Parliamentary proceedings | Despite Opposition show of unity, Rajya Sabha passes ports Bill

Minister denies charge that it will lead to privatisation.

February 10, 2021 10:31 pm | Updated 10:41 pm IST - New Delhi

Treasury benches applaud the passage of the Major Port Authorities Bill in the Rajya Sabha on February 10, 2021. Photo: RSTV via PTI

Treasury benches applaud the passage of the Major Port Authorities Bill in the Rajya Sabha on February 10, 2021. Photo: RSTV via PTI

The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed the Major Ports Authority Bill, 2020 with 84 votes in favour and 44 against.

In a long reply, Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said the Bill aimed to make the ports world class and give the port authorities power to make their own decisions. He denied the Opposition’s charge that it would lead to privatisation.

CPI (M) MP Elamaram Kareem had demanded a division opposing the Bill. Deputy Chairman Harivansh, who was in the chair, agreed, calling for a voting despite protests from BJP benches, including by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal.

Electronic voting could not take place because the members have been allotted seats in galleries and the Lok Sabha chamber to ensure physical distancing as part of the COVID-19 protocol. Though, many members ignored the protocol and sat together in the Rajya Sabha chamber when the voting was called for. The Opposition lost the vote despite support from the Congress, the TMC, the SP, the RJD, the DMK, the AAP, the CPI(M) and the CPI.

“Would a patriot oppose this Bill? This Bill is not for privatisation of ports. The Bill has nothing to do with privatisation. Former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and former Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari had also specified that there will not be privatisation of ports. The Bill is not to sell ports,” the Minister said.

Mr. Mandaviya questioned: “Have Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra governments not given ports to private companies for development? Did that happen in the tenure of Narendra Modi?”

Taking a dig at the Opposition for opposing the Bill, Mr. Mandaviya said “the sky has not fallen” and the Bill was introduced after taking into account the major recommendations of the standing committee.

Congress’s Shaktisinh Gohil, while opposing the Bill, said this was being done to “help a particular friend.” “The Bill has weaknesses and lacuna that benefit a certain friend. Has this Bill been brought in to help a friend? Airports have been named after that friend, now the intention seems to hand over the 12 sea ports to a particular friend,” Mr. Gohil said.

“Out of the 13 Board members, seven are private members, and yet you say you are not privatising? Their qualification, expertise, experience have not been stated. What will their qualification be, then? ‘Yes Boss’ and ‘Yes Ministers’ will occupy the Board,” he alleged.

P. Wilson of the DMK said the word “trust” had been taken away through this Bill. “This Bill has been brought to serve Adani’s interest. This Bill supersedes the State’s master plan,” he said.

Ram Gopal Yadav of the SP accused the government of being on a selling spree. “Only two years ago the Varanasi airport was renovated at a cost of ₹800 crore. Now biddings are being invited for this airport. This government is gradually selling all public assets,” he said.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.