This Osho season, business bleak as flats go emptyBusiness, Property — By The Desk on November 18, 2009 at 12:05 PM
Indian Express: First swine flu and now Headley’s Pune visit may unnerve foreign tourists, feel realty agents.
Real estate agent in Koregaon Park, Imran Sheikh, has at his disposal nearly 40 rooms that are still empty. Sheikh said many agents like him are in a similar spot. This is unprecedented for agents like Sheikh as this is the peak season at the Osho Ashram that sees a minimum of 1,000 foreign tourists coming over between October and February.
This year, agents said the bad news broke out with the swine flu. Now, with the case of Pakistan-born LeT operative David Headley exploding over Osho Ashram in the city, agents here are expecting the police to further shore up the procedure for foreigners.
“This is bad for business. We expect few foreigners to show up. Over the last month, the police strengthened rules for Indian tenants, making it compulsory for either the owner or the clients to present themselves at the police station for verification. We expect the police to start this procedure for foreigners as well,” said Sheikh, who runs the estate agency Big Properties.
A majority of the tourists coming to Osho hunt for budget accommodation through agents who work around the Ashram.
Within the seven-km radius of Osho Ashram, there are countless real estate agents who deal with tourists as between them they have around 1,000 rooms to sub-let. “These days even an autorickshaw driver is a real estate agent,” said Sudhir Garg, an agent who has been working the Osho beat for over 12 years.
Many foreigners who come to Osho Ashram often stay only for a few days, some for a few months. Rarely do agents provide tourists with a licence agreement for their short stay.
If at all, they stick to the C-form, which is filed at the Bundgarden police station (for agents at Koregaon Park). Six months ago, agents said, the police upgraded the process. It began making three copies of this C-form — one of which is sent to the police commissionerate.
But on Tuesday, the Pune police were still looking for David Headley’s C-form. “We have been working here for many years, we religiously file C-forms within 24 hours,” Garg said.
Garg said even now, with bleak business prospects, he accepts clients only if they are staying for a minimum of 15 days. But many come for one or two days and then head off to Goa or other cities from Pune — a floating population that is still difficult to track, unless they have filed a C-form.
Agents said when apartment owners lease out single rooms on their own, they are lax about C-forms if the tourist is staying over in the city for only a few days. Some real estate agents in Koregaon Park say they sign any foreign tourist for 11 months but tenants are free to leave anytime after they give a month’s notice.
“For us, the documentation process is exhaustive. We file the C-form, which has copies of the travellers passport and visa and other identification document even if they are staying over for only a few days. We generally also try to learn the background of the tourist and what is the purpose of their visit,” said Rani Wilfred, an agent.