Monday, August 20, 2007

CPIM Govt slammed for nod to Reliance retail

Govt slammed for nod to Reliance retail

Statesman News Service
KOLKATA, Aug. 20: Forward Bloc leader and chairman of the West Bengal State Marketing Board, Mr Naren Chatterjee has sent letters admonishing the two CPI-M ministers, Mr Abdur Rezzak Mollah, land and land reforms department and Mr Mahanta Chatterjee, food processing and horticulture department, for superseding the Marketing Board in giving permission to Reliance to set up its retail chain, Reliance Fresh, in the state.

From the very beginning, Forward Bloc has been opposed to Reliance or any other large corporate entering the agri-marketing scene. Only two days back, Forward Bloc activists ransacked the premises of the first potential Reliance Fresh retail outlet in north Kolkata. Former chief minister Mr Jyoti Basu today admitted that there are differences among Left Front partners on this issue and the matter needs to be discussed.

Mr Naren Chatterjee said: "Reliance and other corporates like Metro Cash should stay away from agri-marketing in the state. I object to the food processing and land and land reforms departments for trying to allow Reliance entry into agri-marketing. Calling their centers 'food processing units' is mere eyewash. The food processing and horticulture department does not have jurisdiction to give Reliance permission."

In his letter to Mr Mahanta Chatterjee, the chairman of the State Marketing Board has said: "…it is expected that your department will not interfere in activities relating to marketing of agricultural produce in any manner including setting up of any parallel marketing network…"
In another letter to Mr Abdur Rezzak Mollah, the chairman wrote: "…No land is to be allotted nor is any relaxation in land ceiling allowed to any private commercial organisation for establishing markets of agri-produce without recommendation from the Agriculture Marketing Department." Mr Mollah however replied back within two hours saying that he didn't do anything bypassing the existing laws.
Mr Naren Chatterjee said that agriculture traders in the state were feeling threatened by Reliance's purported entry, and there could even be a law and order situation in the state.

"I have met vendors' associations and they are very agitated about the situation. Agricultural traders are angry too. If Reliance enters agri-marketing, there will be an uprising in the state. There might be a serious law and order situation. The state government should look after the larger public interest," Mr Chatterjee said.

The State Marketing Board proposes to have its own agri-marketing network and retail outlet, waking up to this need rather suddenly. "We will write a letter to the state government to have at least 10 per cent of the total agricultural produce sold through public retail units," Mr Chatterjee said.

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