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Hot property

Three real estate dealers shot in two months. A booming housing sector, high stakes and the lure of fast money is making property dealing a risky business, reports Ravi Bajpai.

delhi Updated: Jul 27, 2008 23:37 IST
Ravi Bajpai

July 19, 2008: Sujit Rana, a property dealer, was having a drink with a friend in Outer Delhi when three men on a motorcycle pulled by and shot him dead.

July 5, 2008: Gurmeet Singh, a south Delhi-based property dealer, gunned down by a gang in Sangam Vihar.

June 2008: Salim Pehalwan, another property dealer, was returning home in northeast Delhi when attackers pulled by his motorcycle and killed him.

They may not live by the gun, but operate under its constant shadow. In their trade, a business rival could be more than just a competitor, possibly a threat to life. No college would probably teach you the tricks of property dealing, and entering the field might be as simple as hiring a small room, putting up a signboard and starting shop. But surviving here is a mean job.

Competition is tough once you put stake in real estate, say police officers. “Property dealers are one another’s biggest enemies. Most dealers who come to us have threats from fellow dealers and the worries range from extortion to criminal intimidation to assaults,” said a senior officer in the Special Cell.

High stakes and easy money together make property dealing a risky profession, say property dealers. Add to this lucrative deal a dash of competition and you get a dangerous mix of envy, guile and malice. “With so many small dealers cropping up in every corner, especially in Lal Dora areas and unauthorised colonies, every deal is quite secretive. No one can risk leaking information and losing commission,” says a property dealer of south Delhi.

There’s isn’t any official consensus, but Delhi roughly accommodates more than 60,000 property dealers, said SK Jain of online property utility www.jugaad.com. These are broadly divided into the multinational real estate firms that deal in commercial space, city-based companies that deal in medium to large projects and the large, unorganised small dealers, the ones who operate from colonies and deal in individual properties.

The third group is the most vulnerable, primarily because of the scope of their work, says a property dealer, who didn’t want to be named. “Their livelihood depends on individual properties and they cannot afford to let go of them. They are the ones who spy on fellow dealers and try to take over their clients conspicuously. Dealers at times also quote an escalated price to mislead, which eventually leads to bad blood,” said a property dealer.

Property dealing in Delhi doesn’t work on any code of conduct or ethics, primarily because a chunk of dealers aren’t registered with the government and remain unorganised, feeding on one property here and another there, said a property dealer. Since the stakes involved are big and the risk factor high, several dealers want to keep firearms for bad times, said a police officer in Delhi Police’s licencing branch.