Money & Banking

Demonetisation: El Dorado now turns into a liability

N S Vageesh L N Revathy Mumbai/Coimbatore | Updated on January 15, 2018


There's not a person who would not have been told that investing in real estate was the way to El Dorado during the past decade. Stock markets were choppy and so was gold. But real estate prices seemed to be going only in one direction - up. Naturally, it was a tempting opportunity for many to get into that sector - even those with no expertise - but merely a confidence in themselves and a complete trust in the unidirectional nature of this market.

When entrepreneur Ravi (name changed) wound up his small scale manufacturing activities and went on to become a real estate agent, he found the going good - initially.

Land prices were looking up in and around Chennai which was a booming destination with a number of automobile companies and their ancillaries setting up shop. He was able to convince people, including his friends and relatives to purchase land, luring them with talk of 200 to 300 per cent return in 2 years.

Some went by his advice and invested, some traded and made money, while Ravi himself enjoyed the fruits of his effort. "Manufacturing was a herculean task. One had to be at the mercy of machine operators and these men would ditch you to join another unit when orders piled up.

There was non-stop tension and the returns were not as remunerative as this one (dealing in properties/ real estate)" he told this correspondent some years ago.

But this joy now seems short lived. The withdrawal of high denomination notes from circulation caught Ravi and many others unawares. From discussing only in crores on property matters, Ravi today is desperately looking for help to park his funds - an offshoot of his successful real estate agency.

Overnight, his wealth - a significant portion of which was probably unaccounted - and stored in his vaults - has become worthless.

The logical thing to do, of course, would be to come clean and disclose his unaccounted holdings and pay a penalty.

He might well be ready to do that but for wild rumours circulating about agents accepting the now invalid currencies in bulk. They are apparently ready to exchange them for lower denomination notes, albeit for commission, which is said to range between 30 and 40 per cent.

With people like these still looking to make something out of their undisclosed income, will the government's efforts at unearthing black money pay off? We'll have to wait and see.

Published on November 21, 2016

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