If you forgive the fox for stealing your chickens, he’ll take your sheep
An entire generation of hopefuls who put in money to buy their dream home are heart-broken, financially ruined, and their trust in realtors has been completely smashed.
When prominent realty companies start defaulting on delivery schedules, every hopeful homebuyer thinks that solace is around the corner, somehow the apartment or villa will show up shortly. It almost never does. As the Georgian saying goes, it is the time when the fox is stealing your chickens and you’re forgiving him for it. He’s now all set to take away your sheep.
Just look at the plight of home-buyers in recent times. Six hundred and thirty-three homebuyers booked what at the time seemed like a magical place in a skyscraper by paying the Supertech group for apartment space in Noida. Supertech was to deliver two forty-storeyed twin towers. In 2014, the Supreme Court held that the towers were illegal, and ordered the company to refund home buyers’ money, a long-drawn saga in itself. When the twin towers are imploded with the help of explosives on May 22, those dreams would, of course, go up in smoke.
Ten years after they were collectively cheated of Rs 427 crore by the Bhagtani group, two thousand five hundred gullible homebuyers are running helter-skelter to recover their hard-earned money. They were hopeful of moving into one to two-bedroom flats in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane. The owners Laxman Bhagtani and his son Mukesh fled India, only to be arrested in July 2020 through an Interpol red alert in Dubai. The other son Dipesh was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate. In all, the Bhagtanis need to return close to Rs 1,000 crore to their ruined investors. Many of those who invested have died, and suffered heart attacks. Almost everyone is repaying a bank loan for a non-existent project. There are some who are not able to pay rent and have been rendered homeless. Several now live in slums.
The directors of Amrapali group are in jail since 2019 and multiple cases have been lodged against them for diverting homebuyers’ money. Once M.S. Dhoni was the brand’s ubiquitous face, but the cricketer snapped his ties with the group when it turned out that they were stealing chickens as well as the sheep. Currently under the supervision of the Supreme Court the real estate projects spread across twenty-four cities are being brought back on track. Affected are nearly forty-two thousand homebuyers.
A son lost both his parents waiting for flats promised by the Jaypee group in Noida. He is one of twenty thousand affected homebuyers who are waiting for a decade or more to see their apartments delivered. Meanwhile, several homebuyers have died, and thousands have not come forward to receive offers of possession.
There are many others in the dock, facing the heat from defaulting builders. Six years back, the Real Estate Regulatory Authority Act became law. “We wish the RERA had sharper teeth,” says Anand Gupta, chairman of the housing and RERA committee of the Builders Association of India. With thousands suffering direly, and people dying after waiting for their homes in vain, it's time the laws are toughened.