New Delhi, Feb. 28: Bengal found a special mention in the budget with the finance minister P. Chidambaram allocating Rs 1,000 crore for green revolution in eastern India and announcing the establishment of a major port in Sagar.
“Bringing the green revolution to eastern India has been a remarkable success. Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal have increased their contribution to rice production. I propose to continue to support the eastern Indian states with an allocation of Rs 1,000 crore in 2013-14,” he said in his budget speech in the Lok Sabha.
The government is focussing on farm output in eastern Indian states as agricultural productivity in the original green revolution states such as Punjab and Haryana have been hit by the over-use of fertilisers. The eastern Indian states have a widespread riverine system and an irrigation network fed by large dams, which make it cheaper for the central government to plan its second green revolution, which uses a combination of better seeds, farming techniques and water resources to produce higher yields. Chidambaram also announced the establishment of two major ports – Sagar in Bengal and another in Andhra Pradesh.
The two new ports will cost about Rs 20,500 crore to build and have 116 mt of annual cargo-handling capacity.
In its Maritime Agenda 2010-2020, the shipping ministry plans to increase the total port capacity to 3,300 million tonnes (mt) from 1,200mt now, needing an estimated investment of Rs 2.9 trillion.
The 13 major ports handle 63 per cent of the seaborne traffic at present, while the non-major ports handle the remaining 36 per cent capacity. Twelve of these ports function as trusts under the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963, while the Ennore Port was set up as a company under the Companies Act, 1956.
The two new ports are expected to be set up as special purpose vehicles, with at least 26 per cent equity participation each from the state governments of Andhra Pradesh and Bengal for the respective ports in their states, and the rest by the Union government.
Chidambaram said “the objective is to choose barge operators, through competitive bidding, to transport bulk cargo on the national waterways. The first transport contract has been awarded in West Bengal from Haldia to Farakka.”
The finance minister also announced that five inland waterways have been declared national waterways and the Lakhipur–Bhanga stretch of river Barak in Assam would be the sixth national waterway.