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Unions fear corporatisation of major ports

Already, the Centre is planning to prune the staff size by introducing a special voluntary retirement scheme. The stevedores also feel that automation will make them jobless

Unions fear corporatisation of major ports

Unions fear corporatisation of major ports 

Visakhapatnam: Even as the Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020 replacing the Major Port Trusts' Act, 1963 was passed through in the Rajya Sabha after a division vote, trade unions have declared their resolve to intensify protests against what they termed attempts to corporatise the State-owned major ports.

The unions at the national level are now in protest mode and refute the claim by the Union Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways Mansukh Mandaviya that the new legislation was not aimed at privatisation of the ports.

Visakhapatnam Port Trust board member B Ch Masen told Bizz Buzz that out of 27 berths at Visakhapatnam Port., eight had been given for development and maintenance under PPP basis to BOT operators. Once the Bill is notified as an Act after Presidential Assent, it will convert ports into companies to be managed by corporates.

"Its main motto is to entrust the job of running the berth operations to private companies. After some time the ports are likely to come under Companies Act. As per the Section 22 lands and other properties may be put up for sale," he said.

As per Section 42, deposits may go to private banks. There will be no job security for employees. There is no guarantee of pension once the nomenclature of major ports changes, Masen, general secretary of Visakhapatnam Harbour & Port Workers' Union, said. Besides Visakhapatnam, Paradeep, Jawaharlal Nehru, Kolkata and Deendayal (Kandla) are among 11 major ports which are under the administrative control of the Central Government. The major ports have a workforce of 25,000 and a large number of pensioners. They fear that once the major ports become landlord ports by allowing private investors to run the berth operations, they will face job cuts and pay cuts. Already the Centre is planning to prune the staff size by introducing a special voluntary retirement scheme. The stevedores also feel that automation will make them jobless.

United Port & Dock Employees' Union general secretary V S Padmanabha Raju said the new legislation under the garb of autonomy to the major ports would make them companies. The majority in the boards might also go to the BOT operators making the ports private bodies for all practical purposes. He said there could be an attempt to sell away valuable lands of Visakhapatnam, Jawaharlal Nehru and other major ports to various corporates to raise funds under some pretext or the other, adding certainly the initiative taken by the BJP-led NDA Government was detrimental to national interest and security. Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), which is close to the ruling dispensation, welcomed the Major Port Authorities' Bill, 2020. BMS all India vice-president M Jagadeeswara Rao said they wanted the majority of berths to remain under the government control and new ports should not be allowed to come up within a radius of 100 km to avoid unhealthy competition.

Santosh Patnaik
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