Shipping Minister G K Vasan expresses disinterest in Slum Rehabilitation projects on Port land; gives nod for 22-km Mumbai Trans Harbour Link

While the State government has demanded to open up Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) land to ease traffic congestion and implement projects to rehabilitate slums dwellers, Shipping Minister G K Vasan expressed displeasure over the latter.

Vasan believes that opening the sprawling Port Trust land for infrastructure projects would be in the larger interest of the public. But the proposal of utilising the space to rehabilitate slum dwellers has not gone down well with the minister.

He clarified his Ministry's stand on opening the 700-odd hectare Port Trust land. "We are aware that big chunks of land are rare to find in mega cities. But, they should only be used for public utility, keeping in mind public interest," said Vasan.

About his Ministry's response to the 22-km Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) connecting Sewri with Nhava Sheva port, Vasan said his department would not oppose handing over land for infrastructure projects. "Surely, the proposed harbour link is in public interest, and we are interested in offering any assistance," he said.

The minister's statement comes on the backdrop of the state government's demand for opening the secure zone [MbPT land] to ease traffic congestion and implementation of slum rehabilitation projects to rehabilitate slums dwellers from the city.

"Land has been a serious issue and if it is used for massive construction it will create problems," said the minister, adding, "A policy decision to open the land pool will have to be taken at the highest level."

Vasan's stand may come as a jolt to the state government, who wants to implement slum rehabilitation schemes. MbPT land is being considered as a most viable option to rehabilitate slums.

"No haphazard construction activities would be allowed in the zone," said Vasan.

Coastal security
When asked regarding the coastal security of Mumbai, Vasan said, "The Ministry of Shipping, and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were manning the coast satisfactorily. We are extra careful after 26/11 and strict vigil is being maintained."

"It is a policy decision taken by the Union Government to forbid ships over 25 years old to enter Indian Territory. Only ships classified by authorised agencies will be allowed to enter, as it will keep a check on the accidents," said Vasan.