Maha farmers setting up first ‘cooperative MIDC’ in state

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Mumbai, Sept 27 (PTI): A farmers cooperative in Maharashtra is setting up the state’s first industrial colony, on the lines of Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC). MIDC is a state government undertaking which provides businesses with infrastructure such as land (open plot or built-up spaces), roads, water supply, drainage facilities and street lights. “Expected to be completed by the year-end, the ‘cooperative MIDC’ will invite private industries to set up their units,” Lok Sabha member and farmers’ leader Raju Shetti, who has initiated the project, told PTI.

Spread over 30 acres, the project has been registered with the industries department as ‘Swabhimani Audyogik Sahakari MIDC’ and owners of the land would be shareholders of the cooperative society, Shetti said.

“We have already received seven investment proposals, mainly from the food processing sector,” he said. Forty farmers from Nandni village in Shirol tehsil of Kolhapur district, around 400 kms from Mumbai, are members of the project, he said. “We have created a land bank and officially converted the status of our land from agriculture to non-agriculture and invited companies to set up their plants on the land,” Shetti said. “The revenues will be shared with farmers based on their share of land,” he said.

An MIDC official said this is a unique concept in Maharashtra, where such an industrial project is being set up by farmers and not by the government. There are 107 cooperative industrial estates in Maharashtra, developed in areas other than MIDC. The state government provides them share capital and technical guidance. “Our project has also been registered with the Union ministry for food processing industries,” Shetti said. Asked what prompted him to come up with this project, he said, “In Magarpatta township near Pune, farmers had floated a company with a large land bank and leased it out for IT sector and residential homes. A similar pattern is being implemented here.” “The project site is crucial as there are two industrial townships adjacent to it. This will prove beneficial to automobile and machinery parts suppliers,” Shetti said. Sandeep Patil, a member of the project, said, “Earlier land acquisition took years to complete, which was frustrating for farmers. In this case, the process took less than six months.” “If we sell our land to a company, we do not know what to do with the money, as we have been doing farming for years. We are used to cooperative way of functioning. We all are members of some sugar mill or cooperative milk dairy,” he said. “So we thought: why not start a cooperative MIDC, where farmers will share the revenue and companies can also operate. It is a win-win situation for both the parties,” he said.

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