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Port sector needs less centralisation and less regulation: Stalin to Modi

Arguing that the draft Indian Ports Bill 2022 continued to ignore the international and domestic experience that ports were best managed by local and regional governments, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin, on Thursday, advocated for “less centralisation and less regulation” in the sector for continued growth of “non-major ports.”

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Stalin said the growth trajectory of India’s port sector clearly showed that the non-major ports managed by the maritime states have grown faster than the major ports under the Union government.

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This was because, Stalin argued, that the maritime states facilitated the growth of non-major ports through private investments and business-friendly policies. Many such states, especially Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh pioneered such facilitatory development of minor ports and contributed to an increasing share of maritime cargo handling, Stalin pointed out.

In the letter, the Tamil Nadu chief minister told Modi that the draft bill will “stifle” such state-specific initiatives by imposing a centralised regulatory regime on non-major ports, and pointed to the attempt to make the Maritime State Development Council (MSDC) as a regulatory body for minor ports.

“Currently, it is only an advisory body and converting it into a regulatory body with permanent staff will surely encroach upon the powers of states. This may end up choking the future development of minor ports. Like the GST Council, the MSDC must continue only as an advisory body with the ministers concerned of the Union and the maritime states/union territories as members and officers should only be special invitees,” Stalin said.

Objecting to other centralising provisions in the draft bill that he accused of encroaching upon the powers of the maritime states/maritime state boards, Stalin pointed out that the proposed bill said any amendments to already existing state bills on the subject could be made on the recommendations of the Centre or the MSDC.

“This would make the legislative process dysfunctional,” he said and demanded that chapters 2 and 3 of the draft bill, relating to the MSDC, be deleted entirely and that the MSDC remain an apex advisory body as before.

“I also request that Chapter 5 relating to the State Maritime Boards be deleted entirely. The Indian port sector needs less centralisation and less regulation, not more. Therefore, I seek your kind intervention to ensure the continued growth of non-major ports by increasing the ease of doing business with minimum government and maximum governance,” he added.

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