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The statement by the government in Parliament that satellite imagery cannot provide “direct information” about the origin and age of the structure in the Ram Setu region comes even as a prolonged litigation initiated by former Rajya Sabha member Subramanian Swamy to declare the Ram Setu a national heritage monument lies pending in the Supreme Court.
The hearing on this petition has been adjourned repeatedly because the Union government has not filed an affidavit making its stand clear on Mr. Swamy’s plea.
In the last hearing on November 10, a Bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud asked the government why it was “dragging its feet” even for filing an affidavit.
The government, interestingly, replied that the affidavit was ready but was waiting for the approval of the Ministry concerned. The court’s four-week deadline since then to file it is over. Advocate Satyapaul Sabharwal told The Hindu that the Union government has not filed its reply.
However, while the Centre came across as reluctant to show its cards on the issue in the Supreme Court, the verbatim debates on the Ram Setu in the Rajya Sabha indicate that satellite images had hardly helped to pin-point the nature of the structure.
“The history dates back to more than 18,000 years and if you go by history, that bridge was about 56 km long. Yes, to some extent, through space technology we have been able to discover pieces and islands, some kind of limestone shoals, which of course, can’t be accurately said to be remnants or parts of a bridge,” Union Minister Dr. Jitendra Singh said in the Rajya Sabha recently.
The Minister, though doubting the accuracy, however went on to acknowledge that there was a “certain amount of continuity in location through which some surmises can be drawn”.
“So, what I am trying to say in short is that it is difficult to actually pinpoint the exact structure that existed there, but there is some kind of an indication, direct or indirect, that those structures have existed,” the Minister left the debate open.
Ram Setu, also known as Adam’s bridge, is a chain of limestone shoals between between Pamban Island or Rameswaram Island, off the south-eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, and Mannar Island, off the north-western coast of Sri Lanka.
Mr. Swamy had raised the issue of declaring Ram Setu as a national monument in his PIL plea against the controversial Sethusamudram Ship Channel project, initiated by the UPA-I government.
The matter had reached the apex court, which in 2007 stayed the work for the project on the Ram Setu.
The Centre later said it considered the “socio-economic disadvantages” of the project and was willing to explore another route to the shipping channel project without damaging the Ram Setu.
(This reporting was first published in The Hindu on Dec 27, 2022)
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