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By Pamela D'Mello

Panaji: The Goa home department says it has begun the process
of examining some 200 land sale deeds purchased by foreign
nationals in North Goa for FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management
Act) violations.

FEMA provisions, effective from the year 2000, permit
foreigners with a long term business visa and resident for
182 days in a year, to purchase immovable property in India.

Last month a Nationalist Congress youth president blew the
whistle on an operation that was circumventing the law,
allowing many on tourist visas to purchase and register
properties in this popular tourist resort state.

     Reacting with uncharacteristic speed, the administration
     indicated it would get tough on these land transfers,
     routing all further registrations through the home
     department. An appraisal of post 2000 registrations
     could result in punitive action, Goa chief secretary J P
     Singh told this newspaper.

The government's move has already begun to have ripples in
the real estate and hospitality industry, besides leading to
considerable worry and anger among Western settlers here.

Some of their ire is directed at real estate firms, agents,
chartered accountants and lawyers who kept the industry
buoyant by misinterpreting the law and misguiding them.

"Why do Goan real estate firms advertise their properties at
trade fairs abroad?", questioned one buyer.

Though the state government is currently assessing the
records, there are indications it may may face legal hurdles
in any retrospective action.

Chief Secretary Singh said the government would initially
collect the data on violations. Some 445 cases in North Goa
have to be examined for violations.

Meanwhile corollary statements from the government against
foreign tourists running micro-businesses in restaurants and
bakeries has evoked mixed reactions.

Eating-out and restaurants is a large element of the tourism
package here. Investments from Mumbai and Delhi now account
for an estimated 60% in this market share, pushing locals
down to a 30% share in an intensely competitive play-field.
Western involvement is pegged by estimates at 10%.

Local players in the industry though are divided over
adopting a protectionist policy.

"The government's attitude has been ambivalent. After
Westerners have been here several years, enhancing the
tourist product, been granted permissions and licenses from
the tourism department, it's unfair to throw the law book at
them half way through", said one hotelier. [ENDS]

LINK: FEMA http://www.laws4india.com/nrilaws/ecm.asp

Pamela D'Mello is The Asian Age's special correspondent in Goa. She can
be contacted at [EMAIL PROTECTED]

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