Sahara’s Aamby Valley: A dream city caught in legal quagmire
Sahara group’s jewel-in-the-crown is making headlines again after Supreme Court ordered its attachment to repay dues to duped investors, dealing a severe blow to its chief Subrata Roy.india Updated: Feb 07, 2017 22:43 IST
Around 23 kilometres from the popular hill station Lonavala spans the luxurious 10,600-acre hill city Aamby Valley.
Sahara group’s jewel-in-the-crown is making headlines again after Supreme Court ordered its attachment to repay dues to duped investors, dealing a severe blow to its chief Subrata Roy.
Billed as independent India’s first planned hill city, the project comprises three man-made lakes and 11 water bodies in the picturesque Sahyadri range. A 1,300-yard airstrip and an international standard 18-hole golf course are its key features.
Favoured and used by business and Bollywood celebrities, the Valley also has multiple luxury restaurants and a lagoon with an artificial beach adjacent to the replica of Varanasi ghat for cultural programmes.
True to its brand, the project, touted as a dream city, was once represented by ambassadors like tennis player Anna Kournikova. Inside this gated community are villas and chalets.
With declared worth Rs 39,000 crore, the hill city is an example of perfect dichotomy. The Sahara group used investments, as small as Rs 30,000 from small and poor investors, to expand its various businesses, including Aamby valley.
As reported by Reuters earlier, the group has ploughed around Rs 15 billion from two of its credit cooperatives into its hill city project, about 100 km south of Mumbai.
The apex court’s order would ensure Rs 14,000 crore of dues is recovered.
Aamby valley has been in the news for wrong reasons earlier when the state administration on March 1, 2006 sealed the property for non-payment of non-agriculture tax worth Rs 4.82 crore.
The property later was reopened a day after Sahara group made partial payment to the revenue department, whose officials unlocked its gates allowing entry to elites who have bought property inside.
During the initial days, Sahara also faced protests from locals who feared their water would be blocked by the luxury resort city.
Sahara, which operates in real-estate, hospitality and entertainment sectors, brought down the prices of its properties—a one-bedroom villa was in the range of Rs 1-10 crore—with reduced sizes of plots, leading to favourable response from the buyers.
The Sahara group started acquiring the land for the project in mid-1990s after building basic amenities worth Rs 4,500 crore. Seemmanto Roy, younger son of Subrata, had in 2006 said that by 2014, the group would have spent Rs 15,000 crore on the project.
Interestingly, while Aamby valley has been built on the money from small investors, entry is restricted to the elite.