M K observes fast over Sethusamudram project

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Chennai, Oct 1: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi is on a day-long hunger strike today demanding early completion of the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project. Leaders of other parties of the Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA) are also observing the fast. Karunanidhi's decision to go on a fast came soon after the Supreme Court on Sunday stayed today's shutdown call given by his party Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) led ruling alliance in Tamil Nadu.

Declining to comment on the apex court order, Karunanidhi said that instead of shutdown, they would observe fast. "There are many obstacles that are trying to hinder the progress of Tamil Nadu. So, we are raising objections through this hunger strike," he said.

Hearing a petition filed by the AIADMK challenging the shutdown call, an apex court bench headed by acting Chief Justice B N Aggarwal on Sep 30 ruled that the proposed shutdown was unconstitutional, and if observed, it could go against the court's directive on the issue.

The AIADMK in its petition contended that the shutdown call was unwarranted, as the matter relating to the canal project is already pending before the Supreme Court.

The Karunanidhi led party had been protesting to impress upon the Centre to get the Supreme Court stay on the project off the Tamil Nadu coast vacated.

The case is currently pending before the apex court. The Sethusamudram Project will dredge a channel in a narrow strip of sea between India and Sri Lanka, reducing distances and cutting costs for freight traffic for ships moving from Arabian Sea to Bay of Bengal.

However, Hindu groups have been opposing the 560 million dollars project, saying it would destroy the 'holy' Ram Sethu, a 48-kilometre chain of limestone shoals that once linked Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu to Mannar in Sri Lanka.

According to the Central Government, research has shown that the Ram Setu was a series of sand shoals created by sedimentation, but according to Hindus the narrow link, also known as Adam's Bridge, was built by Lord Rama.

Dredging for the project began in 2005 and the channel -- 12 metres deep, 300 metres wide and almost 90 km long -- will provide a crucial link between the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar.


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