VISAKHAPATNAM: Employees’ unions are up in arms against the sale of State government’s 10.4 per cent stake in Gangavaram port to Adani Port and Special Economic Zone Ltd (APSEZ ). It is to be noted that the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has already given its nod to APSEZ, to acquire 89.6 per cent stake in Gangavaram port.
Now, with the State government’s latest move, Gangavaram port is going to become a 100 per cent privately owned unit. The port is the second largest non-major port with 64 mmt capacity in the State. It can handle a diverse mix of dry and bulk commodities, including coal, iron ore, fertilizers, limestone, bauxite, sugar, alumina and steel.
Speaking to TNIE, steel plant recognised union president J Ayodhyaram said “Even though private hands held majority stake in Gangavaram port, the state government’s stake in the port helped RINL five years ago, when the plant had to berth its vessels and the port’s management denied to do it over contested freight charges. With the unit now totally going in to the hands of private, such aid seems next-to-impossible.”
He said RINL is the only shore based steel plant in the country, which initially had a proposal to build a jetty for itself. Had such proposal to build a satellite port in association with the Visakhapatnam Port Trust(VPT) been materialised, RINL would have had a port of its own and would have earned a profit of Rs 700 crore per annum, he said. However, the then government favoured the port to be in private’s hands, he added.
Citing the state government’s transfer of RINL’s 1,200 acres to Gangavaram port’s construction, Ukku parirakshana committee chairman D Adinarayana said the state government should have ideally transferred its stake in the port to RINL, doing which, the latter could have exercised at least some interest in the port, given the heavy dependence of steel plant on the port. He said a road was laid from Gangavaram port to RINL at a cost of Rs 20 crore to facilitate the transport of raw material.
There was also a clause in an agreement between Gangavaram port and the state government stating transfer of port’s ownership to the latter, after 30 years, which the state government has annulled giving away its petty 10.4 per cent stake to the APSEZ, he added. With RINL made to enter a fresh agreement with the new management of Gangavaram port over freight charges, there is every possibility for spike in the charges, he explained.
Meanwhile, the pace at which Adani group is taking over Gangavaram port, has become a cause of apprehension among employees of RINL, where the latter fear that this will also hasten the strategic sale of RINL.However, the improved performance of the plant in the past few months and the help rendered by RINL by supplying liquid oxygen during the Covid pandemic are likely to tilt the scales against privatisation, sources said.