While the controversies over special economic zone proposals continue across the country, a small village located in a valley near Pune is fast developing as a Special Education Zone.
A large number of educational institutions are setting up huge premises inside this valley located in the ridges of the Western Ghat, around 10 kilometres away from Pune.
Names like Symbiosis International University, Bharati Vidyapeeth and the newly-established Foundation for Liberal and Management Education already have their presence in this valley, which is building its brand as the country's largest education hub.
Lavale is a village located in the Mulshi taluka of Pune district and is known for is picturesque surroundings. A huge hillock separates Lavale village from Pune city.
The educational institutes coming up in this valley are constructing roads and other civic facilities in this region to connect this valley of education to the main city areas. Crores of rupees are being spent to provide world-class infrastructure and living conditions at this serene locality to attract students even from Europe, the US and Australia.
Students with varied interests can avail education in almost every stream once they decide to become a part of Lavale valley. While Symbiosis is setting up its medical education institution at Lavale along with a mass communication institution, Bharati Vidyapeeth has planned a huge campus spread over 300 acres to run courses in medicine, engineering and management disciplines.
Apart from these two big brands, promoter of liberal education, FLAME, too has set up its campus over an area of 75 acres.
The education barons believe that within 10 years from now, this particular section of Pune district would develop into the country's largest educational hub providing all kinds of education.
FLAME founder Parag Shah told Business Standard that Lavale valley has all the features to build a strong academic culture and atmosphere.
"At FLAME, we are providing under-graduate courses, which are not constrained to streams such as arts, commerce or science. A student can select subjects of his or her choice. Our prime focus remains on performing arts and sports. There is no other institution of this kind in the country where a graduation degree is not confined to a particular stream. A student can study arts, literature, commerce along with chemistry and physics," says Shah. FLAME also provides courses such as post-graduate diploma in management and mass communication.
"We have invested around Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion) to set up this entire campus. Swimming pool, football ground, badminton courts and an upcoming cricket stadium are all here for the students," states Shah. FLAME also has a full-fledged ready-to-use golf course next to it.
Peaceful surroundings and its proximity to infotech hubs like Hinjewadi, Baner and Aundh have helped Lavale earn geographical importance. The Pirangut industrial estate where Cummins Power Generation has its plant, is also close by from Lavale.
Symbiosis International University has also developed 'Dyangram' campus here, which is also ready to start academic programmes. Symbiosis Institute of Business Management and Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management will shift to this premises from June 2008. It also plans to set up a hospital near its campus with an investment of Rs 60 crore (Rs 600 million).
All this development will proliferate further as the state government has proposed a modification in the regional plan for Pune district which will open up a large area under green zone for construction activity.
This will ensure that part of agricultural land would be available for public or semi-public use. Lavale village, therefore, is all set to become one of the biggest educational hubs in the country.