Cong demands cancellation of port MoUs

Bhubaneswar: Seeking a CBI probe into state government`s alleged `deal` with private port developers, opposition Congress on Friday demanded cancellation of concession agreement (CA) made with the MoU signed companies.

The allegation of a large scale corruption in the port deal was raised by Congress in the Assembly a day after AICC general secretary Jagdish Tytler questioned the state government about allotting port projects to private companies without floating tenders.

"I will take up with the Ministry of Shipping the matter relating to setting up of minor ports without inviting tenders by the Orissa government," Tytler told reporters.

"The state government will lose over Rs three lakh crore due to huge benefit given to private port developers," Congress chief whip Prasad Harichandan alleged while participating in an adjournment motion.

Claiming that the state government had agreed to give land to private port builders at the rate of only Rs 1750 per acre according to the CA it signed for port projects. The actual price per acre of land should be Rs 25,000 per acre, he alleged.

Harichandan also raised question on the manner of signing MoUs with specific companies without holding open bidding for the projects. "A CBI probe could expose the state government`s secret deal with port developers," he said.

Commerce and transport minister Sanjeev Kumar Sahoo, however, rejected charges made by opposition MLAs claiming that the state government had been benefited by the MoU mode of setting up ports instead of selecting companies on bidding process.

"While the state could have secured maximum of 7.5 per cent of profits made from port projects, the government now would get 12 per cent of the gross profit," the minister said.

Claiming that Orissa was not the lone maritime state which had been implementing port projects through MoU mode, the minister pointed out that the states like Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharastra had been setting up minor ports without going for bidding.

This apart, while the Congress ruled Andhra Pradesh government had been providing roads, water and tax concession to private port developers, the minister said: "Orissa has not made much provision in the concession agreement."

Though the state government had conducted international bidding for Gopalpur port, it got minimum benefit, the minister said.

According to the Port Policy, 2004, the state government had identified at least 14 locations for setting up minor ports. Of these, MoUs had been signed for four places at Dhamra, Gopalpur, Subernarekha mouth and Astarang, he said.

Besides, MoUs were also signed for two captive ports at Chudamani in Bhadrak district by Aditya Birla Group and another at Jatadhar in Jagatsinghpur district by Posco-India Limited.

CA had been signed with private companies proposed to set up ports at Subarnarekha and Astarang.

"We are hopeful that Dhamra port will be operational very soon," the minister said.