news Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute | November 28, 2014 | 05.20 pm IST

On Thursday, a proposal was passed by a Mumbai municipal corporation body denying permission to building developers who refused to sell apartments to non-vegetarian households.

The proposal basically makes it compulsory to avoid discrimination in sale of houses on the basis of religion and food habits, reported First Post.

“In a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai, there are developers who make their own set of rules and sell flats only to vegetarians or persons belonging to a particular religion or caste. Nobody has the right to deny a person from purchasing a house citing such reasons. Many such cases have been reported across the city and this is unconstitutional. Because of the insistence on vegetarianism, people from many communities are deprived of their fundamental right to purchase property in the country,” said Sandeep Deshpande, MNS group leader in BMC, according to the report.

With a population of over 1.2 billion along with a third of its population being migrant, its not hard to imagine that one of the basic requirements for a person in India would be the right to own or rent a house.

But what criteria does a person need to satisfy the requirements of living in a house?

Apparently, a number of reasons apart from the necessary rent play a major factor in determining who gets a house, in some places.

“Are you vegetarian or non-vegetarian?”

“Are you a bachelor? Oh, you have family? Good.”

“Will you bring in non-vegetarian food from outside?”

A number of building associations have come out with strong views on letting out houses for rent, going as far as setting conditions on the kind of family profile that could their buildings.

Marwan Nizamuddin, previously a student at a government college in Chrompet, Chennai found it difficult to find a house in the city. Religion is a big issue in terms of rent, especially for bachelor Muslims, he said.

“It becomes tough to negotiate once they learn that you are Muslim. Once you say that, they’ll assume you’ll definitely cook non-vegetarian food,” he said.

One couple in Pune could not rent out their flat to a Muslim husband and wife because the society in which they lived prohibited them from doing so. According to Durga Sivaram, the owner of the apartment, the association which included educated people, lawyers, doctors, engineers etc, said that it would be awkward both for the couple and other residents during religious festivals because they celebrate it together as a society. 

She said,"We were asked not to give our flat on rent to a Muslim couple, by the society committee. The committee is full of retired doctors and lawyers and they said something so ridiculous. We had no choice but to deny the couple our flat. We felt so ashamed at the fact that such discrimination still exists and that we were forced to enforce it. The society only accepts married Hindu couples, and preferably Hindu families. They said that they did not want any disturbances or 'awkward' situations by allowing people of other religions or bachelors to stay in the society" 

"Who are they to decide who we can or cannot rent our flat out to?," she questioned.

Of course, the couple was sent away. “ We couldn't tell the couple the actual reason, we just gave them a very non committal reason,” said Sivaram.

Hurdles faced by bachelors

A well-reputed flat association in Chennai in 2013 sent out a mail to all its flat owners asking them not to rent out their houses to bachelors. Towards the end of last year, the flat’s association secretary asked all its owners to avoid renting their houses to bachelors and also to vacate their bachelors by the end of the year.

This reporter spoke to a house owner at the flat on the pretext of a request for a house on rent for bachelor. However, when he heard that it was for bachelors, he politely declined. “Sorry, we have had some issues in the past,”he said.

In another incident in Chennai , a group of five bachelors all from Kerala , approached a house owner for taking up his flat on rent. When it dawned on him that they were all bachelors, the owner’s face changed. Amit T Menon, one of the men said ,” It was a combination of factors. 

First, was that we were all bachelors. They were worried that we would party I guess. Second, we had a law student amongst us. After hearing that, he was very clear about not giving us the house”.

Youngsters are the future of our nation. While families turn away bachelors living away from home on studies and work, it could be their own sons and daughters facing similar situations elsewhere.

India is home to a huge diversity. Restrictions on where a person can and cannot live, or discrimination on their religion and culture is a huge step backwards for modern India.

Considering that most of these issues are seen only in metropolitan cities, the grey light in which some communities view others a little different from their own is a big concern. 

India is said to be tolerant and secular, but in terms of  becoming completely open and inviting  towards people different from themselves, there is a long way to go.

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