Thousands of Britons, drawn by the tropical climate and easily affordable lifestyle, have bought houses in the Indian state of Goa. Now, some may face investigation for a possible breach of the property laws - and the threat of losing their home. Peter Foster reports
Sitting in his modest, lagoon-side house in the Indian holiday state of Goa, Rajan Ghate is plotting a revolution. With his laptop and new tele-fax machine installed in a small room, he has equipped himself for a fight that could have serious ramifications for British people wanting to buy property along Goa's palm-fringed coastline.
Mr Ghate is a young politician from the state's ruling Nationalist Congress Party. Among the paperwork on his desk is a leaflet distributed to all his party members. "The British came to India as traders and ultimately ended up as the rulers," it declares. "They purchased immoveable properties in India and we were compelled to expel them out of India."
The hostile tone is clear. More than 40 years after the first western hippies "discovered" Goa, a small but vociferous group of Goan nationalists are saying it is time to put a stop to the latest foreign "invasion".
It is estimated that about 5,000 foreigners, including as many as 3,000 Britons, have properties in Goa, drawn there by the climate, easy-going atmosphere and low cost of living. Many are British pensioners attracted by the chance to buy a new-build, two-bedroom apartment in the sun for as little as £25,000.
As Acron, one of the state's largest developers, says on its website: "A couple can live in Goa, comfortably, on less than £500 a month, including expenses on food, utilities, car and chauffeur, entertainment, council taxes etc." Medical facilities are also affordable and first-rate.
However, some Goans say they now feel overrun by the foreigners who, they claim, are driving up property prices and destroying the old, simple face of Goa.
"I am appealing to all Goan people and political parties not to sell land to foreigners in order to preserve our culture and identity," says Mr Ghate.
His anti-foreigner campaign might almost be written off as comical were it not for the fact that it has struck a chord with some of the state's leading politicians. Last month Goa's chief minister, Pratapsing Rane, ordered a retrospective investigation into 445 property deals to see whether they had breached India's strict laws on foreigners buying property.
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Posted By : Miss Cristina Burton, Kent, UK on 22/09/2006