An SEZ, a proposed airport and a trans-harbour link coupled with rising corporate interest have turned this village in the boondocks into a land of plenty
Mumbai’s hustle and bustle fades away as you hurtle east towards Navi Mumbai. After the toll plaza that announces your entry into the emerging suburbs of Vashi, Nerul and beyond, the composition of traffic changes. Trucks and heavy vehicles, headed out of India’s commercial capital or possibly to the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, dominate the six-lane highway.
However, of late, many people on this road are not headed for the Gurgaon-like steel and chrome of Vashi, but further ahead to the relatively little-known Ulwe, a collection of villages whose real estate value has skyrocketed by an average of 30% annually over the past five years.
For residents of villages such as Morave and Shivaji Nagar, this growth spurt has come both as a blessing and a bane. It’s a blessing for the likes of 32-year-old Pravin Koli, a fisherman by caste, whose traditional trade has dried up as the sea has been reclaimed, and playgrounds and under-construction apartments occupy the space where his boats lay anchored.
Koli today plies an auto rickshaw in and around his village of Morave. But those earnings are loose change that keeps the home fires burning. A real estate price explosion — courtesy of a proposed airport project and a 22-km trans-harbour link connecting the main city to Navi Mumbai coupled with extensions of railway networks and increasing interest from corporates — has enabled Koli to convert his small thatched house into a three floor tenement; he plans to give each of the 39 rooms out on rent once the expected deluge of work begins for a spate of projects, including a special economic zone (SEZ) by Reliance Industries, lined up for this region. While he’s got around 17 lakh for his land, Koli has banked most of it, opting for a 50-50 joint venture with a local builder to build the new complex. “This will make us plenty of money once the SEZ starts operations,” says Koli, who will split the proceeds among his two siblings.
While the state-owned City and Industrial Development Corporation initially took over land from farmers (giving them 12.5% of the acquired land and lump sum cash in return), it is only now that local residents smell the opportunity. As realtors, corporates and government agencies have swarmed the area, several villagers have made money and many are biding their time.
While some such as Koli have been wise with their money, local residents are full of stories of beneficiaries selling out and living off their income — with late nights at bars in the adjoining suburbs of Khargar, Panvel and Vashi. Money has also been invested in flashy bikes and cars, say real estate agents.
Life only begins at around 5 pm for a group of youngsters milling around the central square of an Ulwe village. It may be the end of a workday for most people, but for this bunch life is just about getting going — they have just woken up, having hit the sack just before dawn after a night out in town. Flush with funds from selling their land, they are looking to cut loose.
For Sharad Gawde (not his real name), who studies engineering in a Panvel college, nights at local bars in the surrounding boroughs of Navi Mumbai are de rigueur. The lifestyle for this 21-year-old is a sea change from a few years ago, when cash and entertainment were both in short supply. “We want to live the good life,” mutters one of Gawde’s friends. “We are lucky to be here at the right time and want to make the most of it.” Despite the bravado, he and his friends refuse to pose for a picture. “Don’t publicise our good fortune,” he says.
Dressed in a purple T-shirt, with his hair coloured copper and a new mobile phone in hand, Gawde talks a touch brashly about how things have changed. “One of my friends has an Audi; another a home in a hill station. There’s plenty of money to go around.”
Some have done even better: 46-yearold Ganesh Mhatre is holding on to some 20 plots, waiting for the right time to sell. In the interim a couple of his cousins have cashed out and moved to villas in the hill station of Panchgani.
More in the Offing
Around 1,000 projects of various sizes are at different stages of construction in and around Ulwe, estimates Arvind Goel, president, Navi Mumbai, for the Maharashtra chapter of the Confederation of Real Estate Developer’s Associations of India.
A swanky new office for Sunny Buildtech, a real estate consultancy, is getting its finishing touches in Ulwe. “Land rates have more than doubled and there is interest across demographics for property,” says Manmohan Agarwal, founder of Sunny Buildtech. “If all these projects come through then Ulwe could easily replicate or even exceed the boom in real estate prices we saw in Vashi and other localities that were initially developed in Navi Mumbai.”
Source: Economic Times