A RS 60-crore cheque presented by Patanjali Ayurved Ltd. towards cost of land purchased by it in the Multi-modal International Hub Airport at Nagpur (MIHAN) couldn’t be encashed at the bank because of the company admittedly “stopping payment” following a dispute over “gaps” in the boundary wall of the SEZ on the plot sought by Patanjali. The cheque for Rs 60 crore was given by Patanjali to Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC) in March against purchase of 106 acres of land in the SEZ area for it’s proposed export-oriented unit of food processing.
Drawn on a public sector unit bank, where Patanjali has an account, the cheque was returned twice recently. Sources in MADC, however, said, “Patanjali has a deadline of six months after it was issued an allotment letter in February to pay the entire amount. So, MADC is not affected. Only after they fulfil the obligation before the deadline shall we sign the lease agreement with them.”
Patanjali, however, points to a letter issued by the office of MIHAN’s Development Commissioner to it as the bone of contention. Managing Director and Baba Ramdev’s close aide Balkrishnan told The Indian Express, “We have been told that our proposal for the unit was pending due to some gaps in the boundary wall between our SEZ and non-SEZ plots as also due to some shortfall in the stipulations for the wall. We found these objections irritating and hence I had directed the bank to stop payment against the cheque we had so earnestly presented much before the deadline for payment.”
Patanjali has been allotted 230 acres of land in the non-SEZ area in a controversial manner by Maharashtra government that had slashed the rate under the pretext that the land had no takers. It had cost MADC a loss of Rs 170 crore. To recoup the loss, the government had hiked the SEZ land price for all future deals. This land, however, had been allotted to Patanjali for a food processing park through a tender process that saw Patanjali as the only qualified bidder after three rounds. It has already paid the entire cost for the 230 acres.
At the ground-breaking ceremony for the park in September last year, Baba Ramdev had also pitched for an additional piece of 60 acres in the SEZ area and had also paid Rs 10 crore by cheque towards earnest money deposit (EMD). “Subsequently, Patanjali had sought 46 more acres. For the entire 106 acre SEZ land Patanjali has to pay Rs 74 crore. It was issued an allotment later for the same in February. The payment was to be done in four tranches within the six month deadline.
The first installment of 10 pc EMD has already been paid with the paid amount exceeding the Rs 7.4 crore obligation. The rest 3 tranches have to be paid at the most in three installments of 30 pc each. Patanjali probably thought of paying it all at one go and gave a Rs 60-crore cheque,” a senior MADC official said, adding, “it doesn’t affect us as long as the deadline of six months is still to expire and the lease deed hasn’t yet been signed.”
A senior MIHAN official admitted, “The gaps in the SEZ boundary wall have to be actually bridged by us and we will do that soon.” Interestingly, the two Patanjali plots adjoin each other.
Patanjali has started constructing a compound wall in the non-SEZ land. It has procured machinery from a global manufacturing company for its food processing park. MADC MD Vishwas Patil said, “We haven’t given Patanjali possession of the land as yet since no agreement has been signed. They have still time to pay the remaining amount. I don’t think they have violated any condition.”