‘State Government has openly flouted law which makes competitive bidding mandatory'

Expressing its concern over allotment of large stretch of coastline for various projects in Andhra Pradesh to a single family, the Forum for Better Visakha (FBV) has sought a high-level probe into deals entered during past five to six years.

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, FBV convener and former IAS officer E.A.S. Sarma said the case in point was the way some political leaders had handed over large stretches of the AP coastline to a single family at a throwaway price and with an “exclusive” right over it.

The same family had taken control of the other two scarce national resources, namely, land and minerals, in a fairly significant measure. All this had happened with the State Government openly contravening its own law, the AP Infrastructure Development Enabling Act, 2001 (Act No. 36 of 2001) that made it mandatory for the State to go through the competitive bidding procedure for allotting resources for all mega projects, he stated.

Mr. Sarma asked the Prime Minister to constitute an inter-disciplinary team of investigating agencies including CBI, Enforcement Directorate, CBDT, RAW and others to trace the funds of the family in question to ascertain its domestic and external investments, especially its links to the tax havens abroad in Mauritius, Cayman Islands, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and so on.

AP has a coastline of 975 km, out of which 346 km has been handed over to a single family, operating with different names from three different locations. These three ports are Krishnapatnam, Vanpic and Machlipatnam, all promoted by a single family.

‘Gross defiance'

Mr. Sarma, who served as Union Power Secretary, said the allotments had been done in gross defiance of the Directive Principle enshrined in sub-clauses (b) and (c) of Article 39 of the Constitution.

He pointed out that the coastline was in the nature of a public resource and the government could at best be a trustee for managing the same on behalf of the people. “Alienation of such a public resource, I am afraid, goes counter to the Doctrine of Public Trust, a judicial principle well established by the courts in India and elsewhere.In the Indian conditions, the maximum requirement of a typical port is perhaps 25 to 30 kilometres.”

The letter said “Visakhapatnam, a major port in operation since 1930, has a coastline of hardly 15 km. In AP, in the name of developing “non-major” private ports, the political leaders have grabbed most of the coastline and allotted the lion's share of it to one family. Smaller but fairly sizeable stretches have similarly been allotted to the other favoured private parties on a nomination basis.”

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