Oriyas! Wake up: Paradip Port is being pushed into ruins

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

It is time for Orissa to wake up. Paradip Port is being pushed into ruins because of Adani’s Modi link and Jindal’s foul motive.

Cabinet heavyweight Dr. Damodar Raut is right in his observation (The Sanchar, 20 September 2015) that the two political parties – BJP and the Congress – are precipitating the situation, without mentioning the name of Adani and Jindal, known in the context of both the parties respectively, to whose trap Paradip is being shepherded by the non-Oriya Chairman-in-charge of the Port Sri M. T. Krishna Babu.

As far as Jindal is concerned, his design to occupy the Gopalpur Port through the back door having failed, he has a grudge against Sri Mahimanand Mishra whom the port has been legally allotted. Under the leadership of the same Mahimanand Mishra, stevedoring being most trade-friendly in Paradip Port since at least 1984, it has emerged as the second best major port of India. Jindal wants this reputation to be ruined and trade-friendly image of Mahimanand be damaged in the eyes of the global exporters and importers to checkmate his prospects at Gopalpur. The recent stoppage of stevedoring in Paradip Port is considered to have been provoked by Jindal-Krushna Babu nexus.

This evil development is designed to add strength to a maneuvered branding of Paradip Port as “not trade-friendly” by a notorious report of an appointed agent – Port of Antwerp International (PAI), Belgium, in order to show it sick, so that Adani being the nearest Dhamara port owner, can acquire it too by using Modi government’s policy of privatization.

Every debacle Paradip would face from now  would increase advantage for Adani.

This is why, as Dr. Raut has written in the front page of his paper mentioned supra, both the Congress and the BJP have extended their support to the troublemakers for pushing Paradip Port into unrest and loss.

Property of the people of Orissa

Paradip is Orissa’s port of pride, for which, the people of Orissa have sacrificed their land and life. I was in an informal Press meet when Biju Patnaik, sans any qualms, had revealed how he had directed the Police not to take cognizance of accidental deaths when anybody was getting crushed under the wheels of speeding trucks engaged in construction of the highway from Daitari to Paradip.

Anybody may visit the old pages of newspapers of those days to locate how frequently human casualties were taking place under the speeding trucks without any police action.

Over and above this, had the land parcels of marginal farmers not been snatched away for the purpose of the said road, Paradip could not have survived as a port. So, this Port is the outcome of supreme sacrifice of the people of Orissa. Despite this huge loss of life and farming lands, people of Orissa pride over Biju Patnaik for having build up this port and to them, the port is their property.

PPT Chairman acts the villain

Yet, now, as the same Biju Patnaik’s son Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is mysteriously silent, a non-Oriya officer chairing Paradip Port Trust, is creating a climate of contradictions and confrontation in the so far peaceful and perfectly working operational sphere of cargo handling, oblivious of the fact that, behind the Port’s evolution as the second best Port of India, peaceful loading and unloading of the vessels is the only factor, not the officialdom.

Any clerk can act as chairman to sign a paper to show perfect functioning of the port, if stevedores act peacefully. But any chairman can ruin the port by mishandling the stevedores. The incumbent chairman  is doing exactly this; and unless people of Orissa wake up to foil this evil design, the sacrifice they have made for Paradip would be of no value and the port would soon be lost in the labyrinth of foul play being perpetrated by and through the non-Oriya Krishna Babu.

Khanna commission Recommendations

In the year 1984, mismanagement of the Port had ignited such severe infighting between different groups engaged in stevedoring that the Inspector-in-Charge of Paradeep Police Station and his associates together with four laborers on records had lost their lives. Because of the fast by the revered Communist leader Loknath Chowdhury, the operating stevedores had formed an Association styled ‘The Paradip Port Stevedores Association’ (PPSA) and had signed an undertaking to the effect that “no Stevedore shall try to take away the work of another Stevedore so long as NOC is not obtained“. Whosoever was to join the Association was to abide by this undertaking and this was the cause of peaceful cargo handling so far, despite three-fold rise of the licensed bodies of stevedores.

Yet, to ensure fair pay and employment, in Civil Appeal No.1422 of 1990, the Supreme Court of India had, on 15.03.1990, directed to constitute a High Powered Committee under Chairmanship of Mr. H.R. Khanna, to decide the question of listing the unlisted laborers and their welfare measures at Paradeep Port Trust.

Justice Khanna had recommended for a Management Committee (CFH) comprising all “Stevedores”, “Senior Officials of Paradeep Port Trust” and “Labour Representatives from different labour Unions” to manage the matter in a collective process so as to eliminate the possibility of unrest in future.

Khanna Commission extractFrom the above extract of Justice Khanna’s binding recommendation, it is clear that cargo handling and Stevedores’ amicability shall be ensured by a “whole time chairman”. But in blatant disregard to this emphasis, the central government has posted Sri Krishna Babu as a part-time chairman, whose motive seems malicious in matter of Paradip.

Further provocation

It seems Mr. Krishna Babu is determined to kill the peaceful climate of Paradip. He has ushered in unrest by encouraging troublemakers to contravene the 1984 norms.

Despite end of a port-provoked stoppage of work on September 22 on the basis of a collective decision to resume work, another organization styled ‘Utkal Stevedores Association’ has been registered the same day, the PPT and the Collector of Jagatsinghpur having kept it hidden from PPSA. This is nothing if not further provocation to precipitate confrontation amongst the Stevedores. This provocation is suspected to be in consonance with the design to demolish Paradip’s image as a peaceful port.

Jindal design

Let us revisit the design to know the reality. When stevedoring was running smoothly, the Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) quashed its stevedoring assignment given to Orissa Stevedores Ltd of Sri Mahimanand Mishra on 14 April 2015 in apparent reaction to Jindal’s failure to grab the Gopalpur port from the back door. JSPL informed the PPT that its cargo would be handled by Sahara Engineering Pvt Ltd (SEPL) instead of OSL. Though as per the 1984 terms and norms, no Stevedore should have tried “to take away the work of another Stevedore”, OSL ignored the mischief and issued ‘No Objection Certificate’ (NOC) in favor of SEPL. When this stevedore was continuing the work, JSPL made three companies – M/s Swastik Stevedores Pvt.Ltd (SSPL), M/s Seaways Shipping and Logistic Ltd (SSLL), and M/s Sahara Engineering Pvt Ltd (SEPL),– sign letters of intent with it on 08 June, 09 June and 10 June 2015 respectively to handle its cargo. Yet again, when SEPL was working on JSPL assignment, SSLL, which is not a member of PPSA, snatched away business of SEPL in blatant contravention of the 1984 norms that provoked the unrest.

PPT chairman should have taken responsible role in ensuring that neither JSPL nor SSLL violate the established norm; but he deliberately stayed nonchalant.

From confession of SSLL on 14 August 2015 it transpires that it had to handover the work back to SEPL under instruction of the Additional District Magistrate, even though JSPL had assigned the work to it and PPT had given the permission. This makes it clear that even though handling of cargo by SSLL was impermissible, PPT chairman had allowed that for the sole purpose of provoking unrest, hand-in-glove with Jindal.

The conspiracy is deep-rooted.

Attempt to intimidate genuine Stevedores

JSPL had no grievance against its previous handler. It had never explained to the PPT as to why it wanted to appoint new handlers. When, as such, there was no reason to change the contract, PPT – whose reputation and credibility rest on peaceful handling of the cargo, and in fact for which Paradip has emerged as the second best major port – should have taken all steps to prevail upon JSPL not to appoint new agents so arbitrarily to handle its cargo. If rate of the service or any other issues were behind the dislocation, the PPT chairman should have encouraged conciliation between the parties in real interest of the Port. Instead of doing that, he tried to intimidate the stevedores in the meeting he took on 14 August 2015.

Ignoring the reality that Paradip has emerged as the 2nd best major port of India due only to the most peaceful and disciplined stevedoring, Krushna Babu threatened them with stern action if stoppage of work irritates any outside customer. As per the minutes of the meeting held on 14 August 2015, he wanted them “to allow operations by any Stevedore”. This is a clear disrespect to the undertaking of 1984 that has stipulated that no Stevedore shall try to take away the work of another Stevedore so long as NOC is not obtained.

I quote from the said minutes to show how the peaceful members of the PPSA, because of whom alone the Port has been recognized as the 2nd best major Port of India, were subjected to intimidation by the authorities.

Adherence to the undertaking of 1984 “shall not be tolerated”, Krushna Babu had roared.

To add force to this mischief, the Superintendent of Police threatened that, “the authorities will be forced to take strictest action” if the members of PPSA insist upon adherence to the 1984 undertaking.

Discernibly malicious

Despite such naked attempts of PPT Chairman and Jagatsinghpor SP to intimidate the stakeholders (members of PPSA), the hard reality that the conduct of Jindal and his agent Seaways (SSLL) was malicious, the first resolution of the meeting was worded cautiously. To quote it, “JSPL and Seaways should make sincere efforts to coordinate with other stakeholders to do their business in a peaceful atmosphere in Paradip Port. It was advised that they should make sincere efforts in this regard before arrival of the next vessel”.

This resolution makes it clear that JSPL and its agent Seaways were ruining the “peaceful atmosphere in Paradip Port”. They were, therefore, “advised” to “make sincere efforts” to “coordinate with other stakeholders” meaning the members of the PPSA, “before arrival of the next vessel”.

Strange, despite such assault on “peaceful atmosphere in Paradip Port” by Jindal and his agent, instead of subjecting them to discipline, the PPT chairman had instigated the police to act against the peaceful members of PPSA under the influence of Jindal and had threatened them with dire consequences if they insist upon adherence to the 1984 undertaking.

The matter is more intricate.

Hand-in-glove with Jindal

The non-Oriya chairman of PPT is hand-in-glove with Jindal to destroy the “peaceful atmosphere” prevalent so far in Paradip.

When in the meeting held on 14 August 2015, “It was agreed further that representatives of Seaways, JSPL and other stakeholders will meet for an amicable solution before the arrival of next vessel to be handled by Seaways”, and further when on the basis of this agreement, the Traffic Manager of the Paradip Port had written Letter No. 3496 to JSPL on 26 August 2015 that it should take “an appropriate decision for allocation of a ship to SSPL” only “after the scheduled discussion with the other stakeholders as per Minutes of the Meeting (dated 15 August 2015)”, the Port Chairman (in-charge) Krushna Babu berthed the vessel HARM carrying JSPL cargo at Central Quay I on 16 September 2015 and allowed its handling by the controversial SSLL, which forced the shocked stevedores to stop work.

Krushna Babu be taken to task

For this dislocation in Paradip, one person is squarely responsible. He is M.T.Krushna Babu, the in-charge Chairman of PPT. He has acted against the interest of the Port hand-in-glove with Jindal and ruined the “peaceful atmosphere” of Paradip, the end beneficiary of which will be Adani as the “dent on image of Paradip Port” may eventually prompt vessels to prefer the nearby port of Dhamara that Adani has acquired with Prime Minister Modi at his back.

If Krushna Babu is not playing the game on behalf of Adani, the Modi government should investigate into the provocation he created for stoppage of work at the Port and initiate exemplary action against him sans any delay.

Paradip is certainly rushing into ruins under non-Oriya conspiracies. As the people of Orissa have sacrificed their lands and lives for this Port, let Modi government be notified that this State shall not tolerate this foul play.

EPILOGUE

Dominated by non-Oriyas, a pack of stevedores have floated, as noted supra, a new body styled Utkal Stevedores Association. We have reasons to suspect that this new outfit is created to precipitate the ruin of Paradip, in which, Krushna Babu has secret hands. If not, let him not allow this new association to operate in Paradip Port, without approval of the existing and excellently working Paradip Port Stevedores Association.

The port cannot be allowed to be pushed into ruins by the non-Oriyas, and their political godfathers in the BJP and the Congress.

Dr. Raut

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