Govt preparing ground, dump Setu Project': BJP

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New Delhi, Feb 1: Taking note of the statement of Coast Guard Director General stating that the Setu Samudram would be a security threat, the BJP today said that the UPA Government appears to be 'preparing ground' for dumping the project in the face of growing opposition to breaching Ram Setu, the oldest bridge built across the sea in any part of the world.

Senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi today said that the statement from the Coast Guard DG was obviously an effort to wriggle out of the problem because an official of this rank could not be expected to give out their own views. ''His assessment that the SSP is a 'security threat' was not new because the Navy and other concerned institutions had always been contending that the breaching of Ram Setu is not advisable not just on security reasons but also because of several international ramifications.

The Government was aware of the security threats but went ahead with the controversial alignment and went to the extent of questioning the existence of Lord Rama for the reasons best known to them. I had written to PM as early as March 2007 highlighting all these dangers but they chose to ignore it,'' he said.

Now when the public opinion is ranged against breaching the Setu across the country, the Government was trying an escape route. "If they want to dump the present alignment they should openly say so and should not hide behind the shield -- 'security threat'.

Nobody will fault with the government gracefully concedes that 'wrongs had been committed' and it would not proceed with the present alignment, Dr Joshi a prominant Minister in the previous NDA Government, and the key BJP leader dealing with the Ram Setu controversy said.

Asked regarding the Congress claim that it was NDA which had cleared the alignment, Dr Joshi said he was not privy to the decision but even if some wrong decision had been taken that did not mean the UPA should continue the mistake. After this decision, the Tsunami had struck the country causing havoc on the vast eastern coastal line. Noted international experts had cautioned that the breaching of the Ram Sethu would increase the Tsunami threats to south Kerala and the western coasts.

He said the BJP was not aginst the SSP and it could come up with a land-based alignment without breaching Ram Setu. Regarding the argument that the land based alignment would increase the costs, he said such arguments were specious and the costs of destroying the international heritage, damaging the rich thorium deposits and to the marine environment in the region was much more damaging.

Asked if the BJP would change the decision if the NDA were to come to power, Dr Joshi said the project would be reconsidered by the new government and take a decision after weighing all the pros and cons. We will protect Ram Setu. The project in its present form will not bring any economic benefits to the country because it will not allow the passage of any huge cargo ships,'' he said.

He said even when Sri Lanka is admitting the existance of Lord Rama and Hanuman and the Ram Setu, he failed to see reason in India's perverse argument that the the bridge also known as 'Adam's Bridge' was a natural formation. Marine archeologists who have studied the sediments had assessed that it was a 'manmade bridge' dating back to at least 13,000 years.

UNI

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