Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sethusamudram Project

Sethusamudram Project involves dredging a ship channel between India and Sri Lanka across Palk Straits. This involves dredging through Adam’s Bridge – a coral group of islands between India and Sri Lanka). This is supposedly going to reduce the maritime distance and also allow local sea ports to proliferate.

I don’t have a stand on this project. I don’t know much about it. I don’t know if the economic benefits from this project are going to exceed the marine and ecological losses that we are going to incur. Even if they do, I am not sure if we should go ahead and proceed with this. However, the discussion is no longer the fight between liberals & left (who usually oppose projects that harm nature and environs) and the authority, but between the right wing enthusiasts and the supposed minority-government which is headed by non-Hindus. (Both Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi are non-Hindu).

Leftwing and Rightwing join hands

Only in India will you see right wing and left wing joining hands to a fight an issue. Here in India, feminists, the left and the right wing have similar stance- either it is protest against Miss Universe pageant, or an effort to teach villagers on sanitary health practices, or in this protest against Sethusamudram project. We are not assured which of these groups will eventually lead the fight on a particular issue. A protest against water shortage in a small town can spiral into a right wing and left wing action against globalization (protest against Coca Cola bottling plant because they were using lot of water). An ordinary kiss by Richard Gere planted on seductive and sultry actress Shilpa Shetty can plummet the whole nation into a debate as to what is Bharat Sanskruti. Both left wing and right wing have joined hands to protest this infamous kiss. Left wing and feminists, because they cannot tolerate a Westerner taking such liberty with woman of the East, and right wing, because they think it is against the Indian value system. In the same way, this project, irrespective of whether it will affect marine life or whether it will give enough economic benefit, has spiraled into a religious movement. How, one may ask!

Why rightwing opposes this project?

The religious Hindus are opposed to this. Not because they think it affects the marine biology or because it is expensive but because they think that this Adam’s Bridge is nothing but a construction by Lord Rama (of Ramayana) used by Rama to invade Lanka According to mythology (as foretold in Ramayana), Rama constructed a bridge with the help of army of monkeys to invade Lanka. So, these experts suggest that this Adam’s bridge between India and Sri Lanka is indeed the same bridge that Rama constructed. Some of them, in an attempt to gleefully satisfy this theory have even suggested that Rama and his cohorts existed more than 1.7 million years ago to coincide with the time this formation happened.

Ridiculous arguments

The problem with these educated-but-religious people is that they start using scientific, political and other sociological reasons to object to this religious belief. One of them posits the following argument:

As per Hindu scriptures, we have four Yugas comprising 4.32 million years. 40% of this time is Satyuga, 30% Treta, 20% Dwapar and 10% Kalyuga. Lord Rama was born in Treta Yuga. This Vikram Samwat 2064 corresponds to Kaliyuga era 5109. Add 832000 years of Dwapar and around half of Treta and total becomes around 1669000 years. And this is approximately 1.7 millions year ago- which coincides with certain archeological estimates of 1.7 million years, thereby proving that indeed this bridge was built by Rama.

First, there is no evidence whatsoever in human history that there was any human population in the Indian subcontinent 1.7 million years ago. Second, these dates for Ramayana are ludicrous. Indus Valley Civilization which predates Ganges settlement (that spawned Vedic civilization) is less than 6000 years old. So, if Rama ever existed he should have existed not earlier than 4000 BC. Today’s article on Rig Veda dates it between 1800BC and 1500BC.

Modern societies, such as kingdoms, cities, etc, did not appear before advent of agriculture. And that happened less than 15,000 years ago after the last Ice Age. Prior to that there were NO settlements- no cities or towns, NOT even our beloved Ayodhya. Before that humans were hunters and gatherers. Hunter-gatherer societies do not exceed 100-200 people as a group. If they exceed, they usually break up and form new ones. Without massive resources such as labor, one cannot make such constructions. Labor came about only after advent of agriculture- because now, one man could produce more than for his own family, and hence artisans, labor, musicians, kings, soldiers, can now be accommodated as part of the society.

All pseudo-sciences base their whole existence on what they call as 'gaps' in the explanation of science. This includes creationism, astrology, vaastu, etc.

Yes, genuine archeologists and scientists do make mistakes. Their readings and dating methods are not accurate. That does not mean they are ridiculously off their mark. Usually the debate surrounding Indian settlements such as Indus or Vedic civilizations is debated to off the mark by around 1000 years or so. That does not mean this inaccuracy holds good even if one were to push it off by a millions (1000,000) years.

Lot of bullshit going around

There are many people who are visited by Aliens everyday and there are some who travel to different planets on UFOs every year. Should one go and disprove all those alien visits or should one just ignore them? When these people who believe the above story actually happen to be elite NRI crowd, what to make of it? The reports of this bridge and its connection was actually started out by NRI websites and got the necessary impetus from some ex-heads of department of archeology in India. NRI community happens to be extremely rightwing. While their counterparts in India could be discarded as illiterate and bigoted mob, this group consists of elite people and therefore their approval seems to go well with most Indians as an educated opinion.

There are too many reports circulating, some coming from archeology departments of the nations of this subcontinent which unnecessarily and ridiculously claim ancient cities in India- so ancient that we were practically living with dinosaurs themselves. To contest this has become a necessity lest this argument falls in the hands of educated but idiotic Indians who get swayed by use of scientific terminology.

Even deemed institutions like Archeological Department of Sri Lanka mixes myth with science NOT knowing what it is talking about. Indian Subcontinent seems to creating its own sciences - mixing myth, mysticism, superstition, blind belief with words and languages of science to posit it as their alternative science. Modern Science is result of empiricism, not peripatetic investigation nor a byproduct of folklore. Indian subcontinent, in an effort to make up for their nonperformance, is coming with its own versions.

It’s unfortunate and retrograde. But since it is making millions happy, I guess, it is bound to stay- just like soap opera, astrology, vaastu and numerology.

Why do Indians get excited by such false stories?

Archeology in the post-colonial world has become more of a propaganda machine than real science. The post-colonial world, waking up after missing the Scientific and Industrial Revolution, has started to posit their own versions of science and technology. It gives them a satisfaction to know that their ancestors were really great- greater than these western scientists who came later in time. It gives them a sense of pride to know that their ancestors build a massive bridge when the West was not even populated. There are many out there who want to believe that Indians flew planes, and that we could make nuclear bombs, and that we had already invented telepathy. And according to them this is all written in their Vedas in some cryptic conundrums.

These reports and articles are ego-boosters to aggrandize our non-existing achievements, and nothing more! And such reports will always catch attention of many nonperforming societies.


  1. I hope you have seen this

    "The “space scientist” who, for two years, helped the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) formulate its opposition to the Sethusamudram project has turned out to be just like the Sangh’s argument — a fraud."

    This scientist just lied!!And made the RSS folks fools!

    Having said that, I object you to your equation of the left with the right. Simply because you are taking liberty with facts there.

    "either it is protest against Miss Universe pageant"

    Here, while the Right protests in the name of "Sanskriti" and such stuff, the Left protests because of the "commercialization and objectification of women". Girls apply fair and lovely to become fair,they stop eating food to become thin, and those who happen to be dark&fat are living a hopeless life, with everyone considering them worthless since they are not a "chick". Girls live to the stereotypes,born to do do "make up" and conceive, and forever remaining a slave to status-quo. For me, the left's idea makes sense.

    "an effort to teach villagers on sanitary health practices"

    Would like to know which instance you are referring here. I feel you are simply making it up. ( I understand that the Kerala government has banned the "Sex Education" because it felt that it is a part of a larger conspiracy of making sex a commodity. I feel this argument is pretty preposterous, though :) )

    "in this protest against Sethusamudram project"

    Yea, you know about global warming, you know how humans have been eating Earth (especially in the last 30-40 years), and how we all are going to perish if we dont stop doing what we are doing. You yourself said you dont know the implications of the disturbances to nature this project is going to create. So, If nature groups does not speak up, then who would? Who else would have spoken up about global warming?About conservation?

    "A protest against water shortage in a small town can spiral into a right wing and left wing action against globalization "

    The Right wing never protested here.

    "Left wing and feminists, because they cannot tolerate a Westerner taking such liberty with woman of the East"

    I never saw that argument in the media yet.Perhaps I missed it, but I think you are cooking up something here, especially the "West vs East" thing.

    The Right wing- especially the social Right- is a bunch of fools. Your equation of them with the Left (especially the social Left/Liberal) is totally unwarranted and unsubstantiated.

  2. Very illuminating and point blank.
    ~ Vinod.

  3. Hi Sujai

    I'll be flying to Bangalore this July for 3 days. I was wondering if I can have the honour of meeting you before I leave.

    ~ Vinod

  4. Vinod-
    Would love to meet up. Please send me an e-mail at the address provided in my profile.
    Thank you.

  5. Hey Sahodaran,

    The Indian obsession with pale skin and abhorrence of dark skin has has been around for ages and has nothing to with commercialization of anything. This ludicrous obsession or bigotry is merely being exploited by the manufacturers of fairness creams.

  6. Anon,
    I agree.

    I merely suggested that the reasons why Left and the Right oppose certain issues are different, and the Left's reasons are much more sensible.


  7. sahodaran:
    Sorry, that I got back to you so late.

    I don't profess to be perfect, but I am usually very careful in the words that I choose and examples that I give. Sometimes, I am wrong but most often I am careful not to be wrong.

    When I made the following quote-
    "Left wing and feminists, because they cannot tolerate a Westerner taking such liberty with woman of the East"

    You commented-

    I never saw that argument in the media yet. Perhaps I missed it, but I think you are cooking up something here, especially the "West vs East" thing.

    Here are some of the examples from the internet-

    Ali Eteraz, a Feminist, writes-
    I found the video somewhat disgusting. First he holds on to her hand far longer than she wants. Then he kisses her on the face a couple of times while standing in a bear hug. Then he forcibly bends her over and kisses her, not the way his hand forces her back to bend.

    She goes on to add the following:
    The whole time I am thinking “Britain colonizes India under pretextual humanitarian excuses.” I am thinking “white boy imposing himself on an ethnic woman.” I am thinking “dude takes despite the girl, with her body language, obviously saying no.” Actually, she said “this is too much.” Then there is the matter of the look on her face.

    A simple search or visiting some of the blogs where this topic is discussed will tell you how some of the feminists coming from this sub-continent are up in arms AGAINST this kiss.

  8. :)

    Guess a lot of people hold on to their ideologies as prisoners to their personal whims and fantasies than some rational, realistic thought. Everything becomes brownie points for their ideologies. People are interested in blaming, finding out problems and scoring points; I feel that a lot of them wont feel any happiness even if the problem (for which he/she has been viciously campaigning) gets resolved by some way that did not help to inflate their ego :)

    In this, guess the Left is not so far behind the right.

    Even then, your equation of Right=Left, Right represented by the RSS, one would naturally "assume" (I did :)) that Left= Organized Left of the country. In my opinion, the organized left in this country forms the better of the political lot, and should not be equated with RSS.

  9. I appreciate you for trying to be rationale and analytical but I must say this that you are a bit more biased or influenced by the west. Your facts are in correct. Should have done a proper research. Civilisation is there on this earth before 10000 BC in Egypt, China, Mesopotamia, South America (Amazon) and India. Egypt, China and Mesopotemia civilisations left behind something to prove this and you can find them in British Museum London. Unfortunately ancient Indian civilisation didn't left any proofs. That doesn't mean Civlisation in doesn't India exists. When there were civilasiations in the neighbourhood how there cannot be any in Inida. recent archealogical survey in a place in AP Kurnool District showed some proof. May be you need search and do some hard work. It says there was civilisation in that area way beyond 10000BC. They found some human bones. For your information the geographical spread of Ancient India was from present day Iran to Indonesia. What you and I studied as the history of India is through Britishers who illegally ruled our country. They cpouldn' follow the language or our culture. They did made some effort and documented it as Indian history which is in correct. If you look at the various archeological findings you would know. So before putting your points across please do proper research. I agree with your point that Ganges civilasation came a bit later than Indus valley. Before that there was another civilisation.
    I suggest you not be biased towards anything.

  10. Anonymous:
    It says there was civilisation in that area way beyond 10000BC. They found some human bones.

    I say that Indian Civilization is not that old to suggest that Rama existed 1.7 million years ago.

    Even the most generous estimates do not ascribe a date of 20,000 BC for any civilization anywhere in the world (including India).

  11. Sujai,
    I agree with your scientific analysis.

    Let us discuss about hypothetical scenario of some crooked suggesting development project which cuts across mecca or bethlahem trinity church or Madura krishnan temple. If people protest against it, then there are two options

    a) Convince people that science has proved that personal gods do not exist
    b) Look for alternatives to development project

    Option a) will make scientific sense Option b) will make practical and realistic sense.

    Of course there are boundaries based on intensity of the sentiments and impact of the development project.

    Sethusamudram canal project is not humanity transformation project. There is a big hole in the project whether you analyse it in economic angle or security angle or environmental angle. There is nothing wrong in changing alignment to respect sentiments of 80% people on this country.

    Scientifically knowledgable people like you may not need religion. Common man living in village needs religion because it gives comfort to him, it gives purpose to his life. Respecting his sentiment is more important than scientific analysis in this case

    1. do you know why west coast of india is less affected by tsunami, due to ramsethu a obstruction prevented earth quake waves going to west side-officially announced by tsunami research center in usa,
      if u remove ramsethu and provide a canal there for decreasing transport definitely you will save money but total saving of all ships travelling by this way for 25 years is less than this project amount.
      as this will be monitored by a private agency it will collect some charge from ships like toll charges on highways that amount is more than saving they will make by this short cut.

      one more great thing in this project is for a distance on 15 nautical miles they way will be like 2 lane road with divider, if a ship by mistake got repair all ships should stop untill this moves
      many rare algae ,fungi are in this are which you are going you to destroy
      a great person like you remembered when where left and rightists united in india but just feel pity of a great writer like you missed economic and environmental aspects, i am giving you reply after long time


Dear Commenters:
Please identify yourself. At least use a pseudonym. Otherwise there will be too many *Anonymous*; making it confusing.

Do NOT write personal information or whereabouts about the author or other commenters. You are free to write about yourself. Please do not use abusive language. Do not indulge in personal attacks and insults.

Write comments which are relevant and make sense so that the debate remains healthy.