Jairam Ramesh / Photo: PTI
New Delhi: The Congress asked the government on Saturday if it is prudent from a national security perspective for a firm facing serious accusations of money laundering to be allowed to dominate a strategic sector like ports.
Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh, in his series of "Hum Adanike Hain Kaun" questions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said these queries relate to industrialist Gautam Adani's rapidly expanding monopoly in the ports sector.
"Even though it is a Saturday here is HAHK (Hum Adanike Hain Kaun)-7. 'Chuppi Todiye Pradhan Mantriji'," Ramesh wrote on Twitter.
He said the Adani Group controls 13 ports and terminals that represent 30 per cent of India's ports capacity and 40 per cent of the total container volume. "It is no surprise that this growth trajectory has accelerated since 2014," the former Union minister added.
He said in addition to the Mundra port in Gujarat, recent acquisitions of the business group include the Dhamra port in Odisha (2015), the Kattupalli port in Tamil Nadu (2018), the Krishnapatnam (2020) and Gangavaram (2021) ports in Andhra Pradesh and the Dighi port in Maharashtra (2021).
"There is a clear strategy at work: Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha account for 93 per cent of the overseas cargo traffic from India's 'non-major ports'. Krishnapatnam and Gangavaram are the largest private ports in the south. The Adani Group has declared its goal as expanding its market share to 40 per cent by 2025 and is attempting to acquire even more ports.
"Do you intend to oversee the takeover of every significant private port by your favourite business group or is there any space for other private firms that wish to invest?
"Is it prudent from a national security perspective for a firm that faces serious accusations of money laundering and round-tripping by offshore shell companies to be permitted to dominate a strategic sector like ports," the Congress leader asked.
He alleged that as with airports, the BJP-led government has facilitated an Adani monopoly in the ports sector too, using all the means at its disposal.
Alleging that ports that enjoy government concessions have been sold to the Adani Group without any bidding, and where bidding was allowed, the competitors "miraculously vanished" from the process, Ramesh said, "Income Tax raids appear to have helped 'convince' the previous owner of the Krishnapatnam port to sell it to the Adani Group.
"Is it true that In 2021, the public sector Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust was bidding for the Dighi port in Maharashtra in competition with Adani but was forced to withdraw its winning bid after the ministries of shipping and finance changed their mind about supporting its bid?" he asked.
The Congress leader said generally, port concessions are negotiated with the special purpose vehicle for each port to segregate risks and protect assets, yet many of these ports are now part of a single listed entity -- Adani Ports and SEZ.
"Has this transfer of assets been done in violation of the Model Concession Agreement for ports? Have the concession agreements been changed to accommodate Adani's commercial interests?" he asked.
The Congress has been posing questions to the government on the Adani issue ever since a report of US-based short-selling firm Hindenburg Research levelled allegations of financial irregularities against the business group, leading to a meltdown of its stocks on exchanges.
The opposition party has also been demanding a joint parliamentary committee probe into the issue.