With the deadline for the Sethusamudram project coming up in the Supreme Court next Wednesday, a fresh affidavit has been drawn up by the government, and it is expected to contend that there was no scientific evidence to suggest that Ram Sethu was man-made.
After the fiasco over the affidavit on the issue in September last year, the government has been very cautious in drafting the affidavit this time, with even minute details being checked and cross-checked again and again.
Discussions on the affidavit are underway involving Shipping Minister T R Baalu, Culture Minister Ambika Soni and Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar, sources said on Thursday.
Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is being kept informed about the issue since it has the potential of triggering a political uproar.
In the affidavit, whose draft is ready, the government is understood to have stated that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the Ram Sethu between India and Sri Lanka was man-made.
The government cites photographs, taken by foreign space institutions like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, to press its argument.
A major political row had erupted in September 2007 after the affidavit by the Archaeological Survey of India said that there was no evidence to suggest the existence of Lord Ram. The controversy had forced the government to withdraw the affidavit.
The government had constituted a 10-member committee of eminent persons headed by A Ramachandran, vice-chancellor of Madras University, to examine the Sethusamudram project.
The committee is understood to have submitted in its report that Ram Sethu or Adam's Bridge was formed naturally. It has cited geological, geographical and remote sensing evidence, besides the studies by the Geological Survey of India, to support the argument.
The Rs 2,427 crore Sethusamudram project entails dredging a channel in a narrow strip of sea between India and Sri Lanka. Justifying the project, the government maintains that it will help reduce distance and cut costs for freight traffic.
When completed, the project will shorten the journey by 785 km and cut down travel time by nearly 30 hours. At present, ships coming to the peninsula have to circumnavigate Sri Lanka.
The project is being opposed by the Sangh Parivar, which contends that it will entail breaking the bridge built by Lord Rama. Environmentalists are also opposed to it as they feel it will affect the marine ecology.