Indians duped in million-dollar, ‘high-caste’ housing scam

NEW DELHI: Police have busted a million-dollar scam promising plots in a housing complex to be built exclusively for the highest caste in India’s social hierarchy system.

Police in the southern city of Mahabubnagar arrested an estate agent on Saturday who swindled some 1,000 investors on the promise that only Brahmins would live in the complex.

Yellapragada Prabhakar pocketed more than Rs250 million ($3.8 million) in the scam by selling plots over the last two years that only existed on paper, city police chief P Viswa Prasad said.

“He spent crores on TV and newspaper advertisements to target the Brahmins with the promise of developing a Brahmin housing project,” Prasad said.

The fake complex promised a nursing home for elderly Brahmins, a Brahmin-only marriage hall, a religious school and no access to the complex for non-vegetarians.

Caste discrimination is illegal in India but many low-caste groups are still marginalised in society. Segregation in urban residential areas also occurs, including in the form of informal caste-exclusive housing complexes.

Some 27 per cent of Indians said they would not touch Dalits, at the bottom of the Hindu caste system, according to a 2014 study by India’s National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and the US-based University of Maryland.

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