NEW DELHI : Shipping Minister Shri Sarbananda Sonowal on Thursday said the government had given a big push to promote inland waterways and Assam received its first consignment of food grains from Patna via Bangladesh traversing a distance of 2,350 km through rivers Ganga and Brahmaputra.
Responding to the discussion on the demand for grants of the ministry of ports, shipping and waterways in the Lok Sabha, Sonowal also accused the previous governments of ignoring the inland waterways sector, particularly in the northeast and “never gave the region its due”.
“You had the policies, but never had the intent to implement them. We have policies (neeti), the intent (niyat) to implement and also a neta (leader) in Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to guide us,” Sonowal said.
He said in a bid to promote the fisheries sector, the government had developed 31 fishing harbours and was encouraging shipyards in the country to build deep sea fishing vessels.
The minister, who is a member of Rajya Sabha from Assam, said changes in legislation were helping develop quality facilities at ports.
“Most ports are profitable now. The Cochin Shipyard Limited is doing great work, they have made India’s first indigenously developed Aircraft Carrier, a true example of Aatmanirbhar Bharat. It is now building for the first time a 12,000 cubic meter Suction Dredger. This is good governance, powerful government,” Sonowal said.
He said that the number of seafarers which was 1,17,090 till 2014 has now increased to 2,05,787.
He said that infrastructure created under the Maritime India Vision 2030 and Sagarmala under the guidance of the Prime Minister has led to huge gains in the EXIM and domestic trade of India, 95% of which is done via the maritime sector.
Earlier, participating in the discussion, Lok Sabha members voiced concern over the low budgetary allocation for the government’s flagship Sagarmala programme, contending that it would take several decades to implement the Rs 8.5 lakh crore project.
Members including Veeraswamy Kalanidhi (DMK) and Protima Mandal (TMC) said the meagre allocation of Rs 750 crore for Sagarmala suggests that the project could be completed only by 2070.
Kalanidhi also questioned the development of the Kattupalli cargo port, north of Chennai contending that the Chennai and Ennore ports nearby were operating at 40 per cent of their capacity.
Mandal said the lower budgetary allocations to the Sagarmala project would only lead to greater private participation in the development of ports.
Mandal also cautioned about the environmental degradation along the coastline due to massive development of ports.
BJP member Dilip Saikia listed out the achievements of the government saying that India’s ranking in trading across borders improved from 132 in 2014 to 68 in 2020.
Saikia said the cargo handling capacity of major ports nearly doubled to 1560 Million Metric Tonnes Per Annum (MMTPA) from 800 MMTPA in 2014, while non-major ports were now handling 1,000 MMTA cargo every year as against 689 MMTPA in 2014.
He said under Modi the number of inland waterways increased from five in 2014 to 111 in 2021.
BJD member Anubhav Mohanty expressed dismay at the delay in release of funds under Sagarmala.
Initiating the debate, Congress member T N Prathapan wanted the government to make timely interventions to ensure the release of fishermen detained by countries such as Pakistan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Seychelles.