The troubles that the Sethusamudram project has been plagued with don’t seem to stop. Reports now say that the Public Sector Unit Dredging Corporation of India (DCI) has asked for arbitration to recover Rs 426 crores that it says is due for work it has already done for the project.
DCI has asked the central government to intervene. “Sethusamudram Corporation owes us Rs.426.41 crore for the dredging work we have done on the project,” said CMD DK Mohanty. “We have issued a notice to Sethusamudram Corp. to recover the dues. According to the contractual terms, the ministry of shipping has to appoint a sole arbitrator not below the rank of a joint secretary to settle the dispute.”
The ambitious Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project has been mired in controversy and delays ever since its inception. Meant to connect the East and West coasts of India and shorten transit times drastically, the project- dubbed India’s Suez- came in for much flak from religious Hindu groups who claimed that the Adam’s Bridge area had religious significance from the days of the Ramayana. The matter ended up in the Supreme Court and work was stopped four and a half years ago, when the Supreme Court ordered the Central Government to set up a committee to examine the matter; the Committee reported that an alternate route was unviable.
Few experts seem to believe that the stalled project will be resurrected. A spokesman from the Ministry of Shipping is quoted in LiveMint as saying, “A decision on shutting down the project will have to be taken by the Supreme Court where the case is being heard”.
DCI’s dues are reported to pertain to work it had done in the Palk Straits until about three years ago, when the contract between DCI and Sethusamudran Corporation expired.