The country’s 12 major ports failed to utilise close to half of the total land under their possession, official auditor CAG has said in a report.
“Land measuring 22,949.82 acres was identified for uture activities by ports, while 13,045.56 acres were yet to be earmarked for any future activity. Thus, 35,995.38 acres representing 46.63 per cent of total land under the possession of ports remained unutilised,” the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) said in its report which was tabled in Parliament today.
The audit report on ‘Land Management in Major Ports’ also said that of the total land holding of 77,191.14 acres, title deeds were not available for 34,943.41 acres representing 45.27 per cent of total land holdings.
It said 11 out of 12 ports did not comply with the direction of preparing or revising the land use plans and as against information furnished by ports indicating encroachment of 273.98 acres, audit observed total encroachment of 396.44 acres.
India has 12 major ports - Kandla, Mumbai, JNPT, Marmugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Ennore, VO Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) which handle approximately 61 per cent of country’s total cargo traffic.
The CAG said a test check of records relating to three ports indicated that 2,075.26 acres of land were recorded in ports’ name. The same were, however, recorded in the name of other persons in revenue records.
Similarly, 144.90 acres of land were recorded in ports’ name in Revenue records but the same was not shown in the records of ports.
It said even after 10 years of acquisition, Kamarajar Port Limited was not in a position to take possession of 20.73 acres of land since it was under litigation at the time of acquisition while JNPT failed to conduct joint survey to take possession of 148.26 acres of land from unauthorised occupation even after 25 years of acquisition of land.
“Extension of leases were made without approval of the Ministry and there were cases as old as 1987 awaiting approval from the Ministry for renewal of lease,” the report said adding, allotment of land on nomination basis was made to private parties without obtaining approval from the Ministry.
The report said Kandla Port Trust was not in a position to recover lease rent due of Rs 132.55 crore due to delay in getting approved tariff from TAMP and the port lost an opportunity to generate additional revenue of Rs 61.86 crore due to not obtaining market value.
Non-inclusion of revision of lease rent in the agreement resulted in foregoing of revenue of Rs 134.62 crore for Kandla Port while lease agreement was not regularised for occupation of area beyond permissible ones that resulted in loss of revenue of Rs 13.03 crore for Cochin Port.
About Visakhapatnam Port, CAG said it did not collect penal interest of Rs 12.99 crore as against provision available in the lease agreement.
It recommended that the Ministry should review the existing guidelines and policies to formulate a comprehensive policy to deal with all issues relating to land management.
It said guideline issued in 2014 policy to deal with constructed permanent structures inside custom bond area in relation to allotments made in previous periods may be revisited so that inherent constraints in the proposed mechanism are removed.
“All critical terms and phrases in relation to land allotment and allied activities may be clearly defined to avoid inconsistent treatment by individual ports,” it said.
It also recommended for evolving an arrangement for minimising the time required to resolve issues where Ministry’s approval was required by delegating certain powers to the ports.
“A review mechanism may be put in place in the Ministry stipulating at least half yearly review of land management decisions and activities of individual ports, which would help ensure compliance with the policies in vogue,” it said.
Similarly, a structured quarterly review may be introduced in the ports in order to report status of land management process and procedures to the respective Boards vis-à-vis compliance of land policy guidelines, it said adding the the Ministry was generally in agreement with the recommendations.
Significant findings also include that the guidelines of 1995 and 2004 were silent about construction of permanent structures on port land but that of 2010 stated that a port trust Chairman could allot land inside custom bond area on medium term lease of up to a period of 10 years, but without construction of any permanent structures.
“Even though the policy guidelines of 2014 gave some clarification, there are still some ambiguities in the guidelines,” it said.
The policy guidelines issued in 2004 and 2010 stipulated that Scale of Rates (SoR) should be fixed in accordance with the ‘end use’ of the land and different rates should be fixed considering the purpose for which land was allotted.
Land policy of 2014 did not link end use of land to market value of land. Audit examination revealed that there was no uniformity among the ports in identifying land according to their use and suggest tariff accordingly so as to optimise their revenue streams.
In another report about financial management and internal control at Port Management Board (PMB), the CAG said administration of Andaman & Nicobar Islands did not take any initiatives for framing periodical rules and regulations necessary for the smooth running of PMB.
“Thus, there were shortcomings in levy and collection of charges for vessel/cargo related services; the workforce for cargo handling was not managed efficiently; there was no policy for augmentation of revenue nor was there any policy for land management,” the report said.