National

After Ahmedabad, Surat too has Muslims ghettos

A sense of insecurity among the Muslims in Gujarat has manifested itself even in realty rates in Surat, with property prices in Muslim-dominated areas being much higher than in other similar localities of the city.

Sources in the city’s realty sector say that even the rents of residential property in Muslim areas are higher than elsewhere in Surat. Newly developed minority localities are costlier than old minority areas.

The sources said property in Muslim-dominated areas like Shahpore, Zampha-bazaar, Rani Talao, (Kopchiwad), Salabatpura, Mughlisara and Rander are beyond the reach of middle-class Muslim families.

Officially, the rate in these areas is between Rs 1,800 and Rs 2,500 per sq ft but buyers usually have to pay between Rs 3,000-4,000 per sq ft. Moreover, even to buy at these rates, customers have to pay more than 45 per cent (in some cases 60 per cent) of the total price in cash. Even in posh areas such as City Light, LP Sawani, Honey-Park Road, and Bhatar Road (non-Muslim areas), the rate is around Rs 2,500-3,000 per sq ft.

“Some builders purchase two adjoining old houses in these areas and then build an apartment building there,” said Rashid Pathan, a real estate broker in Surat.

Now, the rent of a 1-BHK flat in these areas can be anywhere between Rs 3,500 and Rs 5,000. The price of old one-floor houses on 12 x 30 sq ft of land is Rs 25 lakh per house.

In contrast, similar property in non-Muslim areas would be in the range of Rs 15-20 lakh while the rent for a 1-BHK flat is less than Rs 2,500.

“As members of the minority community prefer to live in areas which they know well, they are willing to pay the high prices demanded by the developers. Many developers even reduce the size of the flat for greater profit but the customers seldom complain.”

Pathan added that prices in newly-developed Muslim areas are much higher than in old minority-dominated localities. For example, a 1-BHK flat at Rander-Gorat road with all the necessary facilities can cost between Rs 25 lakh and Rs 35 lakh, he said.

Again, the rent of a similar flat can be anywhere from Rs 9,000 to Rs 13,000. Recently, work on a row-house project (Alvi Row Houses) has started in the locality and the cost of each row-house is Rs 80 lakh, he added.

“The reason is simple,” said Kartik Patel, a city-based enveloper. “Muslims won’t shift to non-Muslim areas due to a sense of insecurity, and because of cultural and religious considerations. Moreover, they prefer to live in close-knit communities rather than independently in luxury apartments in other areas.”

The high property prices in minority-dominated areas have forced middle-class Muslim families to look for houses in less developed areas such as Limbayat, Dumbhal, Umarwada, Anjana and Unn. Many spots in these localities lack even basic facilities such as water, drainage and roads. Yet, people are buying properties here.

“My monthly income is Rs 20,000, yet I cannot even think of buying property in one of the better Muslim localities of the city,” said Akram Memon, a resident of Sahil Nagar in Unn. “I purchased this house (11 x 25 sq ft) for Rs 7 lakh, just 18 months back. People are now ready to pay Rs 12 lakh for the same house.”

Meanwhile in Ahmedabad, two months ago, Mohamad Sheikh (name changed) tried to rent an office in Paldi. He met several builders and property owners there, but no one was ready to offer him space. This forced him to buy an office in an illegally constructed building in the walled part of the city.

Sheikh is not the only one. There are many like him, mostly Muslims, who go for illegal residential or commercial property in the old city after failing to find space in posh areas. In some cases, high realty rates act as a deterrent, whereas in some, developers’ bias against a community pose hurdles.

Real estate experts say ‘ghettoisation’ of certain communities is driving unauthorised construction in areas such as Kalupur, Shahpur and Dariapur. They say that until this problem is addressed by the city administration and society, illegal buildings will continue to pop up.

“I tried to find an office in Paldi for two months. Even though I was ready to pay Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 as rent every month, no one was willing to offer me space,” Sheikh said. Minhaz Rangwala, who runs a company, said that many families were forced to settle for unauthorised and poorly built homes in the walled city because of steep prices elsewhere.

“Commercial and residential buildings in Paldi, Navrangpura and Khanpur are considered good. But property owners in these areas rarely show interest in selling space. Even if they agree, they quote exorbitant rates,” he said. “These are the reasons why people compromise on quality and go for dubious property schemes in the old city.”

“Not all developers and property owners have reservations about a community. There are some who let out space without considering a person’s faith or religious beliefs,” Noman Siddiqui, a resident of Raikhad said. “However, things get tricky when it comes to buying a property. I know some people who have bought houses in posh areas, but they have not been given title clearance.”

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-28 February 2011 on page no. 10

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