MLC M.V.S. Sarma on Monday said going by past experiences only a united opposition by the unions could stop privatisation of Ore Handling Complex (OHC) of the Visakhapatnam port.

Speaking at a roundtable meeting conducted by the Visakhapatnam Forum of People for India (PFI) on port privatisation, he said the privatisation of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant could be stalled due to united struggle by all the 14 unions of VSP.

“L&T takeover of BHPV could be stopped due to unity put up by the unions of the company. Their united fight finally is leading to merger of the company with BHEL,” he stated. Mr. Sarma said a classic instance on how privatisation could be counterproductive was Hindustan Zinc Limited (HZL). Zinc Smelter in the city was shutdown for over a year and the employees were now being forced to opt for voluntary retirement so as to use the valuable lands of the company for real estate business.

He said the port set up in 1933 started the privatisation process as part of the Government of India’s policy to develop landlord ports.

He wondered how the State government could give exemption from municipal corporation limits to the private port that had come up at Gangavaram and blamed a Minister from the district for allowing a public sector port proposed at Ramayapatnam in Prakasham instead of S. Rayavaram near Nakkapalli.

PFI chairman and former Andhra University Vice-Chancellor K.V. Ramana said VPT after spurring development in the city and transforming it from a fishermen’s hamlet into a growing metropolis was being handed over to private investors on a golden platter. He said the strength of permanent employees had come down from 13,500 to 5,000 due to privatisation of berths.

United Port and Dock Employees’ Union general secretary V.S. Padmanabha Raju said OHC should be modernised with funding from Japan as per original plan and rubbished the talk by the management that it had been shelved on ‘technical grounds.’

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