The Centre’s decision to withdraw its affidavit on the Ram Setu issue has left the ruling DMK red faced at a time when the party was set for its annual three-day commemorative meet and the launch of its channel Kalaignar TV on Saturday.
The Centre’s all-out effort to appease the Hindu community is proving particularly irksome for Tamil Nadu Chief
Minister M Karunanidhi and Union Shipping Minister TR Baalu. The two had consistently derided the Ram Setu controversy as a mere diversionary ploy to delay the Setusamudram Project and observed that development projects cannot be derailed by unfounded religious beliefs.
Baalu is eager to complete the Rs 2,300 crore project before the December, 2008 deadline and the Centre’s move to appoint a panel to re-examine the Ram Setu issue will delay it.
Dredging in the vicinity of the bridge has already come to a halt after the Supreme Court’s stay order. If the Committee chooses an alternate path for the canal, without disturbing the Ram Setu, it would require a fresh environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the new route.
The high-pitched protests over Ram Setu have drowned the deleterious impact the canal can have on the environment and fishermen’s livelihood. “First, it was the tsunami that affected our catch. And now, this dredging will further drive away the fish,” observed Anton Gomez, president of the National Union of Fishermen.
However, considering the DMK’s clout in Delhi, the party may try once again to push through its pet project.