Why BJP Opposes ‘Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project’

The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) suffered a big jolt when its opposition to the Sethusamudram Project could not be sustained on geological enquiry and scientific investigations. In fact, RSS had placed its confidence in the theory propounded by “Dr.” Puneesh Taneja who had been associated with the RSS for about two years and had earned…

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PROF. M.A. HAQUE

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The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) suffered a big jolt when its opposition to the Sethusamudram Project could not be sustained on geological enquiry and scientific investigations. In fact, RSS had placed its confidence in the theory propounded by “Dr.” Puneesh Taneja who had been associated with the RSS for about two years and had earned proximity even with the Sarsanghchalak K.S. Sudarshan. Taneja posed as a Senior Research Scientist in India Space Research Organisation, Ph.D. and officer in Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) holding the rank of Additional Secretary, Govt. of India who was researching on Sethusamudram Project. He succeeded in becoming a full time pracharak in 2005 and securing from RSS a flat in NOIDA from where he operated.

THE PROJECT

The Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project envisages the dredging of a shipping channel across Palk Straits between India and Sri Lanka. The Project is designed to deepen the channel so as to allow modern ships have to navigate from the west and east of India. At present ships have to navigate around the Sri Lanka coast to reach destinations on east or west side. The project has been undertaken as a joint venture by several shipping corporations in the public sector. The Project was inaugurated by the Prime Minister and had an initial equity from the Government of India

BENEFITS TO FLOW FROM THE PRIJECT

Once the Project is completed, it will reduce the distance by as much as 424 nautical miles and 36 hours of sailing time while moving from east to west or west to east of India through the navigation path in the sea without undertaking longer route of circumscribing major portion of Sri Lanka. Indeed it would be a spectacular achievement, much the same way as navigation through Suez Canal under possession of Egypt resulted in tremendous reduction in time and cost of journeying by the adoption of a much shorter route and avoiding the earlier route encompassing Africa. Egypt’s hold on the canal, snatched in 1956 boosted its economy tremendously. The earlier trade between the west and east was drastically cut leading to quick movement at cheap cost. They say time is money; cutting travel time will help trade of many perishable items also on this route besides quicker movement of many other cargos. This will go a long way to boost considerable economic activity resulting in prosperity to the region. Thus the advantages of promoting maritime trade through this Project are obvious; the desirability of taking up the Project cannot be debated in the light of social necessity, scientific and geological findings, economic viability and national interest.

BJP’s STIFF OPPOSITION

The main opposition by BJP, over-riding multifarious economic and other advantages, is on the if-perceived notion that it will destroy the famous bridge mentioned in the Ramayana, built by Rama for the purpose of launching an attack on Lanka to rescue Sita. The emotional touch of mythology restrains BJP from the developmental works. This ‘mythological bridge’ is named as Adam’s Bridge suggesting that, if at all such a bridge existed, it had some relation with Adam (peace be with him), the first man on earth, who is consider so by followers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is noteworthy that followers of these three religions are not putting up any resistance to the execution of the Project. It is strange that BJP’s opposition persists to this day even though a test revealed otherwise. The then ruling coalition called NDA (with BJP as the biggest constituent) had ordered as enquiry to arrive at the truth. The truth as revealed by the Geological Survey of India, on the basis of the tests and investigations conducted by it, is that the Bridge alignment is a palaeographical formation dating back to hundreds of thousands of years. The theory of its having been a man-made construction was disproved. Based on these scientific findings, the then NDA Government allocated a sum of Rs. five crores for a feasibility study in the 2000-01 budget. The decision was to implement the Project to benefit from it.

SCIENTIFIC & GEOLOGICAL STUDIES

Scientific advances and development of geological techniques of ascertaining the age of formation of a debatable structure or geological entity help us to map fairly accurately the movement of the land mass. It takes place on our planet Earth through shift of tectonic plates, Along with the mapping of geological ages of our planet, the mapping also indicates corresponding organic life which existed at that far-off point of time, along with the physical changes that have occurred over this period. It has been shown that in India and elsewhere in the world, major result of glaciations in each Ice Age, was the great fall in the sea level as enormous bodies of water were kept frozen in large ice sheets in North-Western Europe and Northern America. Contrast this with the present day threats of submergence of cities located on sea shores reportedly by melting of glaciers due to excessive heat caused by global warming. It is estimated that the sea level in the last Ice Age which began 1.8 million years ago and ended some 10,000 years ago was 100 to 150 metres below the present mean sea level. Such a retreat of the sea in the Ice Age results in Gulfs becoming stretch of dry land. Consequently, Sri Lanka was joined to South India by a broad belt of land around Adam’s Bridge. Keeping these scientific facts in mind, the BJP must admit that the politicisation of the issue on the basis of so-called religious faith and emotionality associated with any thing related to Rama, be it the ‘Ram Sethu’, drawing strength from the epic of Ramayana was against the national interest. It has delayed the execution of the Project by a few years, escalating the cost by several tens of crores besides economic benefits remaining held up for long for no sound reason.

PUNEESH TANEJA’s ROLE

The last day of the Budget session in Parliament which is known for comprehensive debates and unbiased dialogues was witness to heated debates on ‘Ram Sethu’ or ‘Sethusamudram’ generating a lot of heat but no light. The BJP adopted a tough positive on the Project which is essentially aimed at economic development. It mixed the logic with emotions, and wanted mythology to be history and religious fervour to become a substitute for scientific decision-making based on investigation and compilation of relevant facts. The man who gave oxygen to the unsustainable primeval mythological mention of ‘Ram Sethu’ turned out to be a fraud as his claims about himself in all respects, ranging from his qualification, employment details, organisation he claimed to serve, his present job in PMO, perceived threat to his life, all proved wrong.

It is indeed amazing how RSS took all his claims on their face value and never bothered to get them verified, not even when they appointed him a full time pracharak whose antecedents, as a rule, have to be verified. It was all the more easy to get facts about him because he was living in no small town in some non-descript corner of the country but claimed himself to be working in PMO and holding the rank of Additional Director. The facts about him could have been gathered by a mere phone call. Besides the very fact of his appearance along with Mr. Ashok Singhal of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) at a press conference must have raised eye-brows and called for a thorough probe as no senior officer would act against service conduct rules by aligning with a political party or one on the other side of the government.

Moreover, his seeking protection from Mr. Ram Madhav of RSS instead of approaching police for the same authoritatively even though himself a government officer, speaks volumes about his wayward conduct and bonafides. Still more suspicion raiser was his reportedly availing of leave for a long period of two years. Even his claim of originally belonging to ISRO was not sufficient to wake them up from deep slumber of inaction.

PURI SHANKARACHARAYA’S VIEWS IGNORED

The RSS formulated its argument against the Project on the opinion and advice of the fake scientist. While doing so, it ignored the time tested principle that human progress is dependent on including a scientific temperament and strengthening spirit of free enquiry and rising above untenable preconceived notions. Moreover, the strong opinion of the Shankarachaya of Govardhan Math of Puri who favoured the Project was also not considered. Jagatguru Swami Adhokshanand Tirathiji Maharaj, one of the four Shankaracharyas of the main Maths of the Hindu faith had opined, “It is a good project that will give employment to the people of Tamil Nadu.” Having lost out on Ayodhya, organisations like RSS and VHP want to use the issue to incite people to violence.

Will the BJP/RSS/VHP now see the reason and work for the uplift of the country by not opposing this potentially good project for the present and future generations?