Real Estate Chandigarh

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18 February 2007

Punjab attracts NRIs in many ways

They may not yet have any telling impact on the elections, nor have they yet fully realised their potential to invest in their state, but it is visible now that non-resident Punjabis are more interested in home affairs than before.

Some may attribute it to the overall effect that India's growth story is having on all non-residents. Others, might point towards the likelihood of NRIs getting voting rights. And then there would be those who might credit the government efforts for this. But, certainly, the intrepid global Punjabi, known for his uncanny ability to reach green pastures, is now looking homeward.

Recently, hot on the heals of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas - 2007, the International Punjabi Chamber for Service Industry (IPCSI) brought NRIs on a single platform to introduce them to investment opportunities.

The conference identified the areas of development in the area of infrastructure including roads, highways, rail, airports, power generation, SEZs, retail, real estate, housing, aviation, hospitality, travel and tourism, healthcare, schools, colleges, media-entertainment and other sectors of the service industry in north India, especially in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and the union territory of Chandigarh.

The event took place under the banner Parvasi Punjabi Divas, which is in its fourth edition. It addressed the cause titled 'Global Investors Conference for Infrastructure Development'. The event took place in the city on January 11, 2007 registering fair governmental participation from the northern states, real estate companies and NRI investors.

The primary motive was to identify and showcase the areas where NRIs could invest and how the public-private partnership (PPP) platform had made inbound investments easier with less paperwork and reduced time for sanctions. The private sector, with its professional maturity and resources, was urged to play a more active role in developing public infrastructure and other facilities and to make the service industry a vital segment of the region's economy. With the theme 'Think India - Think North', the event focused on greater NRI investments flowing into the northern region.

The Governor of Haryana, Dr A R Kidwai, and Himachal Pradesh Governor V S Kokje were among those who highlighted the investment potential of the northern states and stressed the importance of "thinking together and being cohesive beyond the limits of political boundaries."

Organisers made it clear that the objective of Parvasi Punjabi Divas was to expand the scope of the forum by including the states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and the Union Territory of Chandigarh in order to strategise policies jointly.

On his part, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has been assuring NRI's to resolve their problems on priority basis when returned to power. He claims his party is alive to the "problems and hardships" being faced by the NRIs and he had already taken up the issue with Punjab & Haryana High Court to set up special courts for the quick dispensation of justice to the NRIs.

However, the High Court declined the proposal of the state government and assured that all the cases pertaining to the NRIs would be disposed of on the priority basis.

He has already set up a Special Cell for the welfare of NRIs in the Chief Minister Office and a separate department for the welfare of NRIs had also been set up under the supervision of a Financial Commissioner level officer.

NRIs cheated back home or involved in a dispute over property or even marriage, are just a phone call or an e-mail away from relief. All they have to do is to contact the NRI cell of the Punjab Police.

Lodging a complaint is a simple process. Recently, the Cell also started a NRI Radio helpline to handle grievances of Canada-based NRIs.

Located in Chandigarh, the Cell works round the clock to register NRI grievances.

NRIs' relatives too can approach the Cell. Since its formation in February 2004, the Cell has handled 932 complaints, out of which 771 have been disposed off satisfactorily, 161 cases are still being looked into.

The nature of complaints reveals that a majority of the NRIs face problems relating to property or money. Marital problems, theft and false allegations follow suit. NRI victims can send their complaints through an e-mail

The state is also grappling with a spate in crime. The crime rate has increased by about 20 per cent in the state, according to top police sources. Murder cases, for example, increased to 852 in 2006 against 743 in 2005. Similarly, 386 cases of rape were registered last year as compared to 366 in 2005, while the kidnapping cases increased to 654 in 2006 from the previous year's figure of 514. There has been a hike in burglaries and thefts which rose up to 5,670 as compared to 4,853 in 2005. This would surely be an area of concern for NRIs.

And, they seem to have taken note of the role they think they could play in making their home state a safer as well as a more attractive place to put money in. That's probably why there was such great interest shown by NRIs in Punjab's state elections this time.

Earlier this month, a media report said: "It is raining NRIs in Punjab. With India clocking an impressive growth rate and making waves the world over, an estimated 50,000 NRIs are in the state to throw their weight behind the candidates."

Whether or not that enthusiastic response had any effect on the outcome, observers feel the community wants a stake in the prosperity wave and the easiest way to do it is to tap those who will rule the state for the next five years.

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