Is Baalu a qualified marine engineer,'asks Jaya

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Chennai, Jan 26 (UNI) AIADMK Supremo J Jayalalithaa today sought to know whether Union Shipping Minister T R Baalu was a qualified marine engineer to question the technical opinion of the Naval Chief of the country.

Referring to reports in the media on strong criticism made by Baalu against Naval Chief Admiral Suresh Mehta's remark on the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project (SSCP), Ms Jayalalithaa, in a statement here said ''people are now wondering whether he (Baalu) is really a qualified marine engineer.'' She said Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, who had recently remarked whether Lord Rama was an engineer or had obtained degree in engineering to construct Ram Sethu, wondered from which college did Baalu pass out in marine engineering.

''Is he a member in any of the Indian or foreign naval schools or is he a naval engineer,'' she asked.

Ms Jayalalithaa said 'Baalu has 'no authority to question the technical opinion of the country's Naval Chief.'' ''Baalu is not the Defence Minister of the country. Only the Cabinet or the Prime Minister can intervene in such issues, especially where national security is concerned,'' she said.

Reiterating her stand against the construction of SSCP, she said the project would not only affect the livelihood of fishermen but also destroy a heritage structure.

Naval Chief Admiral Suresh Mehta had reportedly made an observation in the city last week that the SSCP was 'useful only for small vessels and not for big ships sailing on international routes.' According to media reports, Baalu, in his letter to Defence Minister A K Antony, had termed the remark of Naval Chief as 'unfortunate.' UNI SNR RSA HT1538

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