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Tamil Nadu Assembly adopts resolution to revive Sethusamudram project

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Tamil Nadu Assembly on Thursday unanimously adopted a resolution nudging the Union Government to revive the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal project that envisages connecting the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait to create a continuous navigable channel around the India peninsula without having to circumnavigate Sri Lanka.  

The project, which was originally conceived in the 19th century by the then British regime, got wrangled in a controversy following apprehensions that it would damage Ram Setu, a bridge that connects India with Sri Lanka as per Ramayana. A case in connection with the project is currently pending before the Supreme Court.

The then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi had also added fuel to the fire by asking whether Lord Ram was an “engineer” to have built a bridge between the two countries.

Moving a government resolution in the Assembly, Chief Minister M K Stalin referred to a recent statement by Union Minister of State for Space Jitendra Singh that it was difficult to actually pinpoint the exact structure that existed (in the Rameswaram coast) to push for the multi-crore project’s revival. All parties, including AIADMK and BJP, supported the resolution, which was passed unanimously by the House.

Work on the project, permission for which was granted by the then A B Vajpayee government in 1998, commenced on July 2, 2005 after the then Manmohan Singh government allotted Rs 2,427 crore. However, the project, which was put on hold in 2007, never saw the light of the day due to opposition from various quarters, including from the BJP.

Terming the project as “essential to strengthen the economic development of Tamil Nadu and India”, Stalin accused the BJP of being a “stumbling block” in implementing the project by raising objections and also recalled that late chief minister J Jayalalithaa changed her stance on the project and moved the Supreme Court against the scheme.

“If political stumbling blocks weren’t raised, the project would have been implemented a decade ago, leading to development,” Stalin told the Assembly, and reminded the BJP of its promise that the project will be implemented with a different alignment.

But Jitendra Singh has told Parliament that it is difficult to actually pinpoint the exact structure that existed there, Stalin said, adding that the Union Government should come forward to implement the project, given its current stand.

“This House expresses concern that the continued delay in execution of this Project will be a stumbling block for the development and growth of Tamil Nadu. This august House is of the considered view that the attempts to further delay the implementation of this Project by certain forces is against the interest of our nation’s growth,” the resolution said.

The project aims at creating a shipping canal by linking the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka. This will not just help reduce the navigation time between the east and west coasts of India, but also prevent ships from circumnavigating Sri Lanka.

“This project will help fishermen travel from Gulf of Mannar to Palk Straits and prevent transhipments of Indian goods at ports in Sri Lanka and other countries. Besides, the project will also strengthen India’s security, and provide jobs to 50,000 people,” Stalin said.

BJP floor leader Nainar Nagendran supported the resolution and said the project should be implemented in a way that does not affect Ram Setu in any manner. AIADMK member Pollachi V Jayaraman objected to references that Lord Ram was an imaginary character and there was no proof to show his existence.

(deccanherald.com)

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No COVID-19 deaths yesterday

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No COVID-19 deaths have been confirmed yesterday (01) by the Director-General of Health Services.

Accordingly, the current COVID-19 death toll remains at 16,828.

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‘They were plotting to kills us’ – Wasantha reveals it all (Video)

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The Convener of the Inter-University Students’ Federation Wasantha Mudalige attended a media briefing for the first in 167 days on Thursday (2).

At this media briefing, he made certain startling revelations about what he experienced during his detention.

According to Wasantha Mudalige he was arrested by a police officer identified as ASP Mahinda Wiloarachchi from the Peliyagoda Special Police Unit.

Mudalige said he was taken to the Peliyagoda Police and thereafter to an emptied out Enderamulla Police where ASP Mahinda Wiloarachchi from the Peliyagoda Special Police Unit had a pistol on the table pointed at him in a bid to instill fear.

“At the Enderamulla Police, the person identified as ASP Mahinda Wiloarachch placed a pistol on the table pointed towards me, and asked if I recall what happened to Wijeweera and Vijaya Kumaratunga. He said that is what I deserved, however given the situation I would not be killed. He hinted to return in a few years, by late post,” said Wasantha Mudalige.

Furthermore, he said that following his arrest he was moved to the basement room of the Foreshore Police Dorm and kept in the dark, and later moved to the car park close to the Nawagamuwa Devalaya.

“There is a 10 feet drop to the river. They took us there, handcuffed us, placed their weapons all around and started making phone calls. The officer said over the phone that we have arrived at the location. The vehicle was placed there, arousing suspicions, and a police officer assigned to the security of the Nawagamuwa Devalaya came and inquired over the suspicious vehicle. The police officers saw this, and wanted to chase away that inquiring police officer. That was how they acted,” he told the press.

He also added that one particular police officer revealed that this was the method used to kill the underworld members, including the one-time don Makandure Madush.

Wasantha Mudalige also revealed that the officer from the Terrorist Investigations Division ASP Ratnayake who took over the investigation is also the main accused in the case filed over the murder of a person called Army Suranga who was killed after being arrested.

“While there were officers like ASP Wiloarachchi from the Peliyagoda Police, and ASP Ratnayake from the TID many other police officers protected us. When we were taken away in secret to police stations, the police officers who were at those police stations protect us. That is why we are able to come forward and speak like this today,” he revealed.

(newsfirst.lk)

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Paris Club to give SL financing assurances amid IMF debt talks

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The Paris Club of creditor nations is ready to provide financing assurances to Sri Lanka, a key step needed to unlock a $2.9 billion bailout by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The informal group of bilateral lenders is set to “soon” announce its support to the crisis-hit nation on a debt overhaul, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because talks are private.

The Asian island nation, which is grappling with soaring inflation, a recession and currency depreciation, entered into a staff level agreement with the IMF last Septemberග

But it needs financing assurances from key bilateral lenders before the fund’s executive board approves the programme.

Sri Lanka’s public debt stood at 122% of GDP, of which 70% is denominated in foreign currency, according to data in a country presentation to investors in November.

China and India, both non-Paris Club members, are the top bilateral lenders. “Paris Club assurance is not reliant on China,” said the source.

Another source said the informal group is currently reaching out to other non-Paris Club besides China on financing assurances, but did not provide any further details.

India previously committed to help ease the debt burden of neighbour Sri Lanka as part of the IMF programme, and China’s Eximbank offered a two-year moratorium in a letter sent to the island nation in January.

(Reuters)

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