With the growing demand of housing in the country, several real estate mafias with powerful people, are challenging the rule of law for selfish monetary gains. The whole extent of real estate management is a scam and needs to be looked into.
Indian societies, since time immemorial, have been a witness to different kinds of mafias which posed serious challenges to governance. Even in the modern era of democracy, these mafias, in league with powerful people, are subverting the rule of law for selfish monetary gains. The growing demand for housing in the last few years has given birth to several real estate mafias in the country, who had been taking home buyers for a ride in the belief that the law will never catch them.
The policies of the Government in the past two decades, controlled by the political and bureaucratic nexus, has led to the creation of real estate mafias all over the country. Previously, till a decade and a half ago, the Government policies have been to promote urban housing societies constituted by different groups of people by allocating them Government-acquired land and a large number of people, especially the middle income and salaried class, could own decent apartments and houses in Delhi and other cities at affordable prices.
However, slowly, the grip of these real estate mafias grew with the growth of the economy and with money in the hands of the buyers. These mafias hoodwinked the Government and the people with a promise to modernise the housing sector with better technology. Corrupt politicians, like the one being witnessed in Noida and the National Capital Region (NCR), saw it as an opportunity to make quick moolah (money) in league with real estate builders and even floated their own companies.
Urban housing became a business venture with various Government agencies auctioning lands acquired from the farmers under different provisions by invoking emergency public interests clauses. It, thus, became a money-spinning venture for the agencies and authorities; and in essence, both the farmers and buyers suffered. This has been reflected in the last few years through the farmers’ agitation in Noida and elsewhere.
With this, group-housing societies were buried for the sake of builder-oriented housing schemes for which the Government gleefully acquired lands by trampling on the rights of the farmers and created city/town specific development authorities or agencies, as they are called, to be dominated by bureaucrats, and indirectly controlled by influential local politicians.
The Government auctioned/allotted the plots to the builders at a very high price. This has, on the one hand, increased the cost of houses/flats. On the other, promoted builders-criminal nexus in cities like Noida, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Chandigarh, Bhopal, Jaipur and several other cities and towns with skyscrapers.
Consequently, prices of apartments and plots skyrocketed, compared to previous years. This was a win-win situation for both, Government agencies controlling the housing business as also for the real estate developers. In this case, people were the only losers. The quick flow of money in the hands of ill-equipped and ‘nouveau riche’ developers, like Amrapali, Unitech and Jaypee builders, overnight transformed them as modern-day superstars of the Page 3 crowd partying at the cost of poor investors. They used the money collected to fulfil personal whims and fads. Their actions are nothing shorter than looters and daylight pick-pocketers.
But the most overlooked fact is the unscientific way of creating these skyscrapers. In foreign countries, after due scientific and technological studies, high-rise above six-storey are allowed under proper technical supervision. In Noida and other places, builders are constructing such buildings not only in very sensitive seismic zone but also at the unstable Yamuna banks. It, however, needs to be verified what precautionary world-class technological steps had been taken by Government authorities to ensure the safety of these high-rise buildings.
The Indian Constitution, however, empowers the people, through judicial intervention, to seek justice and to protect their fundamental and other rights. The Supreme Court of India is the last refuge for harassed citizens. One of the highest points of the Indian judiciary’s positive contribution is the interest the apex court takes in some issues, where the executive fails to deliver. In 1996, the Supreme Court took upon itself to set the mess right in the field of environmental and forest conservation and Governments at the Centre and State were forced to take action.
The recent focus of the top court in cases registered against the Amrapali group, is yet another sign that the judges have decided to stem the rot by regularly hearing the cases filed before it. When a few property buyers found that members of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) were taking very long time in deciding the cases filed against the Amrapali group, they filed a Special Leave Petition in the apex court and the issue immediately received the attention of the entire nation.
The NCDRC is prevaricating in its hearing in Amrapali case and what is objectionable is the fact that one of the members had forced the buyer to publish the notice in three costly newspapers identified by him. It appears that the NCRDC process is helping the builder more than disposing off the case fast and it is a matter for the Government and the Supreme Court to order an investigation on a manner the cases are held up.
When the Yogi Adityanath Government came to power in Uttar Pradesh, the Chief Minister set up a three-member Cabinet committee to solve the problem. But it proved to be a big fiasco and the committee became a laughing stock in the eyes of property owners. It is high time this ministerial group is disbanded. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister must decide before the 2019 General election as the resentment for not taking action against the builders is writ large now. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah must ask the national spokesperson and advocate Gaurav Bhatia to immediately withdraw from representing the Amrapali group or else it will affect the fortunes of the party.
All eyes are now on the Supreme Court’s hearing. People have faith in the top court and are hopeful that it will sort this matter by punishing these looters. The judicial process also has an opportunity to improvise the functioning of local bodies like the incompetent Noida Authority to seriously take action in the interests of the buyers and even forge its claim of earning profit from the sale of land for flats. In fact, the whole gamut of real estate management is a scam and needs to be looked into.
Today, if someone decides to buy a property from an existing owner, he has to pay a very heavy price for transferring the lease in his name to the Noida Authority as well as to the housing society.
(The writer is former Director-General, Indian Council of Forestry Research Chancellor, FRI University and Principal Secretary to Government of Tripura)
Writer: V K Bahuguna
Courtesy: The Pioneer