Minister says it does not aim to privatise ports

NEW DELHI, Feb 10: Allaying fears that the Major Ports Authority Bill, 2020 aims at privatisation of the country’s top 12 major ports, Ports, Shipping and Waterways Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Wednesday said it seeks to provide autonomy to these ports and boost their decision-making powers in order to compete with private ports.

The Major Ports Authority Bill, 2020 was passed through ballot votes in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday with 84 votes in its favour and 44 against it. The Lok Sabha had passed the Bill on September 23 last year.

Taking a strong objection to some members’ remarks that it is intended to benefit big corporate houses and would result in the ruining of the ports and their plunder, Mandaviya, in his reply to the debate on the Bill, said rather, it would turn these ports into world-class ports and enable their boards to take decisions on their own.

“Would a patriot oppose this Bill? This Bill is not for privatisation of ports.... The Bill has nothing to do with privatisation. Former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and former Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari had also specified that there will not be privatisation of ports... The Bill is not to sell ports,” he said.

Various Opposition parties, including the Congress, TMC, SP, RJD, DMK, AAP, CPI(M) and CPI raised objections on the Bill in the Upper House of Parliament 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 it, saying it is a welcome move to expand the port development infrastructure.

Mandaviya questioned: “Have Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra governments not given ports to private companies for development? Did that happen in the tenure of Narendra Modi?”

He said the government, led by Prime Minister Modi, believes in the federal structure and assured the Upper House that “State government representatives will not be removed”.

The minister said: “We developed the Kolkata Port on the public-private partnership (PPP) model. We paid the liabilities for all pensioners. The loss-making ports are now profitable. This is because of the reforms.” – PTI