The Calcutta Municipal Corporation today asked Reliance Retail to sit for talks after the company demanded a refund of its investment in a project to redevelop the Park Circus market.
The dispute is about not allowing the company to conduct its agri-retail business in a part of the century-old market after it is rebuilt.
In the letter, the CMC urged the Mumbai-based company owned by Mukesh Ambani not to seek a refund â€” Reliance Retail won the project by paying Rs 30.33 crore in 2007.
The project would have involved pulling down the existing structure and building a swanky market complex.
The CMCâ€™s original tender document said: â€œReliance shall have the right of usage of its portion of the developed property for commercial purposesâ€. But mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya added a clause to it. Clause 6 said: â€œReliance will, however, not carry out retail business in agricultural products without specific permission from the CMC.â€
Surprised by this inclusion, Reliance Retail wrote its own draft. â€œReliance will, however, not carry out retail business in agricultural products without obtaining statutory licenses/ permissions applicable if any,â€ the draft said.
The CMC is not the authority to issue agri-retail permits.
Reliance gave a copy of its draft to the mayor last November. Nothing happened after that.
Last week, the company wrote to the CMC telling it to either accept its draft or refund the crores.
Bhattacharyya today expressed surprise â€œat the sudden change of attitude towards the joint ventureâ€. â€œIn the last five months, we had several rounds of talks and I told them Clause 6 will not be a stumbling block in running their business. They never talked about a refund. I hope they will understand the present situation.â€
A Reliance spokesperson said: â€œAfter winning the tender to develop the Park Circus market we have been in discussions with the CMC…. As a policy, we do not comment on matters relating to our discussions. We continue to look at West Bengal as an important market for Reliance Retail.â€
Industry sources doubt if Reliance will go ahead with the project in the middle of an economic meltdown. â€œIt is yet to get its agri-retail model right. Its expansion is in the pause mode,â€ a source said.