The Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai | Representational image | Wikipedia
New Delhi: The Modi government has its sights set on 9,000 acres of port land in Kolkata, Mumbai and Gujarat as a potential source of much-needed revenue and space, ThePrint has learnt.
The land in question is currently in use for operations other than core port activities such as cargo handling and storage, much of it leased out at a pittance for offices and residences. It has been identified under the proposed ‘Land Management Policy for Township Projects for Major Ports’, which is being piloted by the Union Shipping Ministry.
In the last week of January, government sources said, the ministry made a presentation in this regard before the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The ministry is now readying the cabinet note to get the policy approved, the sources added.
Once the policy gets approved, the sources said, the ministry plans to engage private developers to build residential, office and retail premises on the land, which will be given out on long-term leases. This extra space could come as a boon for cities such as Mumbai and Kolkata that are battling a space crunch.
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‘A major revenue-earner’
The shipping ministry, the sources said, has identified approximately 1,490 acres of land belonging to the Kolkata Port Trust, 6,920 acres from Gujarat’s Deendayal Port Trust (earlier known as Kandla Port Trust) and another 625 acres from the Mumbai Port Trust.
The land, located in the township areas of Kolkata, Mumbai and Kandla, is either under-utilised or mired in litigation, the sources added.
A ministry official said the land “has the potential of becoming a major revenue-earner for the sector”.
“These are captive assets. All of them are in non-core port land (operations) and can be easily monetised. We can lease them to private trusts for running offices or private residences,” the official added. “Even Public Sector Undertakings can use the land after making an upfront payment.”
Last year, too, the ministry had come up with a proposal to monetise 625 acres owned by the Mumbai Port Trust by opening it up for maritime tourism.
“But the proposal was not approved by the PMO and the shipping ministry was asked to prepare a comprehensive land monetisation policy involving vacant/underutilised land in non-core areas of all port trusts,” a second senior ministry official said.
In 2014, the Union Cabinet had approved a similar land-use policy that allowed the major ports to lease out core port land for related activities and businesses.
What are the land assets being used for now?
A major chunk of the 9,000 acres is currently lying under-utilised or is locked in litigation.
The Mumbai Port Trust, for instance, had leased out a sizeable chunk and many lessees are currently paying just a pittance. Many others sold the land, because of which the plots are now caught up in litigation.
“In many instances, court cases have been dragging on for over two decades to evict the lessees,” said the first official quoted above.
Of the land held by the Kolkata Port Trust, much is currently occupied by rundown godowns, closed jute mills and dilapidated structures. “It’s appalling how in a city… running out of space, such prime real estate is lying unutilised,” the official added.
Of the 20 major ports in India, major chunks of vacant or under-utilised land set aside for non-core operations are mostly available in Mumbai, Kolkata, Gujarat and Chennai ports.
“The Chennai Port Trust is still in the process of mapping its land assets in non-core (operations),” a third shipping ministry official said.
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