Revenue discord between governments stalls cargo river route

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Riverine transport of cargo from Sahibganj in Jharkhand to Bihar has been suspended for over a week after difference of opinion regarding revenue collection between the Jharkhand government and the Inland Waterways Authority of India, which reports to the Centre.

Trucks transporting coal, stone chips, cement and other construction materials are loaded onto ships from Sahibganj for Manihari in Katihar district of Bihar.

After the Jharkhand government stopped the use of ghats, the journey that used to take around 40 minutes by river is taking two days by road

The IWAI took over the entire cargo-handling operations in Sahibganj after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a multi-modal terminal (MMT) in September 2019 as part of the Jal Vikas Marg project that aims to develop the stretch of the Ganga from Varanasi to Haldia for the navigation of large ships

Since infrastructure development at Sahibganj terminal is yet to be complete, the IWAI was using the ghats from where ships used to load trucks before the terminal was built.

The disagreement that has arisen is over revenue collection.

The six ghat owners at Sahibganj used to pay an annual fee to the Jharkhand government and charge vessel owners for their services, as per the previous revenue model. But after the IWAI took over, it has been collecting the revenue.

The state has favoured that it should get the money if the ghats are to be used. Cargo ship and truck owners said they were suffering heavy losses.

While IWAI officials said the issue would be sorted out soon, the Jharkhand government said it had been resolved.

“Ferrying of cargo between Sahibganj and Manihari has been stopped following the directive of the Sahibganj deputy commissioner (Varun Ranjan) earlier this month. All the ships are stranded at the ghats. We have intimated our officials and things will be sorted out soon,” said Prashant Kumar, the IWAI deputy director in Sahibganj.

 “The issues have been sorted out at a meeting in Ranchi with IWAI officials. Ferry services are the exclusive jurisdiction of the state. The deputy commissioner will carry out settlement (auctioning) of the ghats for different routes soon and services will resume after that”, said Jharkhand transport secretary Ravikumar.

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