All parties in Tamil Nadu, including the BJP, on Thursday voted for a resolution urging the union government to continue the shelved Sethusamudram project that would create a sea link between the western and eastern coasts of India without the need to go around Sri Lanka.
"The house expresses concern that continues delay in execution of this project will be a stumbling block for the development and growth of Tamil Nadu," the resolution passed by the assembly read.
Moved by Chief Minister MK Stalin, the resolution amplifies the demand for the project, citing the recent statement by the Union Minister of Science and Technology Jitendra Singh on Adam's Bridge or "Ram Setu" in which he said even though there were "some indication", it was "difficult" to say whether a land link of religious significance, as described in the Indian epic Ramayana, actually existed between India and Sri Lanka.
Conceived in 1860 by the British, the Sethusamudram project aims to connect the eastern and western coasts of India so ships do not have to circumnavigate Sri Lanka, reducing travel time and distance. But the project has faced opposition from religious groups because it would require the dredging and deepening of a shallow stretch of the Palk Strait, which is said to be part of the Ram Setu.
A dream project of DMK founder Anna Durai and pushed by late Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, the Sethusamudram project was greenlit during Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's BJP-led government.
The Rs 2,400-crore initiative was finally launched by the Congress-led regime of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but the was stopped in 2007 by the Supreme Court following protests by Hindu groups on religious grounds and red flags by some environmentalists.
The recent statement by the Union Science Minister in parliament revived hopes that the project would be started again once the government informs the Supreme Court of its findings.
The BJP, which had opposed the project earlier, supported the resolution on Thursday.
Nainar Nagendran, the BJP's leader in the house, said, "We support this resolution. We would welcome the project if it would not affect Ram Setu. None would be happier than us in the south (south Tamil Nadu) if the project becomes a reality."
Introducing the resolution, Chief Minister MK Stalin said, "The BJP had opposed it. Ms Jayalalithaa who supported later made a U-turn. Had this project been completed, it would have developed southern Tamil Nadu. Fishermen would have benefited. 50,000 direct and indirect jobs would have been generated".