Dwelling on seasonal rivulets

For land mafia, dry stream bed is a business opportunity, says Vishal Gulati

As the trend of acquiring agricultural land for SEZs is rising, there is a shortage of space for residential projects.

Land sharks, driven by the housing needs of the common man, have now turned the dry beds of seasonal rivulets (choes) into housing complexes as a majority of choes are rarely in spate these days.

A visit to various villages and surrounding areas of Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr districts shows that the land ‘mafia’ is zeroing in on the choebeds for constructing houses, putting the life of dwellers in peril. A large number of colonies are being carved out by breaking embankments of the choes.

Massive digging exercise, being carried out using JCBs, has been going on for the past many months in the Mahilawali, the Bhangi and the Aslamabad choes on the outskirts of Hoshiarpur. Huge craters have been dug to lay foundation.

In some areas, including Kathgarh village, near Balachaur in Nawanshahr district, several palatial house have come up by constructing stonewalls to change the natural course of rivulets.

“Each day a number of trucks make rounds between the choe and brick-klins, which have mushroomed in the Hoshiarpur area,” says Ajaib Singh, whose fields are near the Aslamabad choe.

“For us life has again become a cruel joke. Earlier, torrents threatened our lives; now builders are forcibly occupying our land,” says Nirmal Kumar, whose farm is located near the Bhangi choe.

“With less or no water in the choe, agriculture, the primary occupation of the people, has suffered a lot. Now the land mafia has got the opportunity to turn the tragedy into a business opportunity,” says farmer Mast Ram.

He says the land on the riverbed is available between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 25 lakh per acre, depending upon the location. However, in areas near the towns the land prices have touched more Rs 1 crore an acre.

Villagers say those involved in building complexes are “outsiders”. They first block the inlets of the choe and then grab the dry bed to sell them off at higher prices.

Studies conducted by Chandigarh-based Central Soil and Water Conservation Research and Institute say Hoshiarpur, Ropar and Gurdaspur districts have a sizable area affected by torrents. The hit area is the highest in Hoshiarpur district (113 sq km) followed by Ropar (56 sq km). The total area under choes in Punjab is 228 sq km.

During the 1988 floods, 27 per cent of the total area of Hoshiarpur district was affected, while in 1993 it was 18 per cent.

Similarly, in Himachal Pradesh, Kangra district is the worst affected as about 125 sq km area of the district lies under torrents. In Haryana, the worst hit district is Ambala (73 sq km).

“Those indulging in building housing complexes are least bothered about the welfare of the public,” says Dr A.K. Tiwari, Principal Scientist (Engineering), Central Soil and Water Conservation Research and Institute.

He says every year during the rainy season, torrents cause extensive damage to life and property in the lower Shivaliks. Before constructing a building, the builder must ensure that the catchment of the choe is properly treated to deflect the current.

Since the torrent carries a huge load of sediments, it often results in the deflection of the course. If the torrent changes its course, it can again come to its original course.

“They are also playing with the life of the water bodies. The blockades in the choe often result in water shortage downstream,” he adds.

However, the local administration remains a mute spectator to the flurry of “illegal” activities.

The Deputy Commissioner of Nawanshahr, Mr Krishan Kumar, says he has no information about the construction of houses on the choes but hinted at taking action, if required.

Sources in the Hoshiarpur Deputy Commissioner’s office said PUDA recently denied permission to a coloniser to construct a housing society in the Mahilawali choe.



Indian woman gets recognition in Britain

Birmingham property entrepreneur of Indian origin, Perm Saini, has been named one of the Britain’s Top 100 women in the property business.

Ms Saini, founder of Edgbaston-based Claremont Group, was placed 90th in the influential listing produced by property bible, Property Week. She is the only Asian on the list.

The list is topped by MP Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and includes the Queen, TV presenters Sarah Beeny and Kirstie Allsop, along with politicians, property developers and professional advisers from estate agency, chartered surveying and legal firms.

Ms Saini is also one of the only two female property powerbrokers based in the Midlands. Phillippa Pickavance, of the Birmingham office of Drivers Jonas, was 95th.

A former solicitor, Ms Saini, began building a private portfolio of properties following the birth of her second child. She then set up Claremont Group in 1999. The company specialises in acquiring residential properties for private investors.

Now one of Britain’s fastest growing property companies, Claremont has invested in properties around the UK and in Dubai, Cyprus and Spain. Flagship deals include the acquisition of 146 apartments at The Rotunda, valued at £27.5 million and 75 apartments at The Cube, valued at more than £13 million. The company is currently embarking on its biggest-ever project, the development of a £100 million resort in Goa, India. — UNI



Time for Pathankot to go vertical

That is the only way the city can cope up with land scarcity and housing demand, argues Lalit Mohan

The scarcity of land is leading to exorbitant increase in prices of land in the city. The prices of commercial property in the city have skyrocketed to levels at par with the metros.

The market prices of commercial property in the city range above Rs 10 lakh per marla. It means one has to shell at least Rs 2 crore for 4,000 sq feet land in the markets of Pathankot. In the recent past a commercial property in Patel crossing area of the city fetched a price of about Rs 20 lakh per marla, according to sources.

The prices of the residential are also increasing though not at the same level. The prices of residential plots in congested and unplanned colonies being developed in an unplanned manner by private developers are at least Rs 1 lakh per marla.

Mission road, a relatively posh area of the city, fetches the highest prices for the residential plots. The prices of residential plots in the area range between Rs 2 and Rs 4 lakh per marla.

Besides the boom in property, the scarcity of land in the city is a major reason for exorbitant increase in land prices in the city. The city is surrounded by the Army and Air Force establishments from three sides. The Army has its dumps in the area, and as per the notification issued by them, no construction is allowed within 900 meters of the dumps. The Air Force also does not allow construction in the 900 meter area of its periphery. Besides, the Army has acquired large chunks of land all around the Pathankot city.

This leaves very little space in between in which the population of about two lakh, residing in Pathankot, has been sandwiched. The result is that whatever land is available is fetching a high price.

The Pathankot city is also developing as a medical hub for the surrounding areas of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, besides the Gurdaspur district. Many doctors have established ultra modern medical facilities in the city that are attracting patients to the city from far-flung areas. Some the doctors are also investing heavily in land that increased the demand.

Property is a lucrative business in the city. This attracts rich and powerful from the area in property business. Illegal colonies and constructions are common in the area. Recently a shop was constructed on main Dalhouise road in the heart of city. The SDM Pathankot got site of shop inspected and was found by the revenue officials that the shop was constructed 15 feet inside the main road of the city.

After the report, the Deputy Commissioner and the SDM ordered the demolition of the illegal construction. However, the shop was completed and is still standing on the road as a shame on the face of local administration.

The Shahpur Kandi road in Pathankot is the only stretch where Pathankot city can expand. The city needs planned development and PUDA or local trust should look towards developing flat system in the city to cope with increasing scarcity of land.



Apartment culture yet to set in Hamirpur
Vibhor Mohan

Even though there are hardly any plots for sale in the posh areas of Hamirpur, apartment culture is yet to pick up within the town and its surrounding areas.

The fact that most built-up houses in Hamirpur don’t have a drive-in facility, prospective buyers have no option but to go in for plots in the unplanned colonies coming up on the periphery. Despite the demand, flats are still not being seen as a viable investment by the local investors.

The fact that Hamirpur and its adjoining districts fall in Seismic Zone V, which has the highest probability of earthquakes, is another reason why people are a bit apprehensive about constructing multi-storeyed flats. As architect Sandeep Sharma puts it: “There is a definite demand for apartments as an increasing number of people are now settling down here. But no builder has taken the initiative so far. Though the concept of floors for sale in case of commercial complexes has become a big hit, yet in case of residential structures, the present trend is to rent out the flats, not to sell them.”

But for anyone planning a good house, finding a good plot in the posh areas of Hira Nagar, Krishna Nagar and the five-kilometer stretch along National Highway 88 on the Bhota-Nadaun road, could be a tough job. Besides, a built-up house on the main road is unlikely to come with parking space.

A local property dealer says one reason why the flat culture is yet to pick up in the area is the mental block about possible lack of privacy and lack of sunny areas. The mentality of staying in a rented house is holding people from coming together and forming societies, which could buy large chunks of land and construct own flats.

“Considering the haphazard growth on the periphery of Hamirpur, people will have to eventually accept the flat culture. Those staying in rented flats have got used to sharing their roof with someone. The only problem is lack of substantial investment to construct a proper colony with flats,” he says.



Lifestyle townships flourish in Bathinda
Perneet Singh

Dotted with crammed localities with virtually no breathing space, Bathinda has now made it to the list of cities having lifestyle townships that promise a perfect blend of luxury and comfort.

These townships are wooing people with amenities like world-class civic infrastructure with state-of-the-art underground electricity distribution system, pollution-free surroundings, metalled roads, modern hospital, well-equipped diagnostic labs, sophisticated club, food courts, fast food joints, academic institutions and entertainment centres.

Leading the race is Ansal Mittal Sushant City, a joint venture from Ansal API and Mittal’s, which claims to revamp Indian living with a touch of a Canadian lifestyle. Mr Abhideep Singh, Assistant Sales Officer, said the township sprawling over 250 acres on Mansa road would liberate the city residents from the clutches of a cluttered life as it offered a vast expanse of green belt and parks with exquisite plantations and flowerbeds.

Allaying prospective buyers’ apprehensions on cost, he said: “It is a misconception that only rich can afford villas and bungalows. Our township offers lifestyle homes at reasonable prices and our tie-up with various banks makes it all the more easy for anyone to own a residence here.”

He said a two bedroom house spread over an area of 200 square yard would cost Rs 17.5 lakh in their township. “We are also open to sale of plots at the rate of Rs 3,900-Rs 4,000 per square yard, which is much cheaper then the current prices in the city limit that hover around Rs 10,000 per square yard,” he averred. He said though there was a little slump at present due to elections, the revival of prestigious Guru Gobind Singh Refinery project will lend a fillip to their business in the coming months.

Silver Oak Homes, another township coming up a distance of 3 km from the city, boasts of lush green surroundings and world-class amenities. It offers two residential options to its potential customers – single cluster houses and duplex houses. A single cluster house here will cost Rs 13.13 lakh, while the price of a duplex has been pegged at Rs 15.15 lakh.

HBN Sunrise City has been luring customers with its location in the MC limit apart from amenities like shopping mall and multiplex cinema. It is offering plots of 200, 300 and 400 sq yard area at the rate of Rs 4,500 per square yard. Similarly, Ganpati Enclave on Dabwali road has been offering independent villas and plots apart from shop-cum-offices and booths.



Hanging greenery

Overhead basket concept is not new, says Satish Narula

We always think of decorating the entrance of the house. Have we ever thought of given attention to what impression one takes along while going out. Here are a few tips. This will also help those who live on high-rise dwelling units and have only the benefit of vertical walls to decorate.

Basket culture is not new. But in that case there have to be some overhead arrangements to support the baskets. This is, however, possible in case of houses in Panchkula and Mohali where most of the porticos or parking areas have overhead columns. In case of vertical walls, various kinds of stands can be made, depending upon the aspect and space available. Small stands can be supported with big nails drilled in the walls. For bigger stands, however, one has to use angles. Such structures also have an element of surprise for the visitors who, while entering the house, miss seeing these.

Now the question arises as to what should be the material of the pots used. For this, there has to be a consideration of the aspect, whether the spot is sunny or shady. Mostly people use fancy earthen pots or matki for planting and hang these on the supports. But under exposed conditions, there is quick evaporation and the demand for water usually exceeds the supply. Result — plant mortality. At times, due to heavy pots they seem to hang in inclined position rather than being placed elegantly. For stands fixed on walls, one must use sturdy stands made of steel. Shade aspect should be preferred. It is still better if the sun visits such spots only for a few hours. This gives the plants freshness and shine. When small stands are used, one should use small plastic pots. It holds the moisture better for a longer period of time.

The planting mixture should also be made as per the kind of material used. In heavy pots it is better to use rich but light ingredients. For this one can use vermin-compost in mixture with farmyard manure, sand and soil in equal parts. In case of small plastic pots, moisture, no doubt, is conserved better but as the material capacity is less, the watering needs increase. One can mix fragments of moss grass too with the potting mixture. This will increase the moisture retention capacity of the potting mixture.

The pots placed under such conditions are normally exposed and, therefore, the selection of plants should be judicious. Use only the hardy species, which at the same time should be attractive too. You can go in for tradescantias, pilea, setcresia, asparagus, zebrena, etceteras. For somewhat protected place one can go in for less hardy plants like ferns, especially the Maiden Hair fern, certain short statured begonias and klanchoes, ceropegia, pepromea etc. In winter, one can raise small stature flowering annuals like sweet alyssum, candytuft, pansy, petunia or even short-stature bulbs of various season like narcissus, zephyranthus (pink, it is more hardy) or even hyacinth if you can do it. These could be raised elsewhere and kept on the stands when in flowering.



Sealing drive hikes commercial property rates
Sunit Dhawan

Thanks to the ongoing sealing operations in the Hisar district and nearby townships of the region, the prices of commercial plots and shops located on the government-approved sites have witnessed an upsurge. The approved commercial sites include those developed by HUDA, Improvement Trust and Municipal Council.

On the other hand, prime chunks of land located in residential colonies, which earlier used to fetch handsome prices in view of their good “commercial value”, have registered a steep decline in their rates.

According to sources in the real estate market, the situation has arisen as the sealing campaign, which was more of a threat looming large over the trading community till recently, translated into reality.

It is pertinent to mention here that the HUDA authorities had recently launched a sealing drive in which a number of shops and other commercial establishments, located in the residential sectors and on adjoining roads were sealed by constructing brick walls at the entrances.

The move had infuriated the traders, who maintained that they had been paying due taxes to the local Municipal Council and had every right to run the shops. The affected shopkeepers also staged a dharna and blocked traffic at Dabra Chowk in protest against the sealing exercise.

The Haryana Vyapar Mandal had even threatened to call for a statewide bandh if the “harassment and dislocation” of traders in the name of sealing operation was not stopped forthwith.

On the other hand, HUDA officials carrying out the exercise asserted that they were only following court’s orders in this regard. Soon after the campaign, some enterprising businessmen removed the seals and reopened their shops. Following this, the Estate Officer of HUDA issued a notice, warning the traders from reopening the sealed shops. They were told that such acts on their part could invite legal action regarding contempt of court.



Realty gets Rs 1,252 cr FDI in first half of fiscal

Booming realty and construction sectors have received foreign direct investment of Rs 1,252 crore in the first half of the current fiscal, with most of the inflows coming through the popular Mauritius route.

Three realty and construction firms received foreign capital through the tax haven of Mauritius, while one received it from the US.

Companies that received FDI were Orange Realty Pvt Ltd, Mantri Developers Pvt Ltd, Alpha G Corp Development Pvt Ltd and Jaipur Mahua Tollway Pvt Ltd.

Orange Realty tied up with Ireo Investment Holding Ltd of Mauritius for two projects involving total inflows of about Rs 543 crore, official sources said.

Mantri Developers Pvt Ltd found partner in GSS III Rose Investment Inc again of Mauritius for an FDI of Rs 300 crore.

Alpha G Corp tied up with SS III Indian Investment One Ltd of Mauritius for Rs 263 crore, while Jaipur Mahua Tollway forged an alliance with US-based IJM Rajasthan (Mauritius) Ltd involving a foreign capital of Rs 145 crore.

Most of the firms would deploy foreign capital for various real estate activities. — PTI



Micro rural malls in Gujarat

Model fair price shops, grandly described by the government as micro rural malls, are springing up all over Gujarat where village people can shop for all their needs 24x7.

Already 512 such ‘malls’ have sprouted and another 508 are on the anvil. The state government plans to have 1,000 such malls every year, official sources say.

Sources said the malls were proving to be viable commercial centres, meeting diverse needs of villagers. — IANS



Profit from leasing out factory is not business income
By S.C. Vasudeva

Q. I have constructed a factory shed in an industrial estate and leased the same to another entrepreneur at a rent of Rs 20,000 per month. Apart from letting out I am also providing certain facilities such as furniture, fixtures, air-conditioners, water, watch and ward staff. The rent deed permits me to depute my security staff for on the spot verification of the sheds at any time during working hours. I have also received a security deposit of Rs 4.80 lakh, which is refundable on the vacation of the shed. Will the income from letting out such shed be treated as income from business?

— Vinay Goel, Sangrur

A. The facts of the case are almost similar to a case decided by Calcutta High Court and reported in 249 ITR 49. This decision has also been confirmed by the Supreme Court and is reported in 263 ITR 143. The company i.e. Shambhu Investments P. Ltd. in the said case had let out a property to various occupants along with furniture, fixtures and air conditioners for being used as a table space together with providing of services such as watch and ward staff, electricity, water and the common services.

The company had contended that income from such letting out is taxable as income from business. However, the High Court held that such income is taxable as income from property. The Supreme Court confirmed the said decision. In view of the said decision the income from letting out the shed would be taxable as income from house property under Section 22 of the Income Tax Act, 1961, (the Act).

Rent to kin

Q. I stay with my parents in a house. My mother owns the house and I intend paying her rent for the accommodation and claim the exemption of house rent allowance being received by me. Is there any restriction in doing so?

— Rajeev Kumar, Yamunanagar

A. The provisions of the Act are very clear in this regard. An assessee can claim exemption of house rent allowance in case he is making a payment towards rental for his accommodation subject however to the limits specified in the Section 10 (13A) of the Act. Thus, there has to be an actual payment of rent so as to claim the exemption. You can therefore claim an exemption only if the rent is actually paid by you. It may be added that rent so paid would be taxable as an income from house property in the hand of your mother.

Sale & purchase

Q. I own about 10 acres of agricultural land in a village near Abohar. The agricultural operations are being carried on the said land. I intend selling that land and am likely to earn a substantial amount of capital gain thereon. I would like to invest the said amount of the capital gain earned on the sale of such agricultural land in acquisition of another piece of agricultural land in the rice belt of Haryana. Please let me know if capital gain earned on such sale would be exempt from tax?

— S. K. Singh, Fazilka

A. According to the provisions of the Section 54B of the Act, the capital gain arising from the transfer of the agricultural land would not be chargeable of tax in case the assessee purchases any other land for being used for agricultural purposes within a period of two years after the date of transfer of the agricultural land. In such a case if the amount of capital gain is greater than the cost of land so purchased, the difference between the capital gain and the cost of land so purchased shall be chargeable as the income of the previous year in which the land is purchased.

In case the capital gain is equal to or less than the cost of land purchased capital gain shall not be charged under Section 45 of the Act. I may add that the capital gain not utilised before the date of furnishing the return of income in respect of the year in which sale took place, is required to be deposited in a separate account under capital gain scheme. Such account can be operated for the purpose of purchase of agricultural land within the prescribed time limit.

SC decision

Q. I have constructed a cinema hall on leasehold land, the lease for which would expire after a period of nearly 50 years. I have paid extra ground rent for the conversion of the land into a commercial land. I have also paid commercialisation charges for the commercial use of the building. Can such commercialisation charges to be treated as part of the cost of building?

— Chanderbhan, Nawanshahr

A. In the case CIT vs. Hindustan Times Ltd. (231 ITR 747) (SC) the company paid commercialisation charges for the commercial use of the building. The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that such commercialisation charges would be treated as part of the actual cost of the building and, therefore, depreciation would be allowable thereon. On the basis of the above decision, the commercialisation charges paid by you for constructing the building should form a part of the actual cost of the building.

Bifurcate sale

Q. I own a factory shed in an industrial area developed by a government authority. I have been using the same for the purposes of my business for the last 10 years. I intend selling this shed and buying a bigger plot of land for my industry. Would the capital gain earned on the industrial shed be considered a long-term gain or a short-term one?

— S.S. Saluja, Muktsar

A. The sale price of the shed and that of the land on which the shed is erected should be bifurcated and so specified in the sale deed to be executed for such a sale. This is because the capital gain earned on the sale of super structure shall be treated as a short-term capital gain in view of the provisions of the Section 50 of the Act. Such short-term capital gain would be the difference between the written down of super structure as per the tax records and the sale price of the super structure. The capital gain earned on the sale of land on which the shed had been erected will be treated as a long-term capital gain.



Buzz on Bourses

Israeli firm to invest $330 m

Jerusalem: Israeli company, Jerusalem Economic Corporation (JEC), is to buy land worth $330 million in Thane, near Mumbai, in real estate investments. “For the first time, we’re investing in India, which the company views as a strategic goal in its development. The company aims to locate opportunities for the sake of future growth,” Chief Executive of JEC Oded Shamir was quoted by daily ‘Ha’aretz’ as saying. This will be Eliezer Fishman real estate group’s first foray into the Indian real estate market, it said. — PTI

Stake in realty portal

New Delhi: Real-estate network has said DMC International Ltd acquired a 10 per cent stake in it for Rs 4 crore, in the first phase. “We believe that first-time concepts such as real-estate franchising, auction and Jaaydaadnama will go a long way and help take the industry forward,” DMC International Chairman P K Awasthi said in a statement. DMC International is a player in the safety solutions market in India and a promoter, developer and builder in Tier II and III cities. — PTI

Terminal Mall planned

Chandigarh: Heritage Group, a group with realty interest in the region, plans to develop a ‘Terminal Mall’ in Amritsar. “It will be the biggest shopping mall of the city spread on 4 acres of land at Airport Road, Amritsar and designed as shopping, entertainment and lifestyle destination of international class. It will be strategically located with centrally air-conditioned atrium, a 4- star hotel,a three- screen multiplex, food courts, spa and business centre,” says Mr Rajesh Bhalla, Managing Director of the group. — TNS

BSEL hotel in Pune

Mumbai: BSEL Infrastructure Realty has entered into a 50:50 joint venture with Unity Infraprojects for constructing, operating and maintaining a 400-room hotel at Balewadi, Pune. Six acres of land has been allotted to the joint venture at the bid amount of Rs 156 crore and the concession period is 60 years, BSEL Infrastructure Realty informed the Bombay Stock Exchange. — PTI