After tasting success in pushing the government to vote against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Commission last week, DMK leaders are in no mood to appear soft on the Ram Sethu issue.
DMK MPs, belonging to Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, led by its leader T R Baalu met UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on March 29 in this regard, and said “any weakened response” on the issue would only “expose the betrayal of hope and promise” given to Tamil Nadu.
As the Supreme Court gave more time to the UPA government to decide whether the mythological Ram Setu could be declared a national monument, the DMK began to mount pressure to quicken the legal process over the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project, which it said is essential for the economic development of Tamil Nadu.
The Sethusamudram project is open up a shipping channel by breaking up limestone shells and shores called Ram’s Bridge or Ram to link the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka to allow large ships to get to the eastern coast of the country from the western coast without having to navigate through Sri Lanka, as they do now.
Besides saving navigation, the project is supposed to speed up Tamil Nadu’s coastal areas, with Tuticorin as its main port and 13 smaller ports across the state.
According to DMK leaders, after major portions of the work were completed and only 22 km of dredging work left, “some vested interests” approached the Supreme Court and obtained a stay. The Centre is said to have already spent Rs 800 crore on dredging work for the project.
It was during the UPA-I, Baalu as surface transport minister had got the project going before the Hindu groups and AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa called for a halt, citing environmental and religious reasons. She had moved the Supreme Court in 2007 asking for the declaration of the structure as a national monument.
On Thursday, DMK chief M Karunanidhi was prompted to send the delegation to Sonia Gandhi after Jayalalithaa wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, asking the Centre to declare Ram Sethu as a ‘national monument” without further delay. Her response followed the apex Court seeking the Centre’s opinion in this regard.
A DMK memoram handed to V Narayanaswamy, minister of state in the Prime Minister’s office, recalled the Prime Minister had inaugurated the project in July 2005 in the presence UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Karunanidhi. The Congress chief had then
“expressed her desire in the presence of thousands of people that work should be completed within the stipulated time frame
of three years.”