Farmers in the outskirts of Mumbai have pooled in 9,000 acres of land to build a smart city.
Thousands of farmer families in 11 villages in Raigad’s Khalapur taluka have pitched in with their ancestral farmland. The pooled land will be converted into a non-agriculture zone, after which a special purpose vehicle (SPV) will be promoted to build a smart city with the right mix of commercial, residential and environmental features.
The model envisages farmers owning shares in the SPV in proportion to the value of their land. Besides getting plush homes, they will earn dividends on shares they hold and income from contractual work for the SPV and the commercial units that are expected to invest in the township.
Villagers said they had jointly opposed plans for urbanisation of their tilled land for long, until they saw the writing on the wall when the Maharashtra government notified the land in the influence zone of the proposed new Navi Mumbai International Airport in 2013. The City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra (CIDCO), a state-owned firm, has already drawn up plans to promote a mega city in the influence area.
A similar initiative was witnessed for Amaravati, the new capital of Andhra Pradesh. To build Amaravati, farmers in the region between Vijayawada and Guntur pooled over 30,000 acres of land, which will be developed as a modern city by the AP Capital Region Development Authority.
“We decided to act before outsiders swallow up our ancestral land,” said Navinchandra Ghatwal, a local political heavyweight. Ghatwal too owns a 40-acre farm land in Khalapur village.
First, leaders from the villages got together to formulate a strategy. “It struck us that we need not oppose development but can build our own city, by pooling our lands,” he said. “All of us wanted a say in development, and felt we should reap long-term benefits for our land,” said Anant Patil, a former sarpanch of Nigdoli.
Their plans were bolstered when investors owning large land holdings in the region lent a hand. “The idea is to aggregate land for accelerated and planned development. All of us will gain from it,” said Vibhu Kapoor, director, Revive Realty, which owns over 200 acres in the region.
Town planner Anil Sule, who was instrumental in establishing the initial development in Navi Mumbai in the 1960s, helped draft a plan for the smart city, which has now been submitted to CIDCO. Confirming this, V Venugopal, Additional Chief Planner, CIDCO, said, “It is encouraging that people are coming forward for development.”
CIDCO MD Sanjay Bhatia told The Indian Express, “This is the kind of development we plan to promote. Our town planners and economists are working on the modalities.”
The most important feature of the model is that the land pattas or titles will remain in the villagers’ names, safeguarding their ownership of the land. Villagers are eyeing long-term benefits too. Sule said, “Each landowning family will be an equity shareholder in the company. Landowners will also be allotted bonds in proportion to their holdings.” Sixty per cent of the revenue raised by the SPV from sale of land and another 30 per cent through sale of constructed area will be used for repayment towards the bonds.