Rameswaram - Dhanuskodi National Highway Project Stalled in Tamil Nadu (India)

K. Anantharaman, Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, May 2013 (ID. 2013-05-02)
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Stretches of the road between Rameswaram and Danushkodi were washed away during the December 1964 cyclone that hit Tamil Nadu and other parts of South India. Rameswaram is a pilgrim centre and major temple town. The famous Ramanathaswamy Temple for God Sivan (Siva, Shiva, Shivan) is located here; Rameshwaram is also linked to the great Hindu epic Ramayanam (Ramayana). Hindu devotees from all over India and even abroad come here. Dhanushkodi (known as Koadikkarai in old days) is to the east of Rameswaram Town. Kothandaramasamy Temple dedicated to Lord Raman (Lord Rama) is located here. Many Hindu devotees who visit the Sivan Temple (Ramanathaswamy Temple) in Rameswaram Town also visit (or would like to visit) Danuskodi as part of the pilgrimage. With parts of the old road connecting Rameswaram and Danushkodi destroyed in the 1964 cyclone, people have to travel on sandy terrain in SUVs or vans, at much higher cost and inconvenience in comparison to cheaper and more convenient travel in cars or buses, had there been paved highway all the way from Rameswaram to Danushkodi.

Because of requests from local people and tourists, local highway officials agreed to build a highway completing the connection between Rameswaram and Danushkodi at an estimated cost of about 25 crore Rupees (1 crore = 10 million). When the request went to the Indian Government Finance Ministry in New Delhi for funding, the ministry looked at it unfavorably, asking what is the need for this road since people are getting along without it for 48 years (from 1964).

This is irrational reasoning. Using this reason, we have to stop funding for all rural electrification projects. Why do these villagers need electricity since they are getting along without electricity for hundreds of years? We need electricity because life becomes a little easier for the villagers. Similarly, what is the need for new roads in rural areas? After all, the villagers are living without paved roads for generations. We build new rural roads to make life a little easier. To put it in a single word: "progress".

Another way of looking at the irrationality of the finance ministry decision. Road link Rameswaram and Danushkodi was partially destroyed in 1964 cyclone. Indian Government should have funded the repair/reconstruction immediately as part of natural disaster relief. Instead it was delayed and procrastinated for 48 years. Now the Indian Government is using its own delay as the reason for permanently denying the road link, forcing tourists and Hindu devotees to use the inconvenient and expensive SUV/van trips on sandy terrain. This is unacceptable.

It is because of this kind of denial of infrastructure in Tamil Nadu by Indian Government officials in New Delhi that we demand that there should be devolution of finances and power to state governments. These kinds of roadblocks to progress in Tamil Nadu is happening again again from the Indian Government. We see a pattern of discrimination of Tamil Nadu and other Southern and Northeastern states (non-Hindi states) again and again. A few more examples may be found at 

Discrimination in Infrastructure (railways, highways. power plants, water projects, internet cable system, etc.)

NOTE: At the time of this writing (January 2013), Indian Government Finance Ministry is still questioning the need for the road and has not sanctioned money for it. Local people and the highway department reportedly approached a ruling party Member of Parliament who has some influence with the finance ministry. Why do we have to run through hoops to get projects funded in Tamil Nadu? Projects should be funded without any discrimination on their own merits. We would much prefer devolution of finances and decision-making power to state governments which are more in tune with local needs. This would also eliminate alleged Indian Government discrimination of certain regions of the country.

Alternate spellings: Rameswaram - Rameshwaram, Ramesvaram, Rameshvaram; Dhanuskodi - Danuskodi, Dhanushkodi, Danushkodi; Nalangkilli - Nalankilli.

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