Taking strong exception to the Major Port Authorities Bill being tabled in Parliament to replace the Major Ports Trust Act, Water Transport Federation of India (WTFI) general secretary T. Narendra Rao claimed that the move was aimed at converting the major ports into authorities as part of a hidden agenda to hand them over to private parties.

In an interview with
The Hindu
on Sunday on the eve of the efforts by the NDA government to put the bill for voting in Lok Sabha before its submission in Rajya Sabha, Mr. Narendra Rao said the Centre was hell-bent on going ahead with its plan of selling away valuable assets of the major ports, bulldozing the concerns expressed by the workers of all the 12 major ports.

“The new legislation will result in conversion of major port trusts into authorities so that the service motive can be dispensed with, converting them into landlord ports. Administration of port infrastructure – be it creation or management would go to the private managements under PPP or BOT mode. Whether generation of jobs or development of the periphery in the port areas, the ports will not have service motive once they are made companies,” he alleged.

Threat to autonomy

Mr. Rao said the major ports own 2.74 lakh acres including the site on which the iconic Taj Hotel is located in Mumbai. “The cash reserves by major ports, which are now deposited in PSU banks will go to private banks once the new legislation is enacted,” he said. The parliamentary panel headed by Mukul Roy had opposed the proposal, he pointed out, adding that the old legislation had prohibited the transfer of ownership of port lands. Another bone of contention, he pointed out, was retaining the controversial provision in Major Ports Act in the new legislation to snatch away the autonomy of the ports by making government decisions binding on them.

“For instance, by proposing a provision of constituting Selection Committee to appoint the chairman of the ports. The Shipping Minister’s nominee will be the chairman of the selection committee with the Shipping Secretary and Chairman of Indian Ports Association as members. This clearly implies that the government’s nominee will get the consent from the two other members for appointment as heads of the major ports,” he contended.

The parliamentary panel headed by Mukul Roy has opposed the proposal, but the Centre is hall-bent on going ahead with its plan of selling away valuable assets of the major ports

T. Narendra Rao,WTFI general secretary

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