The Kamarajar Port Limited (KPL) in Ennore near Chennai is facing the threat of being privatised following the recommendations of the NITI Aayog. Even though the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs had cleared the proposal of the Chennai Port Trust (CPT), the parent port of KPL, buying the central government’s share of 67% in KPL on February 28 this year, the trade union activists allege that certain politically vested elements are blocking the move in favour of private players involved in operation of ports. The CPT holds the remaining 33% of shares of the KPL.
The workers’ union has registered strong protest and has called upon all the stakeholders to protect the KPL from being privatised.
NITI Aayog Recommends Privatisation of KPT
The KPL was developed as a satellite port in the year 2001 by CPT and was registered under the Companies Act 1956 as against the normal procedure of being registered under the Major Port Trust Act 1963 under the first National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party. Thus, KPL became the only corporatised port in India.
In 2010, the Madras High Court banned the CPT from handling coal and iron ore, citing several environmental issues. Its verdict was later upheld by the Supreme Court. This judgement increased the role of KPL in cargo handling.
The NITI Aayog, which came into existence after the Narendra Modi-led NDA government decided to abolish the Planning Commission, recommended privatisation of KPL in January 2017. It recommended that the shares held by the central government be sold out. The other recommendations included the privatisation of the profit-making entities like Dredging Corporation of India and Shipping Corporation of India. The Ministry of Shipping was caught unaware of this move, and was forced to write to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) against the recommendations of the NITI Aayog.
Workers Oppose NITI Aayog Recommendations
The officers and workers en masse have opposed the recommendations of the NITI Aayog and have demanded that the CPT take control of the KPL by purchasing the 67% of the central government share. They also demanded that a profit-making entity not be sold out to the private players.
However, the government decided against the sale of shares of KPL, and now it has shown inclination to sell off the shares that would result in complete privatisation.
Narendra Rao, the all India general secretary of Water Transport Workers’ Federation of India, said, “The CPT is a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) and once it buys the shares of KPL, the company will be in safe hands. Instead, the move of selling the shares to private port players will not do any good to the government as well as the employees of the port. The KPL is making huge profit and the sale of shares will result in loss to the exchequer. The future of the employees will become unsafe.”
“We earlier opposed to the sale of shares to private players whereas the present move of sale of shares to CPT is welcomed. We doubt the intention of certain people opposing the move of CPT buying shares of the KPL,” he added.
The union has called upon the state government to immediately interfere in the matter. The central government has been favouring the corporates from the day it took office. The profit-making PSUs are betrayed by the policies of the government and the KPL has joined the long list of profit-making organisations facing the threat of privatisation. However, the workers have pledged to take forward the struggle of protecting the future of the KPL.
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