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There are chances of leakage of information about confidential cargo to anti-national elements if private operators are allowed to handle such shipments at ports, a parliamentary panel has cautioned the government.
The panel also cautioned the government to ensure that loans from foreign entities should not be a backdoor opening for them to gain control of ports.
The government intents to attract investors in the ports but ports like Cochin, Visakhapatnam, Mumbai and Goa handle defence cargo, the parliamentary standing committee on transport said in its report on 'The Major Ports Authorities Bill, 2016' tabled in Parliament today.
"If the private operators are given authority to handle such confidential cargo, there may be chances of leakage of the details to anti-national elements. The committee recommends that while handing over the port related activities to private players, there should not be any compromise on the national security and safety aspects," the 31-member panel chaired by Mukul Roy said.
It also noted apprehensions, especially by the employee unions that provisions to empower the port authorities to raise loans from open market and also foreign financial institutions may finally lead to take over of the control of port management by foreign entities or private parties.
"The loans from the foreign financial institutions should not be a backdoor opening for such institutions to gain administrative and managerial control of the ports," it said.
It added, "The committee therefore cautions the government this clause (to empower port authorities to raise loans) may be throughly scrutinised again and any loopholes in it may be rectified so that the management and administrative control of the port authority may remain with the government at any circumstances."
It recommended adding a new para as "Board may without the approval of the RBI, Central Government and due notification in official gazette, raise no loans for the purpose of the Act."
It also asked the Shipping Ministry to add that no such notification shall be necessary if a loan is obtained from state or central government.
The government has allowed 12 major ports as well as some shipping entities to raise loans amounting to Rs 50,000 crore in US dollars at nominal interest rates to provide fillip to infrastructure.
After Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust's (JNPT's) USD 400 million foreign denominated loan last year, another major Port Kamrajar (earlier Ennore) also plans to raise USD 100 million.
JNPT had last year signed the pact with SBI and Singapore's DBS for USD 400 million loan, which prompted other players, besides Shipping Corporation, Dredging Corporation and Cochin Shipyard, to take the same route.
India has 12 major ports -- Kandla, Mumbai, JNPT, Marmugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Ennore, V O Chidambaranar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) which handle approximately 61 per cent of the country's total cargo traffic.