Federation for People’s Rights (FPR), Puducherry, Secretary G. Sugumaran met the Home Minister of India Mr. P. Chidambaram in the Chief Secretariat in Puducherry and submitted a memorandum today (10.04.2010):
On behalf of “Federation for People’s Rights (FPR), Puducherry” an organization working for Human and Social rights since three decades, we are submitting this memorandum in the public interest and humbly request your authority to consider the same and uphold the interest of Puducherry people and render Justice.
(1) Request to terminate the illegal concession agreement of Puducherry Port project and reclaim the 153 acres of Government land handed over to the private port firm.
The Government of Puducherry evolved a plan to develop the existing port and entered in to an agreement with a private concern at an estimated cost of Rs. 2600 crore on 2005. The Government had transferred 153 acres of its owned land around the existing port site, to the private firm without obtaining prior permission from Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which is the competent authority as established by law. It has also attempted to acquire the private lands in and around the Thengaithittu village.
As the people of Puducherry firmly believed that their fundamental basis for existence would be jeopardized on implementing the port project, they embarked into intensive agitation against the Government’s wrong decision. Following the agitation launched jointly by Political Parties and Social Movements, the Government announced that the port project would be kept in abeyance. It is worth to note here that our Federation has played a vital role in these struggles.
Following the Madras High Court and Supreme Court Judgments in the Port Project case, the Puducherry Government had determined to execute the project and announced the same in public.
The Government of India, particularly the MHA has preferred an Appeal Petition in the Supreme Court of India to recall or modify the decision delivered earlier. The SC admitted the petition and had taken on file on 7th December 2009. In the light of this new development, the issue gains significance.
MHA had exhaustively pointed out various Infirmities and violation of Rules and Regulations, Statutory Provisions of Puducherry Administration Act, Puducherry Rules of Business, Governance of UT Act and Constitution of India.
The Government had violated in the bid process, selection of bidder, terms of contract, disproportionate quantum of lease amount, constitution of governing body, etc. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Home affairs, Planning Commission have recorded the violation of the rules to the core and undue favoritism shown to the private firm, which has been found guilty by the SEBI authorities. Besides the terms of contract has caused huge monetary loss to the Exchequer. The matter has been taken cognizance by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) which is yet to receive its reply from the Puducherry Government.
Further, it has been pointed out by the Government of India that handing over of 153 acres of state owned land to private firm is beyond the jurisdiction of Puducherry Government, as the power vest only with the MHA.
The lease amount has been fixed as 3.06 lakhs per annum for the above said land payable to the Government by the private firm. As per the normal procedure in practice in the states like Andhrapradesh, is that the lease amount should be 2% of the fair market value of the land. Hence, the lease amount to be collected figures around 14.5 crores. Hence, the Government has shown undue favour to the private firm causing substantial loss to the Government.
We infer from the reliable source that the MHA has written a letter stating categorically to the Government of Puducherry to cancel the said agreement and also to take back the 153 acre Government land handed over to the private concern illegally. But still the Puducherry Government is firm in disobeying the order of the MHA.
Following the MHA, the Shipping Ministry of India has also filed an application before the Supreme Court of India, opposing the said port project praying for the recall or modification of the earlier judgment favouring the port project.
Hence, we humbly request your authority to take steps to terminate the said illegal concession agreement, forthwith. Also to take steps to reclaim the said 153 acres of Government land from the private port developer.
(2) Request not to give sanction for the further extension and take steps to cancel the concession agreement of Karaikal Port project and reclaim the said 597 acre Government land handed over to the port developer.
In 2006 a concession agreement on Karaikal Port entered between the Government of Puducherry and Marg Constructions. The all-weather deep sea Port project is being built on private public partnership mode by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) called Karaikal Port Limited, a subsidiary of Marg Constructions on BOT basis for the Puducherry Government.
As per the said agreement, the revenue sharing between the Puducherry government and Karaikal Port Limited is for a period of 30 years and the developers would extend 2.6 percent of the gross income to the Government. The government of Puducherry had transferred 597 acres of Government land to the private developers on 5th February 2007. The MHA not yet approved for the transfer of the above mentioned 597 acre land to the port developer.
The Karaikal Port became operational in August 2009, after completion of first phase of the project at an estimate of Rs 416 crore. In expectation of the gross income of Rs 46.78 crore during 2009 – 2010, the port developer handed over Rs 30 lakh to the Government at its share of revenue for the first quarter out of a targeted share of Rs 1.21 crore in 2009 -2010.
The MHA has sent a letter to the port developers for revision of the concession agreement through an upward revision of the percentage of gross revenue to the Government. MHA also communicated for the enhancement of the land lease amount to Rs 1,000 per acre. But, the port developers never turned up to the MHA conditions and continued their process of developing the Karaikal Port.
The villagers of Karaikal region particularly the coastal area fisher folk people are very much affected by the said port project. The main export in the port is coal and it causes huge air pollution and hazardous to the environment. The drinking water in the coastal area of Karaikal is already getting saline and the people are living with scarcity of drinking water.
Hence, we request your authority not to give sanction for the further extension and take steps to cancel the concession agreement of Karaikal Port project. Also to take steps to reclaim the said 597 acre Government land from the private port developer.
(3) Request to take steps to reclaim the lands acquired for the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) since the MHA ordered to the Puducherry Gevernment to reclaim the land provided to the private developer.
The Puducherry Government entered in an agreement with a private developer to set up a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Setharapet – Karasur area in Puducherry in 1000 acres of land. The Government acquired about 800 acres of agricultural land from the farmers at the cost of 70 crore for the SEZ. Also the Government has approached the MHA to get approval to hand over the 13 acres of Government land to the private developer.
The MHA found that the 800 acres already acquired were not fit for developing the SEZ. As per rules, an SEZ should be developed in a contiguous area and specially delineated enclave. The MHA ordered to the Puducherry Government to reclaim the land provided to the private developer. But till date the government is very reluctant to obey the MHA order to get back the land and hand over to the farmers of Setharapet – Karasur area.
Hence, we request your authority to take steps to reclaim the acquired agricultural land and hand over to the farmers of Setharapet – Karasur area in order to protect the livelihood of the farmers.
(4) Request to instruct the Government to immediately issue the G.O. providing 2.5 percent reservation for the Backward Muslims and 1 percent reservation for the Backward Tribe.
The Government of Puducherry announced 2.5 percent reservation in Education and Employment for the Backward Muslims and 1 percent reservation for the Scheduled Tribe people categorising them as Backward Tribe. The Backward Class Commission initially recommended providing 2.5 percent reservation to Backward Muslims by taking 1 percent from BC and 1.5 percent from MBC. The Muslims and MBC people opposed this distribution of percentage and since the Muslims of Puducherry come under BC category, they demanded to provide reservation to Muslims from the BC category following the other states of India. Due to wide spread agitation from the aggrieved MBC people, the BC Commission reviewed its recommendation and sent a modified recommendation to the Government to provide 2.5 percent to the Backward Muslims from the BC category.
The Scheduled Tribe people of Puducherry are fighting for about 25 years for the status of ST and their legitimate rights including reservation benefits. The Government of Puducherry accepting the long pending demands of ST people announced to provide 1 percent reservation. The Backward Class Commission recommended providing 1 percent reservation categorising them as Backward Tribe.
Hence, we request your authority to instruct the Government to immediately issue the G.O. providing 2.5 percent reservation to the Backward Muslims and 1 percent reservation to the Backward Tribe.
We sincerely trust and hope that your authority will certainly give due consideration to the legitimate aspiration of the people of Puducherry and would ensure justice to our people.