anger and it withdrew the affidavit. In the next one, it said it was a matter of faith and was up to the court to decide. Now they are saying that Ram himself destroyed the Ram Sethu, which means they are admitting that Ram existed.”

The government on 30 July told the court it would set up a committee headed by R.K. Pachauri, director general of The Energy and Resourses Institute, to look at an alternative route for the project, one that possibly doesn’t cut across the Ram Sethu. The committee was meant to examine alternative routes and submit a report before the court. The report is yet to be submitted.

Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, the chief petitioner in the case related to the Sethusamudram project, moved the Supreme Court on Thursday challenging the submissions made by the Centre. The court has permitted him to file submissions to rebut the Centre’s new arguments.

“The Centre has made some new points almost two and a half months after the court reserved its judgement,” said Swamy. “It is quite clear that the written submissions were filed primarily to intimidate and influence the Pachauri committee which consists of government officials.”

narayana.k@livemint.com
Krisnamurthy Ramasubbu and Liz Mathew contributed to this story.

http://www.livemint.com/Articles/PrintArticle.aspx

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Centre has allready admitted Ramar Sethu is sacred: Swamy

Centre has already admitted Ramar Sethu is sacred: Swamy

Legal Correspondent (The Hindu, 17 Oct. 2008)

“This demolishes counsel’s averment that it is not an integral part of religion”

“Ridge like structure of Ramar Sethu is such that no dredging will be possible”
Damaging any sacred place is a cognisable criminal offence

New Delhi: Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy on Thursday questioned the Centre’s stand in the Supreme Court that Ramar Sethu was not an integral part of Hindu religion and that it was not an article of faith.

In his written submissions, he said the Centre was giving dubious interpretations to the facts admitted earlier. He said the sacredness and worship of Ramar Sethu had already been admitted by the Centre and judicially noticed by the Madras High Court, and that Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project Ltd was contemplating providing a viewing gallery, along the channel alignment, for pilgrims to visit Adam’s Bridge (Ramar Sethu).

“This admission demolishes the stand of the Centre’s counsel, especially the averment that Ramar Sethu is not integral part of Hindu religion.”

On Thursday morning, Dr. Swamy made a mention before a Bench, headed by Chief Justice K. G. Balakrishnan, that the Centre’s stand was contrary to its submissions made in the court. However, Justice Balakrishnan asked him to file written submissions.

Dr. Swamy maintained that the administrative decision-making process in choosing Alignment 6, if implemented, “is illegal arbitrary, unreasonable, disproportionate, and is also vitiated by bias, conflict of interest, and fraudulent statistical data. The decision to pursue Alignment 6 calling for a rupture in Ramar Sethu be judicially invalidated. An alternative alignment or an alternative project if proposed and which does not call for damaging or destroying Ramar Sethu is, however, acceptable.”

‘No metaphysical jurisdiction’

He said “Ramar Sethu is built on a sharply rising ridge formation and it cannot be dredged through. It can only be exploded. That is, the ridge like structure of Ramar Sethu is such that no dredging is possible.” The sacredness of Ramar Sethu and the relevance in administrative decisions of respecting faith were subjective over which no court could have a metaphysical jurisdiction.

Dr. Swamy asserted: “It is a cognisable criminal offence under Section 295 of the IPC, viz. any damage, defilement, or destruction of any place of worship or of any object held sacred by any class of persons; with the knowledge that such class of persons is likely to consider such damage, defilement, or destruction as an insult to their religion.”

He said: “Thus, implementing the project would be prima facie a cognisable offence, and therefore its commission cannot be permitted or sanctioned.”

He reiterated that Ramar Sethu should be declared a national monument.

http://www.hindu.com/2008/10/17/stories/2008101755581400.htm

Setu row: Centre accused of giving dubious interpretation in SC

Setu row: Centre accused of giving dubious interpretation in SC

New Delhi, Oct 16 (PTI) Provoked by the government's stand that Rama Setu is not an "essential" and "integral" part of Hindu religion, Janata Party President Subramaniam Swamy today rushed to the Supreme Court accusing it of giving "dubious" interpretations to the facts admitted earlier.

He told the apex court that when the matter had come before the Madras High Court the Centre had admitted the sacredness of Rama Setu or Adams bridge and even contemplated building a viewing gallery along the Sethusamudram channel alignment and thus demolishes its fresh contention.

"Moreover, sacredness and worshipping of the Rama Setu has already been admitted by the respondents (Centre and its concerned department) themselves and judicially noticed by the First Bench of the Madras High Court, that because of the need of Hindu pilgrims to visit Adams bridge (Rama Setu) and offer obeisance, the SCL (Sethusamudram Canal Project Ltd) is contemplating provision of viewing gallery along the channel alignment," Swamy said in his written submission.

"This admission demolishes the stand of the counsel (Centre's advocate), especially the averment that Rama Setu is not integral part of Hindu religion," he said and added that the Centre and those concerned with the project have "no locus standi to pontificate on what is at the core of Hindu religion".

Swamy, who has sought declaration of Rama Setu as an historical monument, accused the Centre of burdening the court with "unsubstantiated" and "dubious" interpretations from the Puranas and the Ramayana to undermine the sacredness of the mythological bridge. PTI

http://www.ptinews.com/pti\ptisite.nsf/0/9A43DDDFF4DB5572652574E40049E438?OpenDocument

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rama Setu: UPA taking contradictory stands -- Malhotra

UPA taking contradictory stands on Ram Sethu: Malhotra

New Delhi (PTI): BJP's Chief Ministerial candidate for Delhi V K Malhotra on Wednesday hit out at the Congress-led UPA on the Ram Sethu issue, saying the Central government is adopting "contradictory stands" on the matter.

"The government has been taking contradictory stands on the Ram Sethu issue. First they said it exists. Then the culture ministry said in court that Ram did not exist and on Tuesday they said in court that the Sethu did not exist," Malhotra told PTI.

The BJP leader, who is also his party's Deputy Leader in the Lok Sabha, warned that his party will not bear with this attitude of the UPA government.

"They are playing with the feelings of not only Hindus but all Ram devotees, including Sikhs, who also believe in Ram," Malhotra said.

The saffron party leader said Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had visited Ramlilas and shown respect to Ram probably to get political mileage.

"But now they have shown their true colours by speaking against Lord Ram in court. We won't tolerate this," he said.



http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/002200810151431.htm

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Latest Rama Setu affidavit of UPA government is an affront to sentiments of millions of people – Ramasetu protection movement

Latest Rama Setu affidavit of UPA government is an affront to sentiments of millions of people – Ramasetu protection movement

The surreptious manner in which the Government of India has submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court on 14 October 2008 shows that the Counsel Nariman and the UPA Government are in a state of panic.

As Dr. Subramanian Swamy has noted it is unethical conduct not to have given copies of the affidavit to the petitioners.

What is the UPA Government trying to hide? It appears that the UPA Government has forgotten the fact that they were forced to withdraw their affidavit denying Sri Rama and Ramayana after nation-wide peoples’ protests. The reference to Kamba Ramayan cited in the affidavit as referring to breaches in Rama Setu caused by Sri Rama has already been proved to be false and later-day interpolations.

Is the UPA Government trying to influence the Pachauri Committee in its deliberations by submitting yet another affidavit indulging in suggestio falsi and suppressio veri? The affidavit does not refer to the fact that Rama Setu functioned as a bridge between India and Srilanka right upto the 18th century as recorded in Royal Asiatic Society research archives. People from both sides had been using this as a causeway for centuries; if so, how could there have been a breach in the Setu? Searching for alibis in a desperate bid to continue with a project disaster and hurting sentiments of a billion Hindus seems to be the objective of this unethical, unsubstantiated affidavit.

The Supreme Court directions are a clear indication that the Rama Setu, a place of worship is central to the belief of millions of people and that it cannot be damaged for any channel project. Hence, the direction by the highest court of the land asking UPA Government to seek an alternative channel route without damaging Rama Setu. Earlier, the Madras High Court had also directed the UPA Government to consider declaring Rama Setu as an Ancient Monument under the 1958 Act.

Instead of carrying out the court directions honestly, UPA Government and its counsel continue to politick on this issue of intense concern to millions of people of the nation whose very core identity is linked with Sri Rama and Setubandha Rameshwaram. At this Setu, every year more than 5 lakh pilgrims assemble on Ashadha amavasya day to offer homage to the ancestors through pitru-tarpanam. This sacred pilgrimage, this ecological treasure should be protected as World Heritage and bequeathed to future generations.

The contempt with which UPA Government treats Hindu sentiments is shocking beyond belief. While being ready to succumb to sentiments of some communities by changing Metro route of Delhi or amend the Constitution on Shah Banu SC judgement, it is clear that UPA Government is demonstrating only its anti-Hindu, anti-national stance.

Kalyanaraman, National President,S. Vedantam, National Secretary Rameshwaram Rama Setu Protection Movement 15 October 2008

Rama Setu: not part of Hinduism, not a place of worship; Govt. tells SC

Rama Setu: not part of Hinduism, not a place of worship; Govt. tells SC

Govt. of India led by UPA chairperson Sonia gandhi and their counsel F. Nariman have lost their credibility, to put it mildly.

What does it take to win fat fees from the exchequer? Any lie goes? Even on sworn affidavits?

kalyanaraman

Ram Setu not part of Hinduism: Govt tells SC
Agencies

Published on Tue, Oct 14, 2008 at 16:11 in Nation section

BRIDGE IN TROUBLED WATERS: Tamil Nadu CM is adamant on Sethusamudram project .

New Delhi: The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court the Ram Setu, which many Hindus believe was the bridge Lord Ram built to cross over to Lanka, was not an integral part of the religion.

The Centre’s affidavit also said the Setu, a 48-km long chain of limestone shoals, was destroyed by Lord Ram himself and is not a place of worship as claimed by some Hindu groups.

The groups say the Sethusamudram shipping canal project, which proposes building a shipping canal between India and Sri Lanka, would destroy the Setu.

The Government referred to Kamba Ramayana written by Tamil saint Kambar to support its claim. The affidavit is surprising, as the Government is examining an alternative alignment for the channel project upon a directive from the Supreme Court.

Janata Party president Subramaniam Swamy and several other organisations have filed pleas before the Supreme Court claiming Ram Setu is a place of worship and sacred to Hindus. The petitioners claim Lord Rama and his army built the Setu to reach Sri Lanka to rescue his wife.

The Centre has appointed a six-member committee to examine if an alternative route for the Sethusamudram project can be taken to save the Setu. The court is awaiting the report of the six-member committee.

The Sethusamudram project

The Sethusamudram shipping canal project proposes linking the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka by creating a shipping canal.

The project involves dredging 82.5 million cubic metres of the Adam's Bridge or the Ram Setu. When completed, the canal will be 167 km long and its estimated cost is approximately Rs 2,427 cores.

This is the country's first effort at dredging a navigation channel that is 30-40 kilometres offshore. The project promises to save travel time and cost drastically.

As of now, ships traversing from India's east coast to the west coast have to circumnavigate Sri Lanka due to this bridge located southeast of Rameswaram.

Once the canal is ready, ships can navigate through the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay, and enter the Bay of Bengal directly, thereby reducing the distance for ships by 780 km and sailing time by up to 30 hours.

http://www.ibnlive.com/printpage.php?id=75806§ion_id=3

Tuesday, October 14, 2008 3:47 PM

Ram Sethu not a place of worship: Centre
Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi, Oct 14: The Congress-led UPA government has filed a fresh affidavit in the Supreme Court on the controversial Ram Sethu issue. In the 100-page affidavit, reportedly filed on October 11, the Centre claims that Ram Sethu, or Adam’s Bridge as it is popularly known, is not a place of worship as being claimed by many religious groups and political parties.

The Centre further says that Ram Sethu is not an integral part of Hinduism and repeated its earlier claim that it no longer exists. According to the affidavit, which contains replies to various petitions filed in favour of the Ram Sethu, including by J Jayalalitha’s AIADMK, Lord Ram had himself destroyed the bridge while returning from Ravan’s Lanka (present day Sri Lanka).

Intriguingly, the Centre, which has formed a six-member committee headed by noted environmentalist Rajendra Pachouri to explore the new alignment but chose to file the latest affidavit even before the committee could come out with its findings.

Moreover, the development came days after the Centre set in motion the process of examining an alternative alignment of the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project (SSCP) following a directive from the Supreme Court.

In the first week of this month, a team of engineers had commenced a survey of the area to work out an alternative alignment.

A total of six alignments were suggested since the project was conceived. One alignment chosen was stoutly opposed by political parties, including the BJP and Shiv Sena, as it cut through the Ram Sethu.

In July also, the Centre had told the SC that it had concluded Ram Sethu does not fulfil the criteria for being declared a national monument.

(Vide www.zeenews.com dated October 14, 2008)

Ramar Sethu is not an integral part of Hindu religion: Centre

Special Correspondent (The Hindu, 15 Oct. 2008)

Hence, it does not require protection under Articles 25 and 26
Religious texts show that the bridge was built and broken by Lord Rama himself
Petitioner’s counsel Parasaran himself argued that anything broken could not be worshipped

New Delhi: Even as it awaits the R.K. Pachauri committee report on an alternative route for the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project, the Centre has reiterated in the Supreme Court that Ramar Sethu is not an integral part of Hindu religion requiring protection under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution (dealing with right to freedom of religion).

The court, while reserving verdict on July 30 on the petitions filed by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy and others challenging the implementation of the Sethusamudram project by demolishing Adam’s Bridge (Ramar Sethu), asked the parties to file written submissions. The court said the judgment would be pronounced after the experts panel submitted its report. Accordingly, the Centre filed its written submissions.

Response to petitioners

The Centre said: “Ramar Sethu does not form an integral or essential part of Hindu religion. A religious belief or practice which is not an essential and integral part of the religion is not protected by Articles 25 and 26.” This was in response to the petitioners’ argument that the destruction of Ramar Sethu would cause irreparable damage to Hindus’ religious sentiments.

Referring to the argument by senior counsel K. Parasaran (for one of the petitioners) that Ramar Sethu could not be touched as it was sacred, the Centre said: “The religious texts relied [upon] by him themselves showed that the bridge had been built and had been broken by Lord Rama himself.” Mr. Parasaran had also argued that anything broken could not be worshipped.

The Centre said the petitioner did not prove that Lord Rama himself did not break the bridge. “Nor has it been established that whatever remains of Ramar Sethu as a place of worship is an essential and integral part of the Hindu religion.”
Quoting Gazetteer of Southern India 1855, the Centre said that after returning from Sri Lanka upon His victory over Ravana, Lord Rama “took his heavy bow and with it made several breaches in the bridge so wide that nobody could pass over it on foot.”
Seeking dismissal of the petitions, the Centre said geological evidence “shows that this gap was once a bridge and it was breached during the violent storms in 1480. Operations for removing the obstacles in the channel and for deepening and widening it were begun in 1838.”

http://www.hindu.com/2008/10/15/stories/2008101556411300.htm

Swamy objects to Centre`s move in SC on Sethu project
Chennai, Oct 14: Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy on Tuesday criticised the Centre's move to submit written submissions in the Supreme Court in the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal project case, without informing principal parties in the case like him.

In a statement here, he said counsel for the Union Government had made a mention in the Supreme Court of the government's intention on the case without informing the parties concerned, which, he said, was an 'unethical behaviour' in the code of law.

These written submission did not add any weight to the argument already made by the government in the court, he said.

"What is clear, though, is that the government continues to maintain that Ramar Sethu is not an essential part of Hindu religion. The law is clear and explicit, namely, that what is to be held sacred is decided by a sizeable section of the people and not by any government or court," he said.

Bureau Report
http://www.zeenews.com/articles.asp?aid=476209&sid=REG

Friday, October 10, 2008

Campaign to declare Gulf of Mannar a World Heritage Site

Campaign to declare Gulf of Mannar a World Heritage Site
Friday, 10.10.2008, 06:35am (GMT-7)

NEW YORK: An unprecedented international campaign to protect the Gulf of Mannar from destruction by the planned Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project (SSCP) is to be launched in London, UK, next month. The Gulf of Mannar, which separates the south eastern tip of India from the west coast of Sri Lanka, is one of South Asia's largest biosphere reserves and a site of recognized scientific, environmental, religious and cultural importance. In 2006, when dredging commenced for the SSCP, in order to provide a navigation route for large vessels around the whole of the Indian peninsula, there was a chorus of disapproval from environmental, humanitarian and religious and cultural organizations worldwide.

Now, for the first time, many of these organizations are to meet to provide compelling multi-disciplinary evidence encouraging the Governments of India and Sri Lanka to ask UNESCO to designate the Gulf as a World Heritage Site.

This would effectively end plans for the SSCP and ensure the Gulf - home for many endangered plant and animal species as well as being the site of the world-famous Adam's Bridge, or Ram Sethu, a structure sacred for Hindus - is protected. The first international meeting to call for a permanent cancellation of the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project (SSCP) and for the Gulf to be designated a World Heritage Site will be held at the London headquarters of the world's oldest biological society, The Linnean Society, on November 25 and 26.

It will be attended by scientists, biologists, environmentalists, economists, NGOs, religious leaders and civic authorities worldwide. Chairing the meeting will be Peter Bunyard, a fellow of The Linnean Society, co-founder of The Ecologist magazine, and a respected worldwide authority on climate change; Dr. Ranil Senanayake, a leading systems ecologist who has worked with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the World Bank on matters of biodiversity and forest rehabilitation; Maaike Hendriks, of Both ENDS in Amsterdam. Both ENDS strives for a more sustainable and fairer world by supporting organization in developing countries to fight poverty and to work towards sustainable environmental management.

The meeting has been championed by Kusum Vyas of the Living Planet Foundation. She says many leading environmentalists and scientists recognize that the SSCP is a flawed venture which has been inaugurated without any detailed review of devastating impacts to the invaluable biodiversity of the Gulf of Mannar. She also argues the SSCP ignores critical environmental and humanitarian issues - including the impact on the livelihood of thousands of fishermen in the area - and that the project has not taken into sufficient account views expressed by environmentalists, seismologists, oceanographers and those living along the coastline.

"As world leaders contemplate ways to save the earth's environment, all responsible citizens of the global community must recognize that dredging and destroying one of the world's few remaining hotspots in terms of its exceptional biodiversity, to create a ship channel in the region of the Gulf of Mannar translates into an ecological disaster," says Kusum Vyas. "If this project goes ahead, more than 100 species of corals and thousands of sea turtles and endangered sea animals such as dolphins and dugongs will be irrevocably harmed.

We know the shipping lanes will bring pollution into the area and mankind will lose forever a part of its precious and fragile environment. Such action simply can't be justified on the grounds it is convenient for people and helps the economy. "To do so would be a sin not just against nature, but also against our own children and generations to come. On the other hand, if the governments of India and Sri Lanka work to declare the Gulf of Mannar a World Heritage site, they can leave a lasting legacy for their people and the citizens of the world."

India Post News Service
http://indiapost.com/article/usnews/4111/

Jaya dares Karunanidhi on Ram issue. Setu project closed chapter.

Jaya dares Karunanidhi on Ram issue

Chennai, Oct 11: AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa today alleged thatTamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s anti-Ram remarks have caused security risks for Tamils living in north India and dared theDMK patriarch to repeat his comments at a public meeting in Delhi.

“Karunanidhi has not visited Delhi of late as he knows that the people in north India are looking at Tamils with contempt, and also castigate him (for the remarks),” she said in a statement here.

“He is emboldened to insult Lord Ram as his party is in power in the state and he has police protection. Does he have the courage to make such remarks at a public meeting in Delhi? If he is ready (to take up the challenge), the AIADMK is prepared to bear his travel expenses,” she added.

Coming down heavily on Karunanidhi for his statements on the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project (SSCP), Jayalalithaa said the project was a “closed chapter” as there was no possibility for its completion.

http://bloglove107.sensualwriter.com/2008/10/09/jaya-dares-karunanidhi-on-ram-issue/

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Setu project: Centre engages a private firm to examine alternative alignment

Centre examines alternative alignment of SSCP project

Rameswaram, Oct 4 (PTI) The Centre has set in motion the process of examining an alternative alignment of the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel project (SSCP) following the Supreme Court directive, even as a team of engineers has commenced a survey of the area.

A 15-member team of a private firm is engaged in the inspection of the site chosen, to work out an alternative alignment. They are expected to take at least a fortnight to complete the preliminary study and submit a report, revenue and SSCP sources said.

The team commenced the work on September 29. Though a similar study had been undertaken in the same alignment earlier, it was not completed, the sources said.

The team is conducting surveys at Dhanushkodi, Old Railway Station, Kambipadu, Nadupadu, Aatruodai and Arichal Munai to know the nature of soil, and drilling operations will be done to a depth of 70 to 90 metres. The survey report in turn would be studied by the experts before taking a decision on the alternative alignment, they added.

The Centre had already constituted a six-member committee headed by noted environmental expert Rajendra Pachouri, to explore the new alignment.

A meeting of the experts with the SSCP and Dredging Corporation of India officials was also held in August last when it was decided to take up a survey on the new alignment.

A total of six alignments were suggested since the project was conceived. One alignment chosen was stoutly opposed by political parties, including BJP and Shiv Sena, as it cut through the Ramar Sethu, popularly known as Adams bridge. PTI

http://www.ptinews.com/pti\ptisite.nsf/0/506279E063E9A61E652574D90026ED94?OpenDocument

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Abandon Setu project. Develop Vizhinjam Container port

Here is a detailed article on Colombo port and the possibility of developing Vizhinjam as a container port on the west coast to provide for a world-class container terminal.

Government of India should just give up the Setusamudram project and focus on Vizhinjam port development.

About Vizhinjam port

Vizhinjam is an all - weather port and the international shipping line is just 10 nautical mile off its coast.

The Vizhinjam Port is clearly positioning itself to become Colombo’s direct competitor.

The Port’s official website says that, “Vizhinjam has more advantages compared to the Colombo port, and if developed can harbour even Panamax class and futuristic vessels. It also satisfies the physical and hydrographical parameters of modern seaports.”

The Port’s unique selling point is a natural depth of 24 meters which the Indian government claims is by far the best compared to other ports in the world - even those of New York, Southampton, Singapore, Dubai, Colombo, Hong Kong whose depth is only 15 meters.

The proposed Vizhinjam port, which is being marketed as a Green-field project, away from urban/city limit was originally just a fishing village and had to be developed completely from scratch.

The only claim to shipping, this village which lies 15 kms from Thiruvananthapuram and two kms South of Kovalam has, is its historic origins as the capital of Ayvel Kings of the 8th and 9th century.

The new Port, according to the available information from different websites has all the ingredients to turn out as an efficient, modern and highly productive one, and India is inviting international players with experience in developing the world’s high capacity modern ports, to submit their proposals.

The Port is also expected to attract a large share of the container transshipment traffic which is now being diverted to Colombo, Singapore and Dubai. It can also ensure the much needed economic development of India as well as open up immense job opportunities.

The proposed deepwater international container transshipment terminal at Vizhinjam is expected to bring down the total costs of movement of containers to and from foreign destinations, according to the Container Shipment Economics Study.
At present, India’s port capacity (12 major Indian ports) is a meagre 4.61 million TEUs/annum compared with China’s capacity of 50 million TEUs, almost 11 times that of India’s.

Vizhinjam Port alone will have the capacity of 4.10 million TEUs/annum.

Kalyanaraman

http://www.nation.lk/2008/10/05/newsfe5.htm Kerala port casts shadow over Colombo harbour’s future

Kerala port casts shadow over Colombo harbour’s future

“Chief Engineer Southern Port Development of the SLPA Janaka Kurukulasuriya did admit that Colombo port could be hit due to the development of ports in India. But added it was not a major worry.
“Capacity at Port of Colombo is nearly 4.5 m TEC and once the completion of the full expansion project it will be 14 m TEU.
“Our growth rate at present is 10%. We are closely monitoring all the development that takes place in India.
“It is true that we are little bit late, but not too late. Our schedule is to commence the operation of first terminal in the first quarter of 2012.”
By Wilson Gnanadass
Fresh questions are being raised as to whether Colombo harbour which has been acclaimed as one of the best transshipment hubs in the world, could continue to stake that claim with the advent of another major port in Kerala, India.
If Sri Lanka’s pride has been the port of Colombo, for its efficient and effective operation as a transshipment hub, doubts have now been cast. Soon the Colombo harbour may lose its splendor due to the emergence of other ports in the region.
It is not known how much and to what extent the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has taken this threat seriously. However, the SLPA, it is learnt has opted to face the challenge.

The Colombo harbour, considered to be a well equipped transshipment port, has highly specialised infrastructure facilities for handling different types of freight, and acts as a switching point for cargo carried by deep sea vessels operating on trans-continental trade routes.

The SLPA has been successful in recording significant revenue from the transshipment business and according to the latest information has handled its highest ever monthly throughput of 185,099 Twenty – Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) last August, against its previous highest monthly throughput of 173, 583 TEUs recorded in last July. According to the SLPA it is a positive change of 11,516 TEUs.

Parallel to these standards, the port of Colombo has also been able to exceed its previous highest ever monthly throughput of 326,124 TEUs recorded in July 2008, up to 340,240 TEUs last August marking the latest highest ever monthly throughput record.

No doubt, these figures are direct indications of growth and stability of a port that has gained international recognition right throughout – an achievement, every Sri Lankan can be proud of.

Saturation point
Be that as it may, every business venture has to end at one point after reaching its saturation point, if no long term plan to expand the same venture is taken up with foresight and vision.
Going by the figures produced by the SLPA the Colombo port has handled 2,455,293 TEUs in 2005 and 3, 079, 086 TEUs in 2006 and 3,381,342 TEUs in 2007.

The capacity of both terminals (Jaya Container Terminal and the South Asian Gateway Terminal) is only 4.1 Million TEUs.
Similarly, India’s growth (which is Sri Lanka’s main catchment area) is around 15 % to 20% per annum. This would mean that by the end of 2008, if an all out effort to attract the Lankan share of the Indian volumes to be transshipped over Colombo is made, then the port of Colombo will be close to its optimum capacity.

Realising this, the SLPA has already put its act together, planning on developing another terminal.
According to SLPA sources the work is functioning smoothly and operations at the new terminal are expected to commence in the first quarter of 2012.

Hidden threat
The SLPA cannot be blind to the hidden threat posed by the fast emerging Vizhinjam port in Kerala, which is set to directly compete with the Colombo port also by the year 2012.
Wide publicity has already been given to the Vizhinjam port in the Indian newspapers and the websites.
Vizhinjam, a sleepy fishing village on the western Kerala coast of India, will soon become an important cog in the country’s transshipment business.

The Vizhinjam port project which failed to obtain approval for nearly two decades, has finally been given sanction by the central government of India, according to Indian State Ports Minister M. Vijayakumar.
The port according to the available information in different websites, will fulfill the need of providing transshipment on the Indian coast, as at present there is no existing Container Transshipment Terminal in India to cater to this need.
Annual container traffic close to four million TEUs is currently originating or destined to India through sea route with CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 14% during the last decade.

About Vizhinjam port
Vizhinjam is an all - weather port and the international shipping line is just 10 nautical mile off its coast.
The Vizhinjam Port is clearly positioning itself to become Colombo’s direct competitor.
The Port’s official website says that, “Vizhinjam has more advantages compared to the Colombo port, and if developed can harbour even Panamax class and futuristic vessels. It also satisfies the physical and hydrographical parameters of modern seaports.”

The Port’s unique selling point is a natural depth of 24 meters which the Indian government claims is by far the best compared to other ports in the world - even those of New York, Southampton, Singapore, Dubai, Colombo, Hong Kong whose depth is only 15 meters.
The proposed Vizhinjam port, which is being marketed as a Green-field project, away from urban/city limit was originally just a fishing village and had to be developed completely from scratch.

The only claim to shipping, this village which lies 15 kms from Thiruvananthapuram and two kms South of Kovalam has, is its historic origins as the capital of Ayvel Kings of the 8th and 9th century.
The new Port, according to the available information from different websites has all the ingredients to turn out as an efficient, modern and highly productive one, and India is inviting international players with experience in developing the world’s high capacity modern ports, to submit their proposals.

The Port is also expected to attract a large share of the container transshipment traffic which is now being diverted to Colombo, Singapore and Dubai. It can also ensure the much needed economic development of India as well as open up immense job opportunities.

The proposed deepwater international container transshipment terminal at Vizhinjam is expected to bring down the total costs of movement of containers to and from foreign destinations, according to the Container Shipment Economics Study.
At present, India’s port capacity (12 major Indian ports) is a meagre 4.61 million TEUs/annum compared with China’s capacity of 50 million TEUs, almost 11 times that of India’s.

Vizhinjam Port alone will have the capacity of 4.10 million TEUs/annum. This matter has to be looked at in the light of India not giving up on developing the Sethusamurdram project. The study, carried out by IL&FS Infrastructure Development Corporation and Hauer Associates, has also found that the Sethusamudram project will promote inter-coastal movements of Indian cargo, enhancing the potential of Vizhinjam as a transshipment hub.

Indian gateway ports
On the other hand, the present Indian gateway ports do not attract a sufficient number of mainline vessels due to inadequate facilities and the distance from international shipping routes.
As of now, about 61 per cent of Indian export/import containers are transshipped through the nearby foreign ports of Colombo, Singapore and Salalah (Oman.)

This results in an additional burden of upto $200 per TEU of cargo interests with freight paid by Indian exporters being 11.4 per cent of the c.i.f (cost, insurance, freight) value of goods as against the world average of 6.1 per cent.
With Vizhimjam port draft being 24 ft it will be able to attract the post Panamax container ships.

Plight
With a capacity of four million TEUs per annum, the Vizhinjam port will have the same capacity of the Colombo Port and with a draft far exceeding Colombo’s harbour depth, the chances of Colombo harbour becoming less attractive to mainliners, is a definite possibility.

For the Colombo Port this may well mean the end of an era. The monopoly Colombo now enjoys over sea routes in this part of the world might become a thing of the past, come 2012.
Sri Lanka has held sway over this industry for centuries now, because of her strategic location and ideal conditions of Colombo harbour.

The relatively new transshipment business came easily to Sri Lanka due to Indian ports not having the depth and capacity to handle the big ships.
Therefore it has been convenient for India to ship containers on smaller vessels from her southern ports to Colombo, where it is mixed and matched to various destinations in the world.

This makes sense so long as the Colombo Port has capacity to handle the expanding transshipment business (which was about 15 per cent year on year). But here lies the catch – the Port of Colombo is coming to the end of its capacity quite soon. Sometime next year Colombo harbour might hit a dead end when the port reaches saturation point.

Notwithstanding the location of Vizhinjam in the Deep South, cargo interests in the southern, northern and western regions may find it more viable to use the port as a gateway/transshipment terminal instead of Colombo, Singapore or Salalah. This means the hinterland of the port may extend to the western and northern parts of the country.
Once the new port has been constructed, Indian exporters will not have to travel to Dubai or Singapore for transshipment of cargo. It is expected to save Rs 1000 crores in expenditure.

According to IIM Students in Bangalore, with India’s current capacity for handling cargo is nearing saturation, a new port is a necessity, and Vizhinjam can fill that void extremely well.
The students in an article to the Economic Times, India have said that US $ 150 is levied in Colombo for transshipment and US $ 130 in Dubai and Singapore for the same.
They have therefore said that India can not only garner a substantial portion of this fee, but also save a lot of money if her ships break their bulk at Indian ports.

“A single container transshipped from Colombo port to Cochin incurs an expense of US $ 1,200. If it was directly landed at Cochin it would cost only US $ 400. Eight per cent of Indian containers are transshipped at Colombo, Singapore and Dubai and Indian ships account for 60 to 70 % of Colombo’s traffic,” they have said in their article.
Considering the shipping volume for the Asian region, the total transshipment cargo is expected to increase by 80%, 70% and 200 % for Colombo, Singapore and Port Klang respectively.

The IIM students from Bangalore in their article to the Economic Times India have therefore suggested that with proper planning Vizhinjam can expect to corner a significant chunk of the shipping volumes forecast to go to Colombo, along with a part of the volumes heading for Singapore and Klang.

Fears expressed
The fast development of Vizhinjam which is sure to gobble a major portion of the earnings by the SLPA, has raised concerns among most of the feeder shipping agents.
A senior official attached to a feeder shipping agency told The Nation that if proper steps were not taken to develop the Colombo harbour rapidly, then Sri Lanka was in for trouble.

“At its current status, the Colombo port will not be able to provide berth to some of the big ships in the future. This does not mean that we have to panic when ports in India are coming up. But if there is an undue delay in the development of the Colombo port then there can be a problem,” he said.

He said when the ships planned their services, they planned 18 months ahead of their services. He added that if Colombo was not prepared with a product plan, then these ships can easily look elsewhere.
He said the Colombo port has commenced the breakwater project already and added the development of the terminal can take place only ten months after the commencement of the breakwater project.

The top official said that normally the target time frame to complete a terminal was around three years, and added if the work was not completed in the Colombo port by 2012, then larger ships will be calling elsewhere, and the bulk of the transshipment volume could thus get diverted.
http://www.nation.lk/2008/10/05/newsfe5.htm