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Centre to await Supreme Court orders on alignment issue: Baalu

Special Correspondent

Says UPA Government committed to completing Sethusamudram project

“There is no need for any rescheduling”

“Change in alignment will have environmental impact”

Chennai: Asserting that the United Progressive Alliance Government was committed to completing the Sethusamudram project on schedule, Union Minister of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways T.R. Baalu said here on Saturday that his Ministry would wait for the Supreme Court’s orders on the alignment issue.

“We are going ahead with the project and my Ministry will endeavour to complete it by December next year. There is no need for any rescheduling, though there has been a minor setback to the project,” he told reporters.

Arguing that any change in the alignment would have an environmental impact, he said about Rs.600 crore had been spent on dredging and related activities.

Asked if he was ruling out scope for change in alignment, he replied: “Don’t put your words in my mouth. I will wait for the apex court orders and then chalk out the future course of action.”

Saying he would not answer hypothetical queries about what the Centre would do if the Supreme Court gave an adverse ruling, Mr. Baalu asked the media to think and report positively about the project, which, he averred, would further boost economic growth.

He said the alternative alignment being proposed by the BJP was rejected by the Union Environment Ministry in 1999, during the NDA regime. Though the entire project, including the present alignment, was approved by the NDA regime, the BJP leaders were now trying to whip up religious passions to gain political mileage.

Asked about Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s remark that he was not averse to an alternative alignment to ensure early completion of the project, Mr. Baalu said his leader had made that remark “out of anguish,” when persistently asked whether he was bent upon “destroying” the Ramar Sethu.

“I do not see any such thing as Ramar Sethu and I know only Adam’s bridge,” Mr. Baalu said. “I am sad the media are also ill-informed about the status of the project. It is a prestigious project.”

Admitting that a junior-level officer of the Archaeological Survey of India had made a minor mistake while filing the Government affidavit in the Supreme Court, he said the media had not highlighted the Government’s corrective course of action.

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