Sunday, December 5, 2021

Golden rule of crooked business: Never poop in your own backyard

Recent events surrounding an assortment of front businesses like optician, fine dining, fast food, bubble making machines sold as oxygen generators, cricket linked “investments”, meat exports and more tend to hide more than they reveal on what is increasingly one of the biggest “businesses” in the Delhi/NCR region – the time honoured business of “kabzaa” but now, increasingly, with an assortment of international twists and turns. And that is where the concept of “no cure, no pay” or “litigation funding” comes into play – with a huge participation being seen by NRI/OCI type punters in the game across all roles – especially for ancestral properties over which potential disputes of generations arise.

Global economies being what they are, first generation emigrants from India and their offspring often find huge value in trying to monetise ancestral immovable property which has usually gone up sharply in value, back in India. This is also because the lure of easy debt as well as heavy mortgages tends to place first generation immigrants of desi origin into traps from which one perceived easy exit is to try to liquidate what they consider their share of assets in India. The laws can be as simple or as complicated as people want them to be.

While “contingent fee” litigation, where a share of the “success” achieved is not legit in India, there is no such restriction on this method in many other countries of the world. This is where the trouble starts, often, because at some stage the stake-holders abroad and their via-medias forget that immovable property is also a hugely sentimental issue with Indians in India, while for the potential stake-holder abroad and his or her emissaries, it is purely a fiduciary transaction. 

That is often the first point of conflicting views, end of trust between family members and then long drawn out luxury litigation – which at one time used to be in favour of the NRI/OCI because of their economic clout as well as lax adherence to implementing real estate revenue, registration and transfer laws in India. 

But that is not the case anymore, because in many cases, the resident Indian stakeholders are equally strong economically (or even better) and especially after the Gazette Notification of the 4th of March 2021, now on a more level playing field when compared to NRIs/OCIs in this business of ancestral asset liquidation. 

In brief, in matters of property, an OCI is no different from a foreigner, and this fact has to be taken into account with not just the Registrar and Revenue offices, but also the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) as well as Income Tax. And more interestingly, because of many dual taxation treaties, this needs to be up with the taxation authorities in the OCI’s country of citizenship also.

Real estate “land-grabber” punters especially those with foreign NRI/OCI linkages in their greed and blindness tend to forget the emotional attachment people especially in India have to sentimental properties. Value loses meaning in money terms. The case of a very successful restauranteur with global locations & clean reputation defending at all costs his first outlet which is not even 1% of his massively strong balance sheet from being taken over by the method of “kabzaa” refers – it is not just sentiment or brand value but much more – it is about the very Indian concept of “face”. 

With what “face” will that person, despite all his wealth and power, face his employees and loyal customers if it becomes known that he could not protect his first outlet acquired and started when he was a mere nobody? That he managed to reverse a strong “kabzaa’ attempt in the recent past makes his resolution even stronger.

There is a time and a tide for everything. As somebody who has lived all over the world, knows South Mumbai well, with a base in South Delhi, I have seen how the Kabzaa game was heavily stacked, tweaked and skewed in favour of OCIs and NRIs – simply because they lived far away and were not vulnerable to blackmail as well as threats of all sorts in India. All this has changed now with resident Indians in India now able to fight back on equal terms – especially where money loses value in front of sentiment. The old order changeth. And how.

The Golden Rule of any illegal business has been – do not sxxit in your own backyard. Our punter, lately much in the news, forgot this in his arrogance born out of PR-media puffs, ersatz sushi and dud rolls – and especially when very often the land sought to be grabbed is or was from the inventory of zero-restart first generation refugees or similar stock, then the blowback is and was extremely strong and burnt everything in the way. This is the Bazaar-ki-Hawa of centuries and it can not, will not, shall not change because an upstart married the daughter of a butcher, flashing his butcher knives. 

Even the butcher uses his knives on animals to be slaughtered, not on his neighbours, remember that.

Veeresh Malik was a seafarer. And a lot more besides. A decade in facial biometrics, which took him into the world of finance, gaming, preventive defence and money laundering before the subliminal mind management technology blew his brains out. His romance with the media endures since 1994, duly responded by Outlook, among others.

A survivor of two brain-strokes, triggered by a ship explosion in the 70s, Veeresh moved beyond fear decades ago.

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