Nestling in the Sahyadri ranges and close to Maharashtra’s two big cities, Mumbai and Pune, the belt that houses the hill-towns of Khandala, Lonavala and Talegaon has been a lucrative destination for land developers.
Located about 85 km from Mumbai and 45 km from Pune, the area in Maval taluka has emerged as a favourite weekend spot for people from both cities.
The real estate boom in Mumbai and Pune also led to a demand for bungalows in the area. The construction of the 97-km-long Mumbai-Pune Expressway in 2000 provided better and faster connectivity to these weekend spots.
And, after Lonavala-Khandala, land developers turned to neighbouring Talegaon town. A plot at a good area is sold for Rs. 30-40 lakh per acre — which explains why it’s attracting land developers.
Currently, there are about 94,000 agricultural properties in Maval taluka — most of which have been sold to urbanites. Very few are under cultivation, said Pradeep Thatte, a real estate agent from Lonavala.
In the past decade, the entire belt saw a spurt in construction activities and mushrooming of many developers — with the help of politicians. This led to several complaints of land grabbing and threats to farmers.
In October last year, because of rigorous follow-up taken by RTI activist Satish Shetty, Lonavala sub-registrar Ashwini Kshirsagar was suspended for allegedly preparing fake documents while registering land transactions. While he police are still investigating the case, almost 11,000 land transactions in past few years are currently under scrutiny.
This explains why Shetty was a target.