Tougher tests lie ahead
It is a relief for the common man that the Narendra Modi-led Centre is making earnest attempts at conducting legislative business in Parliament. Although the government faced several setbacks over the Land Acquisition Bill, important legislation surrounding insurance, mines and coal blocks have been passed. Tougher tests, though, lie ahead. With four days left in the current Parliament session, the Centre faces a race against time to pass six key pieces legislation: Goods and Services Tax, Real Estate, Land Acquisition, Juvenile Justice, Indo-Bangladesh Land Border Agreement and Black Money. Although the Centre has acquired the support of certain regional parties over the GST and Indo-Bangladesh land Border Agreement, almost none of them are assured safe passage through Parliament. On Tuesday, the Real Estate Bill came in for discussion, amidst heated debates between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. In a move reminiscent of its recent strategy on the land acquisition bill, the Congress party is seeking to establish the “middle class vis-a-vis the builder lobby” narrative surrounding the Centre’s amended Real Estate Bill. In fact on Saturday Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi met the flat owners’ association in Noida to take stock of their grievances. It is clear that the Congress party is vying for the middle class voter, who has always been left unprotected when it comes to real estate transactions. It would, however, be unfair to the Centre to peddle this narrative. The bill clearly stipulates that a project cannot be launched without it getting registered with the proposed regulator. Another key provision of the amended bill also states that developers cannot raise money from buyers for projects which are yet to acquire all regulatory approvals. Such moves, some argue, will prevent a Greater Noida-like situation, where around five lakh flat buyers were left in the lurch after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed the district authorities to stop construction in key realty projects. Real estate giants Supertech had failed to acquire necessary environmental clearances.
To its credit, the Centre, under the stewardship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has agreed to hold greater discussions on the Real Estate Bill. However, what the Centre must not to do is to be held hostage to the Congress party’s flimsy narrative of caring about the middle class. It is common knowledge that real estate giants maintain cosy relations with political parties across the board, alongside the fact that the realty sector has become a purveyor of black money. The decision to regulate the real estate bill within reasonable restrictions, therefore, seems like a decent step in the right direction, although greater deliberation is required. However, the ruling party’s floor managers must do a better job of projecting the Real Estate Bill in a positive manner, unlike what they did for the Land Acquisition Bill.