Various opposition parties, including the TMC, SP, RJD, DMK, AAP, CPI(M) and CPI, raised strong objections in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday to a bill for developing the major ports in the country and alleged that it is aimed at privatising the ports and diluting the powers of the states on land use.
However, the BJD, JD(U), YSRCP supported the Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020, saying it is a welcome move to expand the port development infrastructure.
Opposing the bill, Sukhendu Sekhar Ray of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) said there is nothing in it as it follows the Singapore model of corporatisation.
“This is the first stage of corporatisation and the next step in the offing is privatisation. Parliament is being taken for a ride…. I strongly oppose this bill on behalf of the TMC,” he said, participating in the debate on the bill.
Ray said the recommendations of the Standing Committee in this regard have not been taken into consideration.
He said according to the bill, a state government will have no authority in either the sale of land or change of land use, even though the land belongs to the state.
“The powers of the state government have been diluted as it has no say on land,” Ray said, adding that the land should go back to the state or the profits from its sale proceeds should go to it.
P Wilson of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) alleged that the bill has only been brought to serve the interests of private players and reduce the state governments’ say in the development of ports.
On a provision in the bill that says the port’s master plan will overtake the state’s master plan, he said, “the master plan has been hijacked”.
Wilson also sought that technical members be given a place in the running of ports. He also alleged that the bill will lead to the mushrooming of private ports, which will come up like “bus stands”, and this will affect the flora and fauna of the area.
Banda Prakash of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) urged the government not to privatise ports as it is putting even the profit-making Shipping Corporation of India up “on sale”.
“I request the government to withdraw its stand of selling the ports of the country,” he said.
Opposing the bill, Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party (SP) alleged that the government is trying to sell the assets of the country and this is the intention of the bill.
He cited the example of the Varanasi airport, where an amount of Rs 800 crore was invested for its development and it is now being sold to private players. “Please do not put the country’s assets to be sold to private players for peanuts,” he said.
Elamaran Kareem of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) alleged that the bill proposes to convert the port authority into a corporate entity and the assets of the ports will be sold off to private players.
“The bill aims to convert the port authority into a corporate entity and this is only an interim arrangement as the aim ultimately is to privatise them,” he said.
Kareem also alleged that “the national safety and security is under threat through this bill” and said there should be no compromise on such issues.
Ram Chandra Prasad Singh of the Janata Dal (United) supported the bill but demanded that the states should have a representative in the Port Authority.
He also demanded that the land-locked states be given land to develop their own ports and a policy in this regard formed.
Supporting the bill, Subhash Chandra Singh of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) called for utilisation of the CSR funds for the creation of infrastructure in the ports and around and asked where these funds have gone. He cited the example of the Paradip port in this regard.
Ayodhya Rami Reddy of the YSRCP welcomed the bill, saying it will help create the infrastructure needed to expand the ports. It would also help develop the major and minor ports in the country, he said, while hailing the proposal for integrated development around the ports.
Manoj Jha of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Binoy Viswam of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and Narain Dass Gupta of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also opposed the bill.
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