Saturday, November 22, 2008

'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.

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