HT Exclusive: Mumbai speculators make huge profit buying and selling land in Raigad
Mumbai city news: Local farmers lose out, outsiders cash in as government acquires land for Delhi-Mumbai Industrial CorridorUpdated: May 23, 2017 15:02 IST
Rich investors from Mumbai’s tony Malabar Hill and Bandra are among scores of outsiders who bought up farmland cheap in Maharashtra’s Raigad district and are now making a killing selling it to the government for the ambitious $90-million Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor (DMIC).
Consider the case of Rasiklal Ramani (name changed to protect identity). He bought 11 acres from a local farmer, Ambaji Govind Chiwilkar, in Raigad’s Javthe village 10 years ago, for about Rs28,000 an acre. Ramani got Rs18.40 lakh an acre from the government for the same land, which had in the meantime been earmarked for the Dighi industrial node under the DMIC.
Ramani told HT he was into land speculation and that he had bought 28 acres in Javthe alone, out of which 20 acres had been acquired for the swanky new industrial city. For an investment of Rs20 lakh at most, Ramani made more than Rs3.6 crore.
Like Chiwilkar, hundreds of farmers in the area got short changed by land sharks who knew about the DMIC project. While the Maharashtra government claims that more than 60 per cent of land owners had given their consent for the project, at ground zero HT found out that more than 50 per cent of those willing to part with their land were outsiders -- investors who bought land from farmers.
Documents got under the Right to Information Act showed that most of those who had consented to sell land in the villages of Pansai, Nilaj, Javthe, Dhakane, Ghotwal, Koshimble, and Kalwan (all part of Phase I of the project), actually lived in Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Pune, and even Jabalpur and Lucknow.
Many of those who got compensation were listed as living in Malabar Hill, Bandra, Andheri, Tardeo, Ghatkopar, and Kandivili. And, these are not locals, who had migrated to the city.
As farmers’ protests against land acquisition for big ticket projects in Maharashtra gather steam and political traction, the Raigad case shows just how farmers typically end up getting a raw deal even before the real deal is done.
The RTI documents show how a Malabar Hill- based investor, for instance, purchased 35.25 hectares in Nilaj village alone and has agreed to now sell it to the government. One investor based in Pune owns land in five out of seven villages, whose lists we tracked.
“The RTI papers reveal that the actual number of those who have given assent is far less at around 40 per cent, instead of 60 per cent as claimed by the government. Also, more than three-fourths of those who have parted with their lands are outsiders. This is the story of every land acquisition process, where land sharks patronised by politicians buy plots from farmers who are always the last to come to know about the project coming up on their lands,” said Ulka Mahajan, activist who is leading the DMIC Virodhi Shetkari Sangharsh Samiti.
“In Roha and Mangaon, the two talukas that will lose 5,600 hectares to this project if not more, we saw land purchases peak between 2006-07 and 2010-11. Farmers sold off their low productivity lands for throwaway prices. Many were distress sales,” added Mahajan.
For instance, in Javthe village of 76 landowners who have agreed to sell their land, only 9 are locals. In Nilaj village, only 16 out of the 66 landowners who have agreed to sell their lands are locals. In Pansai village, only 51 out of the 197 landowners who have agreed to sell their lands are locals. In Dhakane, the number is 7 of 55, in Ghotwal 15 of 52, in Kalwan, 36 out of 116, and in Koshimble 27 out of 66.
The result is that the original landowners, who continue to oppose the project, unwilling to part with their remaining fertile land and livelihood, now face an uncertain future. The consent of the `outsider landlords’ has diluted their opposition to the project.
“We decided that from January this year, no one will sign the consent letters to sell the land for the project. Getting paid Rs18.40 lakhs for one acre and losing your livelihood is not a great bargain for us. The state is not promising us jobs and we don’t see a future for us in this proposed fancy city. But we know we stand on a slippery slope because many of these outsiders have sold off the lands,” said Ashok Shepunde, a farmer from Javthe village.
“The land deals in the village started in 2006-07 and initial sale prices were as low as Rs20,000 per acre to Rs35,000 per acre. In 2009-10, the figures jumped to Rs1 lakh to Rs2 lakh. Farmers sold their lands because we continued to be in the dark about this project until 2012,’’ he said. We heard a similar story in every village we visited.
The state government officials off the record admit that land investors figured in a big way among the land owners across these villages but also said that the deals were not forced and occurred before the acquisition started, and so had no bearing on the project.
“Under the MIDC Act there is no forcible acquisition. We have acquired consent for nearly 2,000 hectares out of the 2,500 hectares needed for the first phase of the project. We hope to get the remaining land too,” said Vikram Kumar, Joint CEO (DMIC).
“I am into land speculation. I bought this land around 6 to 10 years back in phases in the range of Rs30,000 to Rs60,000. I had no idea about the project,” claimed Ramani.
Another investor, Karim Khan (name changed) from Jogeshwari, who brought 3.12 acres in Nilaj told HT, “ I was tipped off that this was a good buy because of the proposed project. Such information is available with the right sources. There was no cheating.”
First Published: May 23, 2017 11:14 IST