Opposition stages walkout in Assembly

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) Opposition staged a walkout in the Assembly on Monday, accusing the government of trying to sabotage the international mother port and transshipment terminal project at Vizhinjam.

The LDF members walked out after the Speaker turned down the notice for an adjournment motion moved by Jameela Prakasam seeking leave for the House to discuss the mounting public concern over the impact of the government decision to change the port development model. Refuting the charges, Minister for Ports K. Babu said the government was doing everything possible to commence work on the project.

Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan alleged that Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram had joined hands with Planning Commission vice-chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia to torpedo the Vizhinjam project in view of the threat it posed to the development of the Tuticorin port.

Highlighting the indefinite hunger strike launched by the Vizhinjam Motherport Action Council, Ms. Prakasam, who represents the port area, said the government had gone back on its word to convene a meeting to discuss the progress of the project.

She feared that the decision to replace the landlord port structure for the development of the mother port with the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model would scuttle the project. The government, she said, had no right to restructure the project after securing environmental clearance.

Mr. Babu said the previous LDF government had opted for the PPP model for the construction of the port superstructure and berths, leaving the reclamation, construction of fishing harbour and other activities to be taken up under the landlord model. Mr. Babu said the project had to be restructured to accommodate the revised rates. “There is no change in the landlord model”.

He said a discussion on the issue would be inappropriate at a time when the project was ready for tendering. “The Ports Secretary and senior officials from the State are meeting Defence Ministry officials at 11 a.m. today to discuss a Rs.500-crore proposal submitted by the Navy and Coast Guard for infrastructure at the port.”

Before leading the walkout, Mr. Achuthanandan said the repeated failure to find a private partner had forced the LDF government to adopt the landlord model. He said the decision to revert to the PPP route was part of a conspiracy to torpedo the ambitious project.

More In: Kerala | National