Who is behind the Rs. 2,000 crore hill station project in Mulshi taluka in Pune district?
There is curiosity in political and bureaucratic circles about the background of the project developers, Maharashtra Valley View Private Limited, who claim their little-known company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Marco Infrastructure & Holding Pvt Limited, with three directors on board — Sanjay Shah, Hitesh Parikh and Kalpesh Bambharolia.
However, they are unwilling to divulge any other information on the ownership and interests of Marco Infrastructure.
The hill station project is in the news as the state government cleared it recently, two months after a Centre-appointed green panel raised concerns over its ecological impact in eco-sensitive Sahyadri ranges — it also falls in catchment area of three dams in Pune district. CM Prithviraj Chavan, who heads the urban development department that cleared the project, has said that the permission was given to the project in accordance with the existing policy on developing private hill stations in the state.
Both Parikh and Shah have been associated, as vice-president and director, with Micro Inks, the flagship company of low profile, multi-crore Bilakhia Holdings based in Vapi, which has interests in inks, agrochemicals, health care and education.
The email contact given at the registrar of companies for Maharashtra Valley View Private Limited is associated with M3investments, the investment arm of Bilakhia Holdings.
When asked whether Marco Infrastructure was associated with Bilakhia Group or M3 investments, Parikh said, “I do not want to comment on this. Marco has other stakeholders too. It is a Maharashtra-based company investing in infrastructure.” Parikh refused to divulge information on other stakeholders.
The 5,914-acre hill station project by the Maharashtra Valley View Private Limited got a clearance from the state government on May 19. However, the deputy director of town planning, Pune division, had submitted a favourable report a year earlier in January 2011, after receiving a no-objection to the notification for delineating the said villages as hill station area.
The report said that, in order to “promote tourism”, the modification was necessary.
The company said that it has acquired nearly 1,200 hectare of land for the project, and that it had been working on it for the last six years. Answering queries over ecological impact, Parikh said, “The project is coming up over majority of shrub land, which has been deteriorating for the last many years. The project is not coming up on any government, adivasi, private or reserved forest land. We are sure of getting the state expert appraisal committee’s (SEAC) nod.”
He also said that his company had not hidden any of SEAC’s observations from the government as this information is in the public domain. In its communication to HT, the company said that there will be no restriction of entry to the project site and villagers will enjoy their rights.
There are two other hill station projects proposed in the Mulshi taluka — by Aqualand India Limited and Satind Infrastructure Private Limited. While Aqualand had asked for land in Khurd and Warad village in Mulshi, Satind had sought land near Teilbela, Mazgaon and Saltar villages. Both these proposals have been considered favourably by the town planning department in Pune. The proposal by Satind also has a conditional approval by the SEAC, given last year.
However, Parikh said, “We have no stake in these companies.”