Monday, August 04, 2008

The Sethusamudram debate

What is the problem with the "Sethusamudram" project? The hullabaloo raised by the BJP, the tamil parties and various other groups over the issue has completely negated the possibility of sane, rational debate on the issue. To make matters worse, the Supreme Court has also issued directives to avoid "hurting the feelings of a community to the extent possible", thus making everyone lose sight of the real (read rational) issues that bedevil the project.

Let's first dispose the issue of the bridge being built by Lord Raama. Now, is it important that Lord Raama existed? Or as the veteran legal brain, Fali Nariman insisted on behalf of the government, is it important that he ordered the bridge to be demolished? IMHO, no. It doesn't matter if Lord Raama existed or not - what matter is whether the bridge is man-made or natural. If there is enough evidence to prove that it is man-made, it is a piece of our history and must be preserved, otherwise, it is 'just' a piece of rock and can be dealt with as such, subject to the other points I'll make now.

The two most important objection that has been raised against the project are its economic viability and the environmental cost. No party in the dispute has really focused on this, although there have been brilliant op-ed pieces in the newspapers. I'll let you read them - they are on the Indian Express website. Bottom-line: the experts think that the project is environmentally disastrous and economically unviable.

If that is so, why on earth are we hollering about Lord Raama, and the Dravida right over the channel, setting rational thoughts aside? Because, my dear readers, that is the Indian way. We love symbolism, meaningless gestures, and endless emotional debates.

What we need is to take a value of out Google - that data talks. That the right kind of data, mixed with the right kind of analysis is the way to take decisions.

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