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`Diversion of traditional cargo will be resisted' — AP Govt urged to honour word on Kakinada anchorage port

Our Bureau

KAKINADA, July 3

DIFFERENT sections of people dependent on the Kakinada anchorage port — cargo boat and barge workers, fishermen, barge owners, shore and stevedore labour, truck owners and labour besides port employees — met here on Wednesday and passed a resolution, urging the Andhra Pradesh Government to stick to its promise of protecting the old port and not to allow diversion of traditional cargoes to the new deepwater port being operated by the Kakinada Seaports Ltd under any pretext.

"More than 10,000 families are directly dependent on the anchorage port and several thousands more owe their livelihood to the port," they said.

The meeting was arranged in the backdrop of an attempt by the deepwater port authorities in the last week of June to load cement into containers at the new port. The workers and barge owners foiled the attempt, contending that cement was a traditional cargo and should not be handled at the new port.

On the other hand, the Kakinada Seaports Ltd contended that it was cargo generated by its efforts and it had every right to handle such containerised cargo at the new port.

Mr K. Janardhana Rao, leader of the Hind Mazdoor Sabha, said the anchorage port here was much older than even the Visakhapatnam port and as a labour-intensive port, it had been providing employment to thousands of workers in the hinterland.

Mr Veerababu, President of the Kakinada Cargo Boat and Barge Workers' Union, warned the Government and the new port authorities that attempts to divert traditional cargoes to the new port would be fought at all levels.

He, however, expressed the hope that the Government would honour its commitments, reiterated several times, to protect the old port. He said the contention of the new port authorities about cement being a non-traditional container cargo was not tenable. In letter and spirit, the restrictive clause in the agreement reached between the Government and the new port authorities prohibited diversion of traditional cargoes, he said.

Dr B. Ramamurthy, Chairman of the Kakinada Barge Owners' Welfare Association, said the new port could not, and should not, handle any cargo "previously or presently handled by the old port" (which, he said, was how the State Government mandarins defined traditional cargo) and cement did fall under that category.

He said it was not merely a matter of semantics or quibbling over words, but a matter of life and death for more than 10,000 families, and it could not be dismissed in such an offhand manner.

"The State Government should also clarify what it actually means by such phrases," he said, adding that legal notices had been issued to the new port authorities, the State Government, the port officer, the C&F agent and the shipper on the issue of cement-handling.

The State Government in a counter-affidavit filed in the Andhra Pradesh High Court solemnly affirmed that such cargoes would be handled only at the old port and "if it is violated, it would amount to contempt of court".

Mr. Suryanarayana, President of the Kakinada Port Employees' Union, Mr Srinivasa Raju, President of the Kakinada Truck Owners' Association, Mr P. Nookaraju, of the Stevedore Labour Union, and several others pledged their support to the struggle to save the old port.

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