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Baalu rules out privatisation of SCI

Last updated on: May 26, 2004 19:03 IST

The new Minister for Shipping, Road Transport and Highways T R Baalu on Wednesday ruled out privatisation of the national flag carrier Shipping Corporation of India but saw no problems in giving berths on ports to private firms.

"It is not necessary to privatise SCI. I am not a mad man," Baalu, who took office today, told reporters in New Delhi.

He said the government will consciously review the working of SCI and see what needs to be done for the modernisation of fleet and augmenting tonnage.

The previous Bharatiya Janata Party-led government had taken up selling government stake in SCI but had to put the privatisation on the backburner as the process did not attract many buyers.

Baalu said the government would also consider the pros and cons of introducing tonnage tax for shipping lines saying, "From the companies point of view tonnage tax is extremely beneficial. But we will have to also take into consideration if it was beneficial to the common people."

The minister, however, had no reservation on leasing out berths at ports to private firms as it would encourage competition and result in operational efficiencies.

He also ruled out any increase in the Re 1.50 cess being charged on the sale of petrol and diesel for funding of roads.

"I am not in favour of increasing the cess. Rs 1.50 per litre is too much but we need a lot of funds for road development," he said, stressing the UPA government will not undo the good projects like the Rs 58,000 crore (Rs 580 billion) National Highway Development Project.

"Whatever project is viable and good for the country, we will be going ahead with it. The Golden Quadrilateral (the first phase of NHDP) is a good project," Baalu said.

He also ruled out renaming of the 10,000-km, Rs 40,000 crore (Rs 400 billion) Pradhan Mantri Bharat Jodo Pariyojana, popularly known as PM-BJP.

"I don't attach much importance to names. Call it X or Y, the project should be viable and should accrue economic benefits to the nation," he said.

The new government will stick by the December 2004 deadline for completion of the GQ portion of NHDP, which comprises of four/six-laning of highways between four metro cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.

The second phase of the North-South corridor linking Srinagar with Kanyakumari and East-West corridor joining Silchar and Porbandar would be completed by 2007 end, he said.

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