A company called Kalbhairav Agro & Development Company has been floated for the purpose and 450 of the 1,000 farmers in the village have become shareholders. This marks the first time farmers have proposed an SEZ.
Farmers have been allotted one share for every 1,000 square feet of land they own. Thus, a farmer owning 1 acre gets 40 shares.
The company is chaired by A B Patil, a commerce graduate who owns six acres and two jeeps. He said he was confident of others joining once they saw some action on the ground.
According to Patil, all registration formalities for the company are complete and the proposal has been sent to the registrar of companies. The formal proposal to set up the SEZ will be sent to the Centre and the Maharashtra government once the registration is received.
"The government's attitude to this experiment will reveal if it is really interested in farmers' welfare," he said.
The state government has notified nearly 10,000 hectares in 45 villages in the district for acquisition for the Mumbai SEZ, a move strongly resisted by farmers.
Kalbhairav Agro has not yet drawn up firm fund-raising plans, however. Patil said the company was talking to the promoters of Magarpatta City on the outskirts of Pune for ideas. Farmers there joined hands and successfully developed a township and an infotech park.
"We will learn from their experiences of becoming crorepatis," he said. Kalbhairva also intends to talk to financial institutions for assistance and is even planning an initial public offer.
Patil admitted the task of setting up the SEZ was difficult because the farmers would have to face the might of Reliance Industries and the state government. But he said the company would go ahead because the "fruits of development should be enjoyed by farmers themselves and not a few outsiders".
Reliance Industries, he said, was offering farmers Rs 10 lakh an acre. But farmers can easily sell the land to other companies for no less than Rs 1 crore an acre.