Saturday, December 29, 2012

Watch out for The Oath of Vayuputras

Renowned filmmaker Karan Johar, and Amish, the bestselling author of The Immortals of Meluha and The Secret of the Nagas, unveiled the cover of the much anticipated 3rd book of the Shiva Trilogy, The Oath of the Vayuputras
The concluding book of the Shiva Trilogy is set to be released in early March, 2013.
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Also gracing the occasion was Gautam Padmanabhan, CEO, Westland Ltd, the publishers of Amish’s books, and Rashmi Pusalkar, the designer of the cover of The Oath of the Vayuputras.
The Shiva Trilogy (comprising The Immortals of Meluha, The Secret of the Nagas and the yet to be released The Oath of the Vayuputras) has been one of the most successful book series in the history of Indian publishing. It has sold almost a million copies within a short period of two-and-a-half years, with gross retail sales of approx Rs 22 crores. The books have been released across the Indian subcontinent in various languages, including English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and Telugu.
The Shiva Trilogy is a compelling, fictional tale of a Tibetan tribal called Shiva, whose adventures nearly 4000 years ago, morphed into the mythical legends of the Hindu God Shiva.
Speaking on the occasion, Karan Johar said, ‘Amish’s books have always had a fantastical visual element to them and his book covers reflect that beautifully. They are rich in symbolism and meaning, while remaining stunning to look at.’

Amish added, ‘I think Rashmi, the designer, has done a superb job with the cover of The Oath of the Vayuputras. She has managed to bring in many symbolic elements seamlessly, while ensuring that this cover maintains the high standards of visual appeal that she set with the covers of my earlier books. I’m lucky to have her as the cover designer of my books.’

Mr. Gautam Padmanabhan – Chief Executive Officer, Westland Limited (Publishers of The Shiva Trilogy) – said, ‘Westland is delighted to be publishing Amish’s Shiva Trilogy. It mines our grand Indian heritage and makes our ancient philosophies and stories relatable to a whole new generation.’

About Amish:
Amish is a 1974-born, IIM (Kolkata)-educated, boring banker turned happy author. The success of his debut book, The Immortals of Meluha (Book 1 of the Shiva Trilogy), encouraged him to give up a fourteen-year-old career in financial services to focus on writing. He is passionate about history, mythology and philosophy, finding beauty and meaning in all world religions.
Amish lives in Mumbai with his wife Preeti and son Neel.

About The Immortals of Meluha: 
1900 BC. In what modern Indians mistakenly call the Indus Valley Civilisation. The inhabitants of that period called it the land of Meluha – a near perfect empire created many centuries earlier by Lord Ram, the greatest monarch that ever lived.
This once proud empire and its Suryavanshi rulers face severe perils as its primary river, the revered Saraswati, is slowly drying to extinction. Its people also face devastating terrorist attacks from the east, the land of the Chandravanshis. To make matters worse, the Chandravanshis appear to have allied with the Nagas, an ostracised and sinister race of deformed humans with astonishing martial skills.
The only hope for the Suryavanshis is an ancient legend: ‘When evil reaches epic proportions, when all seems lost, when it appears that your enemies have triumphed, a hero will emerge.’
Is the rough-hewn Tibetan immigrant, Shiva, really that hero? And does he want to be that hero at all? Drawn suddenly to his destiny, by duty as well as by love, will Shiva lead the Suryavanshi revenge and destroy evil?
This is the first book in a trilogy on Shiva, the simple man whose karma re-cast him as our Mahadev, the God of Gods.

About The Secret of the Nagas:
Today, He is a God. 4000 years ago, He was just a man. 
The hunt is on. The sinister Naga warrior has killed his friend Brahaspati and now stalks his wife Sati. Shiva, the Tibetan immigrant who is the prophesied destroyer of evil, will not rest till he finds his demonic adversary. His vengeance and the path to evil will lead him to the door of the Nagas, the serpent people. Of that he is certain.
The evidence of the malevolent rise of evil is everywhere. A kingdom is dying as it is held to ransom for a miracle drug. A crown prince is murdered. The Vasudevs – Shiva’s philosopher guides – betray his unquestioning faith as they take the aid of the dark side. Even the perfect empire, Meluha, is riddled with a terrible secret in Maika, the city of births. Unknown to Shiva, a master puppeteer is playing a grand game. In a journey that will take him across the length and breadth of ancient India, Shiva searches for the truth in a land of deadly mysteries – only to find that nothing is what it seems. 
Fierce battles will be fought. Surprising alliances will be forged. Unbelievable secrets will be revealed in this second book of the Shiva Trilogy, the sequel to the #1 national bestseller, The Immortals of Meluha.

Monday, December 10, 2012

CREDAI open letter to MPs: Realty reforms must in consumer interest

MUMBAI, December 10, 2012: Highly appreciating the smooth passage of the FDI retail proposal by Parliament, realtors apex body CREDAI has appealed to MPs from all parties to consider real estate reforms to protect the interests of consumers taking into account all stake holders, including the authorities.
“Though the government is moving in the right direction with bold reforms agenda,  much more can be achieved without any controversy and incurring additional cost just by focusing on the housing sector. Now is the time for speedily taking up the issues concerning real estate sector with the target of ensuring homes for all,” CREDAI national President Mr Lalit Kumar Jain said in an open letter to Members of Parliament.
CREDAI – Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India – has over 8,000 members through 18 member associations, pan-India.
Referring to the Land Acquisition and Real Estate Regulatory Bills which are likely  to be moved in the ongoing Parliament’s winter session, Mr Jain said the regulatory bill appears to be incomplete and even one-sided as it seeks to punish errant developers while ignoring the defaulting buyers and corrupt and procrastinating officials. The Land Acquisition bill may make housing costlier.
He pointed out that CREDAI has been relentlessly campaigning for all-round reforms specially Administrative, land, fiscal , Tax and Banking Reforms  that will boost GDP growth and ensure Transparency in clearances of housing projects, thus providing homes to all.
Other measures suggested by CREDAI include a single window system of clearances to eliminate human interface that breeds corruption and make funds available to both developers and buyers at affordable and reasonable rates of interest.
Punjab has already moved ahead with the single window system and Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are moving in that direction.
The comprehensive reforms and the regulator must also include provisions to punish officials who are either corrupt or just sit on files to draw a vicarious pleasure by inordinately delaying proposals from developers. For instance, the environment departments cause green terror by not approving proposals for months and years, he said.
Mr Jain also drew the attention of MPs to the ten-point action plan drawn up by CREDAI to rejuvenate the real estate sector, which he said will help the economy to grow at much faster rate since realty contributes to the growth of 200-plus other industries, including transport at every stage.
“Moreover, the honourable MPs are aware of the fact that real estate is highly capital and labour intensive which makes it the largest employer after agriculture,” he said.
On the oft-repeated demand for reducing the housing prices, he said: “We at CREDAI have already appealed to our member developers to consider reducing the prices to the extent possible.”
“No prudent businessman likes to sit on unsold stock and we too have several constraints as the cost of construction has been zooming with no signs of any control,” he said and urged MPs to look into this issue seriously.
“Everyone talks about mass and affordable housing and in fact the government has coined a slogan called Housing For All. All of us know that shelter is the most common necessity of a human being after food and water. But sadly, the powers that be have failed to address the issue apart from doing mere lip-service,” he argued.
With a vision to make India a housing surplus nation from being the housing shortage country, CREDAI has making the business environment congenial for growth. But the realty bill, in its current form and shape, stifles the honest developer and scares away new entrepreneurs from entering the sector, Mr Jain said and asked: “How can you expect the industry to grow if you discourage it at all stage of business?”
CREDAI also offered to brief groups of MPs, if they so desire, on all aspects to protect the interests of the home buyer. It is time that this business is respected in the interest of country. MPs should build required pressure on government to get respect to the business in the interest of the country and promote policies that encourage honest business and plug loopholes that lead to corruption, he said
“We developers have decided to say No to corruption and we sincerely hope the MPs will support us’” he added.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

CREDAI resents Centre’s impractical diktat on LIG housing

HUPA move will burden middle class
                                           Reforms, not restrictions, needed

Realty Developers apex body CREDAI has expressed strong resentment to the Union Government’s proposal for compulsory reservation of 35% of dwelling units  built for the economically weaker sections (EWS).
“Such a directive, without any incentives to the developer community, would only burden the open market buyers, mainly the middle income group, which will be forced to cross-subsidise the LIG or EWS” said a CREDAI memorandum to Union Minister for Housing and Poverty Alleviation Mr Ajay Maken.
CREDAI, with over 8,800 members across India and it is the largest representative body of the developer community, ha sought time with Mr Maken to discuss the various issues concerning the housing industry.
CREDAI National President Mr Lalit Kumar Jain said the government should model the housing policy to suit the poor in such a way to encourage developers to rush for it rather than taking compulsory steps which ultimately might be counterproductive as they could lead to a fall in the housing stock.
The demand-supply mismatch is one of the reasons for the market price movement and any further fall in the housing stock will only contribute to rise in prices, CREDAI argued.
Central guidelines must have a systematic and rational approach on incentives, cross-subsidization and be aimed at solving problems in a practical manner. For instance, reservation for EWS / LIG is not possible in every project across the board as maintenance will be a major issue.
High rise buildings with lifts and other amenities push up not just the cost of the project, but also the subsequent maintenance.  Most LIG or EWS families might not be able to bear the high maintenance cost which would mean that the MIG and others might have to bear the brunt. The EWS and LIG categories will have to be given walk-up apartments which will not be more than four-storey high and this in urn could pressure in FSI.
HUPA should take up the issue of reduction of cost of funding with the Finance Ministry so that developers would b e incentivised to construct houses for the poor segment. The centre should also ask the state governments to exempt EWS & LIG from registration fee and stamp duty.
Right kind of policies will encourage developers to create the required EWS & LIG housing stock, lessen the burden on precious government resources and ultimately lead to improvement in quality of life for the lower strata with proper water supply and sanitation.
CREDAI called for creating special housing zones with tax exemptions on the lines of SEZ. These zones should have tenements to the extent of 75% for below 80 sq mtr. The area required for the special housing zones could be ten acres with a minimum FSI/FAR of 4 to allow large scale construction to meet the rising demand.
The housing for all policy would also require solid back up with all round reforms, quick clearances and minimal interference from other government departments like environment, CREDAI said and suggested mass rapid transit system for improving public transport. Otherwise people would be forced to spend most of their quality time only in commuting to and fro their places of work.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Don’t bribe corrupt officials, says CREDAI

  • Developers apex body launches war in corruption
  •  “One day, we will all say: Ataa mazhi satakli!”, says Lalit Kumar Jain
  • “We shall win respect for our profession”
  • Onus on GenX developers
  • Determined drive for realty reforms launched at Barcelona convention

Launching an all out war on corruption, developers’ apex body CREDAI has called upon its 10,000-strong members to stop paying bribes to officials for getting clearances.

“We have had enough of this charges that builders breed corruption,” said CREDAI national President Mr. Lalit Kumar Jain disclosing that he had conducted a survey among the developer community on saying flatly “No” to corruption. Many members positively reacted and some said: “Together, we shall”

One day all of you will say: Ataa Mazhai Satakli...
He was addressing CREDAI’s National Convention at Barcelona, recently. CREDAI hosts two conventions annually, one in India and the other abroad to go in search of learning from developments in a foreign country.

Drawing inspiration from Bollywood blockbuster and Ajay Devgan starrer “Singham”, Mr Jain told his fellow developers: “One day, all of you will say Ataa Maazhi Satakli (loosely translated, Now I am losing my temper!)” when someone asks you for money for doing favours.”

He recalled that there was a lot of skepticism when he embarked on “Mission Transparency” for the developer community and the government 18 months ago. But today, the mission has been well accepted, judging from the fact that a majority of developers across the country have accepted the CREDAI code of conduct for themselves and the various state and city units are setting up consumer grievance cells to proactively settle disputes out of court.

Similarly, he said, one day all developers will say no to corruption and the day is not far off. Mr. Jain said the onus to fight corruption is particularly much more on the young developers than the older generations.

He pointed out that CREDAI and its state chapters untiring efforts post the last Singapore NATCON, governments in Katrnatakla, Andhra Pradesh and Chattisgarh have started moving to set up single window system for building clearances. Various governments are now discussing the comprehensive check-list presented by CREDAI.
Quoting a McKinsey report he said with the population crossing 1.2 billion in 2011, the total shortage of dwelling units in urban areas will be 38 million units by 2030 in comparison to 24.71 million in 2007.  

The economy will have to build between 700 million and 900 million square meters of residential and commercial space a year in order to meet urban demand. This translates into adding two Mumbai size cities or one Shanghai, each year. It is also anticipated that India will add another 215 million people to its cities by 2025, he said.

Mr. Jain pointed out that there was a strong correlation between urbanisation and economic development. Cities presently contribute approximately 60% to the GDP, which is expected to increase to 75% by 2030 and 85% BY 2050.

Starting that the role of cities is to provide mass scale employment and, in turn, revenues to the state. “We require a whopping 2.2 trillion USD to meet the challenge of urbanization,” he said.

Real estate in India is the second most important sector after agriculture in terms of employment and role in the economy, yet there is no adequate focus on housing. Though the sector has evolved to a large extent over the past 15-16 years, the road ahead is long and not an easy one, he said.

Comparing with the global scenario, Mr Jain said in the US, even during the slowdown period, the total lending to commercial real estate was 25% and in Brazil it as 22%. But in India its woefully low at 2.8%. The mortgage-to-GDP ratio globally is 15 to 30% and in India it is just 9%.

Another major impediment for the sector is the risk weightage of 1.25 times given by banks for the safest sector like real estate. The customer has to shell out 40 to 45% as self contribution since RBI doesn’t allow stamp duty, and other taxes on flat purchase and allows lending up to 70% of the cost.

Moreover, home buyers have to pay 30 TO 36% in taxes like VAT, service tax, stamp duty, premiums and development charges, after accounting for 30% for income tax. Complex legislations, a plethora of state-level laws and high transaction costs have translated into impediments to growth of this sector. Adding to them are transaction delays and lengthy judicial procedures.

“We take 18 to 36 months from change of land use or CLU to commencement of work and these delays contribute up to 40% of the sale price. I have heard stories of developers’ exploitation and how the corruption has reached its pinnacle,” he said.

The war on corruption, he said, will be most effective if all CREDAI chapters fight it out with conviction. Developers should gear up to resist all kinds of exploitation and demands for bribes, expose bribe seekers and even move courts with writ petitions and complaints.

Stating that unity is strength, Mr Jain called upon fellow developers to stand by honest developers and support those who may fall victims to the corrupt system. “Then you will see what happens (in terms of results)”.  

He asked the developers not to be silent watchers of the corrupt system and exploitation and not to back-stab competitors.

On part of the government, he explained that there is an immediate need to implement administrative reforms to check the menace of corruption and said we had enough of committees after committees. “Now is the time for the government to act at once,” he added.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Developers hail retail FDI, want realty reforms, too

Govt must also protect retail traders interests - 
MCHI-CREDAI Chief Paras Gundecha

MUMBAI: Hailing the Union Government’s decision to allow FDI in organized retail sector as the right move, the developer community has called for accelerating the economic reforms process by covering the realty sector, too.
“India is the world’s second largest retail market and the re-launch of the reforms process with the FDI in the sector will definitely help revive the sluggish economy and generate employment,” said Mr. Paras Gundecha, President of MCHI-CREDAI.
As it is, the retail sector has established itself as the sunrise industry and with the FDI it will get a tremendous boost as it will lead to establishment of new chains providing newer outlets for farmers, traders and the industry as a whole, Mr Gundecha pointed out.
“We appeal to all sections to support this policy decision and help revive the economy without any more loss of time,” he said.
At the same time, Mr Gundecha said, the government should adopt a balanced approach on this and protect the interests of small retailers who are all self-employed people while allowing FDI in multi-brand retail.  “We must ensure an overall development and progress and not just a particular section,” he said.
Mr Gundecha also welcomed the encouragement of FDI into logistics and storage chains in rural areas to cut down wastage of farm produce. This will lead to creation of new job opportunities around the farm sector, changing the rural landscape.
Stating that rapid urbanization is the reality of the day, Mr Gundecha said the real estate industry looks forward to tapping the vast opportunities in housing, retail and office segments.
“This is where the realty reforms come into picture as the retail chains will need huge complexes. For long, the growth of real estate industry has been thwarted by limitations of land availability, delays in approvals, expensive and almost prohibitive funding and ever increasing rise in costs inputs like cement, steel, sand and even labour,” he explained.
Mr Gundecha appealed to the government to take a serious look at the realty industry and extend the process of reforms to it by ensuring easily accessible funding, speed up approvals by setting up a single window system and accord the industry the status of infrastructure.
The capital and labour intensive construction industry contributes over 11% to the GDP, apart creating massive employment which in turn leads to rise in purchasing power. This in turn will have a cascading effect on the retail chains as well making the reform process truly meaningful, he said.
Mr Gundecha offered to open the process of dialogue with the government and its various agencies to work on realty reforms. “We are always willing to play a meaningful role in the nation’s economic development and work closely with the government for realizing the dreams of housing for all,” Mr Gundecha added.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Govt, bankers seem "positive" on realty funding

  • Banking Secy discusses housing industry issues with IBA, CREDAI
  • Developers call for easing funding norms
  • Bankers agree to address the issue
  • Focus on speeding up approvals across the country 

MUMBAI: Sending positive signs from easing the cash crunch for the realty sector, Union Financial Services Secretary Mr D K  Mittal has asked the commercial banks to focus on funding partially completed projects on a priority basis and development of projects in small towns.
Presiding over a joint meeting of Indian Bankers Association (IBA) and developers apex body CREDAI at SBI in Mumbai yesterday, Mr Mittal asked the realty industry to conduct a survey of unsold housing stock in cities in batches so that a decision would be taken on unlocking their value.
He also asked CREDAI to come with norms for development in consultation with the NHB and standards for funding the projects.
He told CREDAI to work on rating the real estate projects for the benefit of bankers as well as buyers.
The meeting was called to understand the issues of housing sector and the problems being faced by developers in terms of funding the projects. Apart from SBI, many leading bankers like HDFC, NHB, Bank of Baroda attended the meeting.
Will Mumbai witness realty boom again? 
Describing the outcome of the meeting as “positive”, CREDAI Chairman Mr Pradeep Jain said: “We are happy that a good beginning has been made and we hope this will send positive signals to the real estate market as such. As we move on, we hope to solve the various issues one after the other.”
Briefing media on the meeting, CREDAI National President Mr Lalit Kumar Jain said “we highlighted the problems related to supply aide as well as demand side. All bankers more or less agreed that besides banking, the other factors like project approval delays, limitation on land availability for real estate and even the FSI restrictions should be addressed for the development housing sector.”
Bankers also felt that the knotty issue of speeding up the approval process should be addressed across the country by sensitizing all the States since real estate is typically a local issue and the rules differ from state to state and even city to city, Mr Jain said. This will help create adequate housing stock in the country.
On the issue of restructuring the realty debt, it was felt that it has to be addressed by the regulator RBI.
Bankers on their part also insisted on the one-project one-bank norm and opening escrow accounts. In metro cities, the developers should have one lead banker for funding.
They also suggested incentivising the rated projects through lower rate of interest.
Mr Lalit Kumar Jain said at the meeting that credit limit for realty projects should be raised to 25% of the total credit from the current 2.8%. In other countries, the norm is as high as 30%.
Referring to the reduction of CRR by the RBI today, Mr .Jain said “This is not enough.”He said there could two options to contain inflation: Either to cut monetary supply or increase the supply of products.”The second option is the right one since it will generate employment and contribute to growth of GDP,” he said.
He said the rollover facility for commercial real estate (CRE) should be on par with the industry since it is the safest sector to lend.
He reiterated CREDAI suggestion to reduce the rate of interest on housing loans to 7% to strengthen demand. All other expenses like stamp duty and the various taxes should be added to the overall cost of project and should be funded up to 90% of the total cost.
The real estate project funding should be at 10% instead of the prevailing 15.5% and even the costly funding by NBFC sector should be brought down, CREDAI said.
CREDAI called for easing the RBI risk weightage of 1.25 given to real estate sector.
CREDAI expressed its happiness that the positive vibes generated by the meeting would help the home buyer as well as the developer as the revival of real estate industry would help rejuvenate hundreds of other industries, generate massive employment and contribute to the nation’s growth.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

CREDAI hails multi-brand FDI policy

Developers apex body CREDAI welcomed the Union Government’s multi-brand FDI policy facilitating 51% investment from abroad.
“This much awaited policy announcement is a move in the right direction as it will give a new fillip to the development of retail sector in the country.” Mr Lalit Kumar Jain, Naional President of CREDAI, said.
Multi-brand mall: A Representative picture
The government also opened up doors for development of logistics and infrastructure like cold storages in the rural areas which, Mr. Jain said, will help positively change the village economy.
At least 50 per cent of total FDI brought in shall be invested in ‘back-end infrastructure’ within three years of the induction of FDI. The back-end infrastructure will include investment made towards processing, manufacturing, distribution, design improvement, quality control, packaging, logistics, storage, ware-house, agriculture market produce infrastructure etc. Expenditure on land cost and rentals, if any, will not be counted for purposes of backend infrastructure.
This is a praiseworthy move, he said as it will help ceat jobs across the country and thus check large scale migration of people from rural areas to urban centres in search of employment, he said and expressed that all right thinking people will wholeheartedly support the government initiative.
The overall policy will also contribute to the equitable distribution of employment, he said and pointed out: “India needs bold decisions to help the nation progress with new vigour and enthusiasm and we are happy that the government has at last began to move in the right direction.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Oil is not well with the Rupee; Price hike imminent

A PIB release says:International Crude Oil Prices of Indian Basket Inches up on 11.9.2012 to US$ 113.65/BBL.

The international crude oil price for Indian Basket as computed/published today by the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC) under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas went up to US$ 113.65/barrel (bbl) on 11.9.2012. The price was higher than US$ 113.30/bbl on 10.09.2012, the last trading day.

In rupee terms also, the crude oil price rose to Rs 6309.85 per bbl on 11.09.2012 as compared to Rs 6270.02 per bbl on 10.09.2012. This was due to rise in  price in dollar terms and rupee depreciation with rupee-dollar exchange rate on 11.09.2012 at Rs 55.52/US$ against Rs 55.34/US$ on 10.09.2012.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Press Club condemns cartoonist arrest under outdated law

The Press Club, Mumbai, today condemned the arrest of Kanpur cartoonist Aseem Trivedi under the draconian and outdated sedition law, namely Sec.124 a of the IPC. 
He has now been remanded to police custody till September 16. Trivedi, a well known activist against corruption, was only portraying the rot in the system through his cartoon images, and his blog posts meant no harm to either the nation’s emblems or to the Constitution.
The Press Club said in a statement that by using an archaic British law where any criticism of the government can be construed as ‘sedition’, and by freezing Trivedi’s blog sites, the police authorities and the government have shown their distaste for freedom of speech and expression, a fundamental right guaranteed under the Indian Constitution. The Press Club demands that Aseem Trivedi be released immediately, and the government review the outdated Sedition laws.
The chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice Markendey Katju, has also condemned the arrest.
To discuss the gagging of cartoonist Trivedi and the implications, the Press Club, Mumbai has called for a joint media discussion on the issue. Senior civil society members including retired Bombay High Court judge Hosbet Suresh, civil rights campaigner Binayak Sen and co-activists and colleagues of Aseem Trivedi have also been invited.
Press Club Conference Hall at 3.00 PM on Tuesday, 11 September, 2012.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Supreme Court blasts TV Channels for 26/11 TRP race

The Supreme Court, in its judgement in the Kasab trial, made some strong remarks on the way the national media - TV Channels in particular - covered the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
Srinivasan, moderator of PR Point online group, posted this for discussion. A notable point is that not many in the media covered this aspect.
So much for freedom of the press and self-regulatory mechanism!!
Read and judge for yourself. The highlights are mine.

On 29th August 2012, Hon'ble Supreme Court delivered a judgement on the petition filed by Kasab, the terrorist.  While delivering the judgement,  Supreme Court has also made some observations about the functioning of our media on the day of 26/11, when our security forces were fighting against the terrorists.  

Supreme Court has clearly indicated as to how the TV live shows helped the enemies in planning their strategies.  They have also confirmed that any freedom of expression provided in the constitution is subject to restrictions.  (In this group and in the ezine PreSense, we have been writing about this for a long time).  Strangely, none of the media has reported this portion.  Please  read the  relevant portion of the judgement of SC.


Source : (Page 245 to 249)



Role of the media:

402. Before parting with the transcripts, we feel compelled to say a few words about the way the terrorist attacks on Taj Hotel, Hotel Oberoi and Nariman House were covered by the mainstream, electronic media and shown live on the TV screen. From the transcripts, especially those from Taj Hotel and Nariman House, it is evident that the terrorists who were entrenched at those places and more than them, their collaborators across the border were watching the full show on TV. In the transcripts there are many references to the media reports and the visuals being shown on the TV screen. The collaborators sitting in their hideouts across the border came to know about the appellant being caught alive from Indian TV: they came to know about the killing of high ranking police officers also from Indian TV. At one place in the transcript, the collaborators and the terrorists appear to be making fun of the speculative report in the media that the person whose dead body was found in Kuber was the leader of the terrorist group whom his colleagues had killed for some reason before leaving the boat 56. At another place in the transcript the collaborators tell the terrorists in Taj Hotel that the dome at the top (of the building) had caught fire. The terrorists holed up in some room were not aware of this. The collaborators further advise the terrorists that the stronger they make the fire the better it would be for them 57. At yet another place the terrorists at Hotel Taj tell the collaborators that they had thrown a grenade. The Collaborators reply, “the sound of the grenade has come, they have shown the grenade, the explosion has taken place, people are wounded”58. At yet another place the collaborators tell the terrorists at Hotel Oberoi that the troops were making their position very strong on the roof of the building59. At yet another place the collaborators tell the terrorists at Taj Hotel the exact position taken by the policemen (close to a building that belonged to the navy but was given to the civilians) and from where they were taking aim and firing at them (the terrorists) and advised them the best position for them to hit back at those policemen.60 There are countless such instances to show that the collaborators were watching practically every movement of the security forces that were trying to tackle the terrorists under relentless gun fire and throwing of grenades from their end.

403. Apart from the transcripts, we can take judicial notice of the fact that the terrorists attacks at all the places, in the goriest details, were shown live on the Indian TV from beginning to end almost non-stop. All the channels were competing with each other in showing the latest developments on a minute to minute basis, including the positions and the movements of the security forces engaged in flushing out the terrorists. The reckless coverage of the terrorist attack by the channels thus gave rise to a situation where on the one hand the terrorists were completely hidden from the security forces and they had no means to know their exact position or even the kind of firearms and explosives they possessed and on the other hand the positions of the security forces, their weapons and all their operational movements were being watched by the collaborators across the border on TV screens and being communicated to the terrorists.

404. In these appeals, it is not possible to find out whether the security forces actually suffered any casualty or injuries on account of the way their operations were being displayed on the TV screen. But it is beyond doubt that the way their operations were freely shown made the task of the security forces not only exceedingly difficult but also dangerous and risky.

405. Any attempt to justify the conduct of the TV channels by citing the right to freedom of speech and expression would be totally wrong and unacceptable in such a situation. The freedom of expression, like all other freedoms under Article 19, is subject to reasonable restrictions. An action tending to violate another person’s right to life guaranteed under Article 21 or putting the national security in jeopardy can never be justified by taking the plea of freedom of speech and expression.

406. The shots and visuals that were shown live by the TV channels could have also been shown after all the terrorists were neutralized and the security operations were over. But, in that case the TV programmes would not have had the same shrill, scintillating and chilling effect and would not have shot up the TRP ratings of the channels. It must, therefore, be held that by covering live the terrorists attack on Mumbai in the way it was done, the Indian TV channels were not serving any national interest or social cause. On the contrary they were acting in their own commercial interests putting the national security in jeopardy.

407. It is in such extreme cases that the credibility of an institution is tested. The coverage of the Mumbai terror attack by the mainstream electronic media has done much harm to the argument that any regulatory mechanism for the media must only come from within.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Press Clubs pin hopes on Hina-Krishna talks

The Press Club, Mumbai and Karachi Press Club welcomes the scheduled meeting of Mr. S M Krishna, Indian External Affairs Minister and  Ms. Hina Rabbani-Khar, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister to be held in Islamabad, Pakistan on 7-9 September 2012. Both of them will be reviewing the resumed peace process began last year.
Both prestigious Press Clubs reiterate their demands of free movements of journalists between two countries in order to promote people-to-people contact and enduring peace in the sub-continent. We hope both Foreign Ministers will give due attention to our demands.

The Press Clubs have said in a joint statement::
  • ·        Visa regime should be liberalised for the journalist community and should be made easily available. In fact, Indian and Pakistan’s Foreign Secretaries after their meeting on 4-5 July 2012 said in a joint statement The Foreign Secretaries also emphasised the need to promote media and sports contacts.
  • ·        Allowing only two journalists from other country to function should be removed and there should not be restrictions in numbers. More and more journalists from other country should be encouraged and they also should be allowed to move easily.
  • ·        Hard copies of newspapers and periodicals should be allowed to sell in other country.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

VAT on flat is double taxation, says Consumer ‘FORAM’

 For flat owners in Maharashtra, the VAT battle is not yet over!

VAT on flats, or material used on construction, amounts to double taxation since the developer has already paid while buying them from registered suppliers, said Mr Atul Puranik, convener of newly started consumer group FORAM – Flat Owners’ Rights protection Action committee of Maharashtra.
FORAM sought legal opinion from noted advocate and tax law consultant mr. Anand Patwardhan who opined that the entire scheme of VAT on flats, shops and bungalows should be challenged. Developers, while fixing the price of the properties, would have factored all their expenses, including the costs of the land and material and taxes that they pay.
“Mr Patwardhan’s view is: In such a situation, why should the government charge VAT again on developers who ultimately pass it on to the consumer like it happens in any transaction,” Mr Puranik said.
Hence, it is wrong to expect developers to pay VT from their pocket since they too will pass it on to buyers, Mr Puranik said and pointed out: “The Sales Tax department is giving conflicting and confusing statements on liability for flat buyers.
Mr Patwardhan opined: “To the best of my knowledge, VAT will be applicable on sale/resale of goods under the sale of goods act. Builders will have to declare and explain the cost of material that has been used before working out any formula of collection of VAT from buyers.”
Referring to the latest set of FAQs issued by the Sales Tax department on the VAT issue, Mr. Puranik said the points are very confusing. “At one stage the department says the onus is on developers and somewhere else it says developer has to collect from the buyer,” he said.
For instance question number 17 and the answer are:
“Question: The builders receive non-refundable deposits and other charges under the agreement such as electricity deposit, water charges, legal charges, development charges etc. Whether such receipts will also form part of sale price for VAT?
Ans: The amounts which are received as deposits will be a deduction to the extent such amounts are actually paid to other authorities”
This is a clear indication that the consumer will have to shell out the tax, Mr. Puranik said.
He said, similarly, to Question number 19 in the FAQ list 19 on whether the VAT applicable can be collected by raising a debit note or the same should be mentioned in the agreement itself, the answer very clearly  is: “Yes. It can be collected by raising a debit note. Specific mention in the agreement is a choice of the contracting parties. It will be payable on the installments received.”
He said developers might have got a respite from the Supreme Court for depositing VAT with the government, but they have begun to send out notices to buyers citing the clauses in agreements for sale that provide for payment of any future taxes to be levied by the government or municipal bodies.
“The government must immediately make its position clear and clear the confusion,” he said and appealed to NGOs and consumer welfare organizations all over Maharashtra to join the campaign against VAT and protect ultimate buyers from the VAT burden.
The issue arose after the Sales Tax department issued a trade circular calling for payment of 5% VAT on properties sold between June 20, 2006 and March 31, 2010 following the dismissal of a developers’ plea against VAT by the High Court. Now, the Supreme Court, hearing a special leave petition by developers, gave a relief to developers to pay the tax by October 31, 2012 instead of the government deadline of August 31.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

FORAM to fight VAT bombshell on Aam Admi

MUMBAI: Seeking to fight the vexed VAT issue on flats in Maharashtra, a consumer group called FORAM – Flat Owners’ Rights protection Action committee in Maharashtra – has been formed with consumer interest groups coming together.
FORAM will mobilise public opinion against the VAT on flats sold between 2006 and 2010 which has come like a bolt from the blue, said Mr Atul Puranik, convener of the new platform.
“As it is, the common man is burdened with a series of taxes and a homer buyer has to pay even much more in terms of service tax, stamp duty and registration and now the VAT,” Mr Puranik, who is associated with the Council for Fair Business Practices, pointed out and called for an immediate end to VAT on housing sector.
Mr Puranik said there is no justification for levying axes on the material used in housing since all these items are subjected to sales tax. VAT, actually, amounts to double taxation, he said.
Mr Chandrashekhar Soman, another convener of FORAM, said:”We will mobilize public opinion against all over Maharashtra with district level committees VAT and appeal to the government to scrap the tax altogether for flat buyers.”
“This is just the beginning,” he said and expressed the hope that people a cross section will join in the movement.
Stating that FORAM will raise voice on behalf of the common man, Mr Soman said there was no justification for VAT on property because buyers pay stamp duty and service tax. He asked: why should there be VAT on immovable property?
He pointed out that there was a lot of confusion on the percentage of VAT to be levied and “even the government officials come up with different figures”.

FORAM received support from elected representatives like Mr. Vivek Patil, MLA from Uran. Many consumer rights activists and advocates promised to lend a helping hand to the anti-VAT drive.
“I was shocked to read about the Maharashtra Government’s announcement to charge VAT at a high rate of 5% on flats and other properties bought from 2006 to 2010,” said Mr Patil commenting that: “I strongly feel it is very, very exorbitant.”
“Several people who chose to buy flats in Raigad district because of the price advantage as compared to Mumbai and its suburbs have approached me with this new VAT issue. “My fundamental question is: why should there be VAT on immovable property? VAT should totally be scrapped be it 1% as applicable from April 1, 2010 or the high rate of 5% from 2006 to 2010,” Mr Patil said.
Echoing similar views, Mr Patil pointed out that the common man is being “crushed” by the government policies both by the central and state Governments. “The uncontrolled increase in prices of essential items like food, electricity and petroleum products, along with taxes on everything that we buy had made the life miserable for many,” he said.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

VAT Bomb on Flat Buyers in Maharashtra

Flat buyers, be prepared for another round of taxation!.  
Developers are all set to serve notices on those who purchased flats between 2006 and 2010 for payment VAT with the Maharashtra Government deciding to levy the tax with retrospective effect at 5% of the value.
This follows the rejection of developers’ appeal by Bombay High Court on behalf of the buyers against the heavy VAT. MCHI-CREDAI and CREDAI-Pune Metro have moved the Supreme Court with a special leave petition which is pending hearing.
Meanwhile, the State Government issued a circular for payment of VAT on flats, shops and bungalows sold by developers between 20.06.2006 & 31.03.2010 at the rate of 5%.
The State wing of developers’ apex body CREDAI Maharashtra today issued a public notice stating:  “As per the government circular VAT has become applicable to the flats purchasers from June 2006.”
Flat Out! Representative Picture
Sample this: the new burden on a customer who bought a flat at Rs 50 lakhs works out to minimum of Rs 2.5 lakhs!
Commenting on the new levy, Mr Atul Puranik of Centre for Fair Business Practices said: “This VAT burden is just too much. The cost of living is going up every day and the high rate 5% VAT plus the penal interest is going to cripple the common man further. We appeal to the government to scrap VAT on sale of flats altogether and give much-needed relief to the customer”
The Maharashtra Government had imposed a 5% VAT on flat sales following the example of Karnataka following the order of the Supreme Court in the case of  M/s K. Raheja versus Karnataka Govt.
This led to an anomaly as the taxation system followed in Karnataka is totally different from the one prevailing in Maharashtra. 
Unlike Maharashtra, Karnataka does not have the ‘Ownership of Flat Act’ and therefore developers in that State prepare two separate sets of documents –one for the share of land on which Stamp duty is levied and another on construction on which no stamp duty is paid.
The Maharashtra Government subsequently reduced VAT on sale of flats to 1% from April 1, 2010. The government, however, is now levying 5% on the flats bought between 2006 and 2010, throwing thousands of buyers into a fresh financial crunch.
Thus, each flat buyer in Maharashtra will have to pay up to 5% additional taxes for flat purchased by them, as compared to Karnataka, along with interest @15% p.a. and penal interest @ 25% that the Maharashtra government is levying. This news has rattled flat buyers who are already reeling under the pressure of 3.09% Service Tax which has been implemented by Central Government.
Meanwhile, various developers are gearing up to send notices for collection of outstanding VAT tax to Consumers who have purchased flats between 20.06.2006 and 31.03.2010.
All agreements for sale provide for collection of additional taxes levied by the Centre or State governments from the buyers. 

Developers do not enjoy sitting on inventory in cash crunch: CREDAI

  • Housing price cut not feasible in high cost regime, says CREDAI
  • Plea to FM: Take steps to boost realty, affordable housing
  • Remove roadblocks like high rates of interest
  • Renew faith in the economy by encouraging real estate

NEW DELHI: Instead of asking realtors to download unsold stock at discounted prices, the Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram should take immediate steps to boost to housing stock supply through special incentives to the affordable segment, developers apex body CREDAI said.
Commenting on reports suggesting that Mr Chidambaram asked commercial banks to pressurize developers to clear inventory and lower the prices to get the economy running, CREDAI national President Mr Lalit Kumar Jain said: “We are happy that at last the Government has realized that real estate kick-starts the economic development.”
He described the reported figure of unsold housing stock of 500,000 across the country as unrealistic.
“We ourselves have asked member developers to start selling even at rock bottom prices as long as three month ago since nobody would like to block his capital by sitting on unsold stock that too in a very high interest regime. On the one hand, banks are discouraged to lend to real estate developers while on the other cost of fund from non-banking sources is prohibitively high,” Mr Jain said.
Mumbai Realty: A representative picture
CREDAI has also volunteered to work with the Indian Banks Association on the proposed committee on housing sector which was mooted by the Finance Minister.
The current size of the real estate industry is estimated to be about 180 Billion USD with a CAGR of 18-20%. For the past two years, however, liquidity in general and access to bank credits in particular has been restricted due to variety of risks. Therefore, just as any other sector of economy, the real estate sector has also found it difficult to tap bank resources, bank credits.
It estimated that out of the huge investment in the organized real estate industry funding by the commercial banks is negligible. Banks and finance companies are still wary of financing Real Estate sector as RBI always keeps it in the negative list.
“It is ironic that while home loans area top priority, the home developers are not,” Mr Jain regretted.
Referring to concerns over prevailing high prices of houses, he said it is akin to the typical egg-and-chicken scenario. The general sentiments in the market and economy are preventing buyers to move and developers are unable to bring down the prices because of very high cost of construction. Hence the demand-supply mismatch continues with the housing shortage crossing the 26 million mark.
The other key factors that add to the high cost of realty are the ever increasing local municipal taxes, ready-reckoner rates for deciding stamp duty, cess and even VAT.
For instance in Mumbai, the financial and real estate capital, the burden on developers has risen on account of fungible area. The cost of labour has gone up by as high as 60% over the past two years.
“CREDAI, therefore, appeals to Mr Chdamabaram to look at ways to bring down the cost of construction while taking steps to encourage buyers to have houses of their own,” Mr Jain said.
“As things stand, it is unrealistic to expect developers to cut down prices of even of some of the unsold stock as they had already incurred the high cost and it does not make business sense for us to go out of pocket,” he explained.
CREDAI, humbly requests the honourable Finance Minister to focus government attention on bridging the demand-supply gap by lowering the rates of interest and enhancing faith in the economic conditions of the country.
In a related development CREDAI has requested the Indian Bankers Association to involve the developer community apex body in the banks’ advisory committee on housing which the finance minister suggested.
“Being given to understand that the Honourable Finance Minister of India has asked the Indian Bankers Association to form an advisory committee on Housing that would advise the government on the ways and means to check the slowdown in the sector, CREDAI has volunteered to work with IBA,” Mr Jain said.
“Sir, as you are well aware that the Realty Sector is undergoing very hard times.  Stocks are piling up, debts and financial defaults are rising, and the sector is shrinking due to adverse market conditions, high cost of inputs, tight monetary policy and large burden of taxes,” CREDAI communiqué to IBA  Chairman Mr Alok K Mishra said.
“A Delegation of CREDAI is ready to meet IBA to present a holistic picture about the contemporary Housing situation and its issues in order to strike the necessary balance and ensure optimal efficiency in the developmental process of the country,” said the letter dashed out by CREDAI Chairman Pradeep Jain and Mr lalit Kumar Jain himself.
CREDAI pleased for declaring housing as a priority sector at par with infrastructure and suggested that home loans be given at 7% for the low income groups and economically weaker sections. Similarly, the margin money contribution for availing home loans should be reduced to 15% from the prevailing 20 to 30%.
CREDAI suggested a roll-over provision for loans to real estate.  The NPA norms should also be modified to allow this accommodation by the banks, housing finance institutions and financial institutions.
Banks should be encouraged to fund the developers with fresh infusion of funds on a priority basis to enable them complete on-going projects, CREDAI said and called for removal of the disparity in risk weights: Risk weight assigned to Real Estate projects should be reduced at par with other industries for the purpose of credit-disbursal by banks.
Similarly, CREDAI said, banks should facilitate land loans as part of the project cost, particularly when the land is purchased in an auction/bidding from Government/Municipal authorities.
Pointing out that banks and HFIs are enjoying certain concessions on loans up to 20 lakhs under priority sector loans, CREDAI called for upscaling the limit to at least Rs 35 lakhs due to the rising inflation and considering the urgent requirement of credit in the housing sector.
CREDAI also suggested to banks to give priority to affordable housing segment – homes with up to 1,000 sqft carpet – and allow project funding up to 40% of the cost, inclusive of land price.
Calling for amending the Foreign Ownership rule, CREDAI said the government could consider the feasibility of permitting pre-approved foreigners from a certain list of countries to own a house in India, just as Indians can buy houses abroad.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Who gave them this Azad? Press Club condemns attack on media by 'Assam protesters'

The Press Club, Mumbai , today condemned the attacks on media persons and the destruction of their equipment and vehicles by crowds of protestors gathered at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan on Saturday.
The Secretary, Press Club, Mumbai said in an e-mailed statement that the protesters, led by the Raza Academy and others claiming to represent Muslims, had massed in the afternoon to voice their dissent against atrocities committed on Muslims in Assam and Burma.
Police fighting it out, literally, with Assam protesters at Azad Maidan
According to eyewitnesses, a Maulana, in his speech, verbally attacked the media claiming that the atrocities in Assam and Burma were deliberately not being covered by the press. This incensed the crowd who turned against photographers and TV crews on and around the maidan. In the rioting that followed by the mob, 3 O.B. vans of TV channels were burnt and gutted while nearly as dozen photo journalists were beaten and injured. Two persons were killed and a large number of policemen and public property was destroyed. Of the media men injured, Prashant Sawant of ‘Sakal Times’ and Vivek Bendre of ‘The Hindu’ were seriously injured and have been admitted in St. George’s Hospital. Most of their cameras were either lost or damaged beyond repair.
The Press Club deplores this action by the protestors of attacking media persons. Those covering the agitation had no views for or against the issues being raised and were professionally acting as messengers of the news. This is nothing but an attack on democratic institutions and these groups have no right to vent their frustration on innocent professionals involved in news coverage.
The incident also highlights the fact that the Mumbai Police were caught napping. The police were fully aware of the emotional nature of the issues being raised, but there was hardly any bandobust to control the situation. It was only after more than 30 minutes of full-scale rioting that the police reinforcements came and brought the situation under control. The Press Club demands that the Maharashtra government immediately order an enquiry to determine how the violence erupted and punish those responsible for it. Action must also be taken against those police officers who allowed the situation to become uncontrollable. The club also demands the cost of damage to lives and limbs and to the media equipment be recovered from the perpetrators of the violence.
The Press Club is also seriously concerned at the current trend of protesting and advocacy groups targeting and attacking media when they find that their demands are not met by the authorities. In recent days, the Anna Hazare camp had similarly lampooned and attacked media persons for playing down the numbers attending the Anna Hazare rallies. It again brings to the fore the long-standing demand for legislative protection against attacks on journalists, which has been stone-walled for over 2 years by the Government of Maharashtra.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Competition Commission penalty detrimental to cement industry: Analysys

Mumbai Much Much attempts to analyse the cement industry scenario and the impact of CCI imposing a penalty of Rs 6,300 crores on 12 companies and CMA:

The cost of making cement in India has jumped by half over the last four years, and the rising prices of raw materials, energy and freight all indicate that manufacturers have a tough job on their hands to keep their plants ticking.
Ironically, almost all the costs related to the production of cement and its transportation are the monopoly of the government, leaving companies with no elbow room to control these factors. Adding to the problems, the growth in demand for cement has lost momentum due to the sharp slowdown in economic expansion.
Cement is a bulk commodity and it needs to be shipped across vast distances to reach the consumer. Freight makes up a little more than a fifth of the total cost of cement. It has climbed more than a quarter on a compounded annual growth rate over the past seven years. This includes transportation costs of clinker, but excludes freight on raw materials which is usually added to the cost of raw materials. 
So, the 30 per cent hike in freight rates in the March railway budget meant a stiff increase in costs. To move a 50 kg bag of cement from Andhra Pradesh, a key producing state, to Maharashtra the new rail freight rates added Rs.15 to each bag; to Kerala Rs.22 and as much as Rs.30 to the north east.
Because the railways are state-owned and freight rates set by the government are not negotiable, cement producers have been using the improving highway network to move cement via road. About 35 per cent of cement produced in India is today carried by the railways, down from more than 60 per cent until a decade ago.
The railways are expected to ship at least 30 per cent of the cement in the years to come, given its predominance over longer distances. The economic size of a cement plant has risen to 5 million tonnes a year from 1 million tonnes, meaning larger long haul costs to get the stuff to the ultimate buyer.
It’s only a matter of time before the government raises diesel prices. This would have the potential to balloon transportation costs further. Again, this is out of bounds of cement producers.
The two other major costs are energy and raw materials. Stable supplies of power and coal, also mostly controlled by the state, have always been a challenge. In the absence of competition, the coal produced by government-run mines is of poor quality with high ash and low calorific value.
As a result, cement companies also depend on imported coal of high calorific value. However, the rupee’s sharp depreciation and Indonesia’s – a major coal supplier – recent moves to jack up prices and restrict exports pose huge risks to costs. 
All these factors have resulted in a sharp rise in the cost of building a new cement plant over the past two years. With prices not keeping pace with the increase in input and other costs,  EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) have plummeted to $1,000 per tonne from a greenfield cement plant, compared with $1,500 that was initially expected.
It is against this background that the punitive fines of Rs.63 billion imposed on 11 cement companies by the Competition Commission of India must be viewed. 
Although the penalty for alleged cartelisation is being appealed in a higher tribunal, the stated objective to control pricing without taking into consideration costs and slowing demand is bound to cause more harm.
India is the world’s second biggest producer of cement after China, with output soaring after the sector was completely decontrolled in 1989. But the emerging scenario is detrimental for the industry and the country.