'This is the only option we are left with.'
'No one is listening to us, I paid almost 90 per cent of the home amount in the hope of getting it on time.'
'I never missed a payment... I feel cheated.'
Karan Choudhury reports on the plight of thousands of home owners who have bought flats in projects owned by Jaypee Infratech and the Amrapali Group.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
When Jay Prakash Gupta booked a flat in the Amrapali Group's sprawling 56-acre Centurian Park project in Greater Noida West in 2011, his daughter Aarna was a year old.
Promised everything from a fully equipped state-of-the-art club, manicured greens with ample sports facilities, a modern furnished home to a possession date of December 2013, Gupta, an IT consultant, hoped to give his daughter a slice of the good life soon.
Aarna is now eight and the family is still living in a rented flat.
After a seven-year wait, during which Gupta made more than 100 trips to the swanky head office of the builder in Noida, bordering Delhi, and thousands of distressed phone calls to the project managers, he's now turning to God, literally, for help.
Left with almost no option, he and more than 1,000 residents of the various Amrapali projects organised a yagya last month, a grand ritual for divine intervention in their hour of need.
"This is the only option we are left with. No one is listening to us, I paid almost 90 per cent of the home amount in the hope of getting it on time. I never missed a payment... I feel cheated," Gupta said.
Thousands of homeowners across housing projects owned by Jaypee Infratech and the Amrapali Group are running out of options as both head to the National Company Law Tribunal.
Jaypee Infratech and Amrapali are among the 12 big corporate loan defaulters against which the Reserve Bank of India has ordered initiation of insolvency proceedings.
Jaypee had a debt of about Rs 8,000 crore (Rs 80 billion) as of March 2017.
Representatives from both these projects have met everyone from Noida land authorities, senior police officials in the economic offences wing, civic authorities, the erstwhile chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav, and the current CM, Yogi Adityanath.
But, till date, no one has found any solution or has been assured of any concrete action.
"We finally thought, we have tried everything, now let's just ask God for help," said Acharya Shiv Kumar Sharma, the priest who conducted the ceremony. He also owns a flat in Amrapali's Dream Valley project.
Every weekend, homebuyers in Jaypee Infratech's projects meet at the site to either hold a protest or discuss the next plan of action.
They are now planning and organising a series of agitations to "create noise and shake the authorities out of their slumber," one of the buyers said.
"I pay Rs 15,000 as rent and around Rs 20,000 as EMI. I put my life's savings in the project. For me, this is my end all and be all. I have no other option but to fight," said Amrit Kumar, a homebuyer in a Jaypee project.
"My weekends are spent going to protests, meetings and reaching out to the builder's office. If I could, I would devote 100 per cent of my time to this," he added.
Consumer rights activists are demanding immediate government intervention in these real estate projects that have impacted around 60,000 people.
"Homebuyers are financially starved; they do not have the wherewithal to fight these developers. The government, at the prime minister's level, now needs to intervene and come out with laws that would help these people either get their money back or get the projects completed," said Bejon Misra, consumer rights expert and founder of the Consumer Online Foundation.
"This should be treated as a national issue now," he said.
Homebuyers are not the only ones suffering.
Joining them in their protest were more than 100 employees of the Amrapali group who have not been paid their salaries for 11 months.
The company has also allegedly withheld their provident fund money and has not given their Form-16s.