Indian Shipping Minister says government will not privatise ports

Indian Shipping Minister says government will not privatise ports

Indian shipping minister, Nitin Gadkari has said that the government has no plans to privatise India’s ports and is instead seeking to find alternatives to “corporatisation”.

In February, finance minister Arun Jaitley’s budget had laid out intentions to corporatise state-owned ports, saying: “Ports need to attract investments as well as leverage the huge land resource lying unused with them and to enable us to do so, ports in the public sector will be encouraged to corporatise and become companies under the Companies Act.”

However, at a Mumbai Port Trust event on Friday (5 June), Gadkari told reporters that his ministry is “looking at other alternatives beyond the Companies Act to modernise and develop the ports”.

“[The] basic concept is development and modernisation, Gadkari added. “We don’t want to privatise, nor do we want to give any equity to the private people. We want to modernise, protect the interest of labour, protect the interest of ports and at the same time improve the services of the ports to improve business and do good profits.”

He added that the shipping ministry is in discussions and seeking guidance from the finance ministry on possible alternatives, but did not elaborate on what those alternatives might be.

India’s largest container port Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNP) in Mumbai, one of 12 “major” state-owned ports, is believed to have welcomed the corporatision plan.

However, workers unions’ have vehemently opposed the proposals, threatening strike action.

In a statement after withdrawing a strike call in March, the All-India Port and Dock Workers Federation (AIPDWF) said: “All the five employee unions are still opposed to corporatisation, but we have been assured by the Indian Ports Association that our interests will be protected.”

Gadkari was speaking to the media after announcing that the 12 major ports will be investing INR 1,000 crore (US$156m) to set up clean power facilities and reduce their reliance on the grid power.

“The government has sanctioned a 150 MW plan for green power for ports,” he said, adding that generating the required finance will not be difficult.

Under the plan, a hybrid project involving setting up solar and wind capacities on rooftops as well as windmills on the sea will be done, he added.