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Mumbai: Union opposes port land plans, wants homes for staffers

mumbai Updated: Jan 12, 2015 22:35 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times

One of the largest and oldest employee unions in the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT), the Mumbai Port Trust Dock and General Employees’ Union, has objected to the port land makeover plans.

Calling it a possible attempt to usher in privatisation of the land, the union has strongly opposed suggestions by the Rani Jadhav panel to curtail port operations.

The union sought to safeguard its interests by demanding that the MbPT make provisions to house current and retired port employees, totaling nearly 45,000, on port land.

Last year in June, Union shipping minister Nitin Gadkari’s announced freeing up of port land and transforming it for the city’s benefit.

Mumbai Port Trust Dock and General Employees’ Union president SK Shetye said, “We don’t believe in opposing developmental works. But, if these works are going to leave 10,000 workers jobless, how is it any good?”

The Centre-appointed panel has recommended that the port operations be restricted to enable the port to only handle petroleum, oil and lubricant products as they are the biggest revenue churners. Such curtailing of operations, Shetye added, would require little manual intervention and leave many of the 11,000-odd employees jobless.

“The port has reached these heights only due to the effort of the port employees. The least the port can do is to provide affordable homes on these lands, before they are parceled off to developers,” said Sudhakar Apraj, general secretary of the union and a trustee on the MbPT board.

The union has also demanded homes for 36,000 pensioners on the port land. Such an exercise will require at least 250 acres of land, according to an estimate by the union. Currently, there are 7,500 homes for the port employees spread on 122 acres.

“If the MbPT can consider providing homes for those who live in illegal slums on its land, then why not for the employees?” asked Maruti Vishwasrao, secretary of the union.

While MbPT chairman Ravi Parmar was unavailable for comments, an MbPT official said that the panel has recommended homes for employees. “However, it may not be for all employees and pensioners as demanded,” said the official.

Opposing the plan

The Mumbai Port Trust, Dock and General Employees Union, one of the largest and oldest port unions in the city, has opposed the port overhaul plans

-The union fears that port land would be parceled off to private players to usher in privatisation in the guise of redeveloping the defunct, idle port lands
-The union has opposed the land development committee recommendation to curtail port operations and shut down various types of cargo handling practices
-The union has said it would lead to a loss of nearly 10,000 jobs
-It believes that building hotels, marinas among other projects will lead to the port land being handed over to private players

Union demands
-The union said the MbPT must modernise port operations so that it is able to handle cargo more efficiently
-The union has also proposed construction of 45,000 homes on 250 acres of land for existing and retired employees of the port