Monday, January 11, 2010

Overseas Indians hesitate to take the property plunge on home turf

Overseas Indians hesitate to take the property plunge on home turf

Even with a vast wealth base, overseas Indians are reluctant to invest in real estate in India. Despite the government having relaxed its property ownership laws for Non Resident Indians (NRIs), on Day 1 of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the NRIs had some horror stories to narrate about investing in property in India.

“I waited 20 years before investing in property in Delhi. I was worried that I would get cheated. Even after taking all the requisite precautions, I quickly discovered that the previous owner of my property had sold the same property to two people at the same time. I took the case to court, where there has been no resolution for the last eight years, during which time four different judges looked into the case,” said an NRI from Washington DC.

The lackadaisical approach adopted by Indian courts came in for a lot of criticism during a day-long session titled “Property Related Issues of NRIs/PIOs” held at Vigyan Bhawan on Thursday. “After the case was filed, I flew down on three different dates from Washington to attend the hearing, but each time the defendant excused himself from the hearing by offering different excuses through his lawyer. Each time the case was adjourned,” the NRI said.

While the Indian government has advised all NRIs not to give a “general power of attorney” for their property to anyone, even relatives, those attending the conference complained that the ground reality was in conflict with such advice.

“I invested in a property in South Extension and even for something as mundane as getting a power or a water connection, my representative was asked to produce a general power of attorney. The authorities refused to accept a special power of attorney,” V K Chadda, a Hong Kong resident, said.

A presentation on the subject made by Dr Justice A R Lakshmanan, a former judge of the Supreme Court, highlighted steps that may be taken to remedy the current situation.

Chief among them was the suggestion to set up fast-track courts to deal with such cases in a time-bound manner.

A Didar Singh, secretary, Ministry of Overseas Affairs, said the government was “attempting fast track resolutions,” of such cases. He also added, “You must realise that most Indians face the same problems as you do. It is not a problem unique to NRIs. We’re a developing country and all attempts are being made to rectify the system. Having said that, a tremendous amount of investment is being made in India and it is as safe a place as any to invest.”

Addressing the gathering, Vyalar Ravi, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs said, “As the state government property laws differ from state to state, consultation meetings have been organised with all states and all major states have responded positively by establishing individual departments or cells to deal with the NRI issues.”

Despite the assurances, the NRIs left the session as wary as ever. “It is a little patronising of the government to ask us to take precautions while investing and to consult professionals. We do that anyway, and still end up being cheated. It is a problem that needs to be addressed,” one of the NRI’s attending the conference said.

No comments: