Govt meet to help NRIs resolve real estate woes with developers

Govt meet to help NRIs resolve real estate woes with developers

Kolkata: The ministry of overseas Indian affairs is bringing together real estate developers, government officials, both from the Centre and the states, and Indians living abroad in a first-of-its-kind seminar aimed at resolving property disputes in Delhi on Monday.

“The seminar would cover the role of different government and private agencies, measures to prevent disputes…and speedy way of disposal," said a posting on the website of the Indian consulate in New York.

Indians living abroad are a “major source of foreign exchange remittances that has led to the present state of comfortable foreign exchange reserve in the country", the posting adds, and a substantial amount of money earned by non-resident Indians (NRIs) is spent on buying property back home.

The ministry has been receiving a lot of complaints from Indians living abroad, mostly in the US, the UK and Canada, about properties not being delivered on time or usurped by local people, said Vayalar Ravi, minister for overseas Indian affairs. “This is an attempt to help NRIs and PIOs (persons of Indian origin) resolve disputes with property developers and state bodies in India," he added.

The ministry is trying to start a “constructive dialogue" between NRIs and real estate developers, and include in it lawyers and government officials, according to an official responsible for holding the seminar.

“We need cooperation of the state governments as well," said this official who did not want to be named because he isn’t authorized to speak to the media. “Only Punjab and Kerala have special cells to address problems faced by NRIs… We have been pressuring other states to start similar cells, launch fast-track courts and so on," he added.

The meet could benefit thousands of NRIs, who on their own, can do little to pressure property developers to finish construction on time. Some have formed online groups to start collective bargaining but because they live abroad, haven’t had much success in securing their rights.

“It’s hard-earned money that we have invested back home," said Asim Debnath, a US-based Indian who had bought a flat in a condominium in Rajarhat on the outskirts of Kolkata, which was sold only to NRIs. The property isn’t ready yet, and the developer is blaming the lack of civic infrastructure in Rajarhat township for the delay in completion.

“There isn’t much we can do," said Debnath. “Local authorities and politicians do not seem to appreciate our concern."

The attempt to bring together NRI home buyers and real estate developers should benefit “all stakeholders", according to Pradeep Sureka, president of the West Bengal chapter of Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (Credai)—an industry lobby.

“But involvement of local government officials is crucial because real estate developers face a lot of problems with civic infrastructure, which slows construction," he said. “While we are ready to be governed by regulations, we expect such regulations to be binding on agencies responsible for creating infrastructure."

The seminar will give NRIs an opportunity to voice their problems, said Kaustuv Roy, executive director of property consultant, Cushman and Wakefield. However, such initiatives should be backed by strong legislation. “The biggest problem that overseas investors face is discrepancy between what is sold to them and what they receive in the end," he added.