Fixing the cement cartel

Import via Wagah border may curb this commodity’s price in North India, says R. Suryamurthy

Cement is an important ingredient of the construction sector. With the country in the midst of an infrastructure boom, including the real estate sector, the demand for cement has grown manifolds.

To rein inflation and escalating cost of cement, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram had announced carrot and stick measure for the cement industry in the Budget, but had little effect. In fact, Finance Minister went on record this week and admitted the presence of cement cartels and the government's inability to deal with them without effective competition law in the country.

The government has done away with the countervailing duty of 16 per cent and additional duty of 4 per cent on cement imports on its part.

The import cut means that the landed cost of imported cement should now fall by about Rs 30 to around Rs 215 per 50-kg bag, much lower than the overall national average domestic retail prices of around Rs 225 a bag.

Pakistan has already shipped some quantity of cement to India. The cement cargo has arrived in Indian port at Rs 155 a bag, which is at a discount. It will be released after certification from Bureau of Indian Standards.

As much as 525 tonnes of the commodity has landed in Mumbai and port authorities are joining in the efforts to contain inflation by agreeing to forgo rentals till the consignment gets quality clearance.

The latest is as an immediate step to resolve the quality clearance imbroglio pertaining to cement import from Pakistan, New Delhi may allow ‘third party’ certification to clear the cement consignment lying in Mumbai port for several days now.

With the production in Islamabad likely to result in a surplus of seven million tonnes by the end of current fiscal June 2007, followed by another 12 million surplus production during next fiscal 2007-08, real estate buyers can only hope that the prices would fall.

Raman Sood, director of Eros group says imported cement will reduce construction costs, albeit marginally, as other overheads continue to rise. However, the effect of such imports will be noticeable only during the end of this year.

Added to the surplus production, the current ex-factory production cost in Pakistan is in the range of Rs 114 to Rs 155. In comparison, the cement supply prices in India (Rs 200, ex-factory) are constrained of logistics and plant locations. The retail price increases exorbitantly and consistently, from region to region, ranging from Rs 225 to Rs 240 per bag.

Indian Cement Manufacturers Association secretary E.N. Murthy says: “It is too early to assess the possible impact of government’s decision to allow duty free import of cement and the price of cement will be dictated by the market forces.

He says the government decision has removed “level playing ground” as domestic production attracts anywhere between Rs 400 and Rs 600 per tonne as excise duty whereas imported cements do not.

Murthy says instead of helping the domestic industries to further augment the production capacities, the government has resorted to imports.

Assocham has suggested opening up of Wagah Border for import of cement from Pakistan and also authorise internationally recognised quality certifying agencies to issue certificate to facilitate flow of import.

The chamber says Pakistani cement companies have confirmed availability of 10,000 tonnes of cement @ Rs. 155 per bag of 50 kg to deliver at Jalandhar (Punjab).

According to data provided by Cement Manufacturers Association (CMA), the demand for cement in south India grew by 12 per cent, in north it was 11 per cent and the west registered 10 per cent increased offtake.

The industry estimates that the demand growth for the current fiscal is expected to be in the region of 10 per cent, which will translate into a demand of 175 mt.

However, there is no sign of significant capacity build up happening this year. All expansions that are planned are for a three-year period. After a gap of almost 10 years, Indian cement companies are into shopping mode, by placing orders for capacity build up. Close to 54 million tonnes of additional capacity is on cards, which translates into an investment of around Rs 21,600 crore.

According to reports, 37 million tonnes (mt) of clinker capacity is likely to be added from 2007 to 2010. In terms of cement capacity it will be 54 mt.

Analysts said unless imported in large numbers the cement price will not be impacted because the incremental demand alone in India is 9 million tonnes, that is 2 million tonnes more than the total excess capacity in Pakistan.

The far cheaper road route is the key to larger imports. If that is allowed, the game changes significantly in North India, analysts say. Many Pakistani cement manufacturers are currently awaiting a green signal from both - Pakistan and Indian governments - to supply the building material through the road.

India, Asia’s fourth-largest economy, is building more roads, ports, airports and power plants and residential complexes to sustain high economic growth.



BIS certification to help construction firms

Bureau of Indian Standards has issued licences in UAE, Bhutan and Bangladesh, says Ruchika M. Khanna

Even as the government is in the process to import cement from the neighbouring countries and check the rising prices of this basic construction material, steps are now being initiated for the quality certification of the imported cement.

It is learnt that cement - ordinary portland cement (OPC) and pozzolana portland cement (PPC) - is under mandatory BIS certification, keeping in view the safety of structure and human lives. The Cement (Quality Control) Order, 2003, prohibits manufacture, storage for sale, sale and distribution of cement without its conforming to specified Indian Standards and sans the ISI mark.

The prices of cement have shot up to Rs 225- 240 per bag as against a price of Rs 170 per bag in January 2006. Cement manufacturers attribute the price rise to the cut in coal linkage received from the government, sharp hike in transportation charges and increase in the cost of diesel.

However, it is believed that the price hike has been orchestrated by the three top players in the cement industry, who together have a 60 per cent market share. Smaller groups have to follow what these three major manufacturers decide about the prices. After talks between the government and cement manufacturers over bringing down of cement prices failed, import was decided as an alternative.

Says deputy director general Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), Chandigarh , Bhupinder Singh: "This quality control order applies to cement manufactured locally as well as imported cement. BIS is operating a foreign manufacturer certification scheme under which licences are granted to foreign manufacturers if they possess the requisite manufacturing and testing infrastructure and capability to manufacture the product to relevant Indian Standards."

For this purpose, on receipt of application from the foreign manufacturer, a team from the Central Marks department of BIS visits the premises of the cement manufacturer abroad, draws sample and tests this sample in the BIS approved laboratory here. It is only after the sample meets the quality specifications that a licence is granted.

The foreign manufacturer is either required to have an office in India with due permission of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) or nominate an Indian representative who shall be liable for compliance to the BIS Act, 1986.

Bhupinder Singh says as on date, BIS has already granted 11 licences to foreign manufacturers for use of ISI mark on various types of cement to manufacturers in Bangladesh, Bhutan and the UAE. The BIS grants licence if the sample passes and manufacturing and testing facilities are complete.



Think before you sow

Fruit trees can become a liability if not planned properly, says Satish Narula

The present day trend is to sell plots on turnkey basis as far as planting goes.

Colonisers grow a number of trees to lure the customers without taking into consideration the growth requirement or the suitability of species for a particular region. This results in the failure of trees to bear fruits later. That is when the owner feels cheated.

Lack of planning, rather than bad intention of the seller, is usually responsible for this. Fruit tree plantation as a part of home garden planning is the least understood aspect. Improper placement not only leads to the barrenness of the trees but also affects other plants’ performance.

In fact, planting of fruit plants as a pre-sale incentive should not be done as it is always the choice and preference of the owner and the family to choose a particular fruit tree for their premises. The following observation also holds good for those who are in the process of building a house and are planning a garden.

Basic problem crops up when the plantation is done without preparation. Tendency of the gardener is to include as many plants as possible.

Two basic things should be kept in mind before planting. First, whether a particular species is recommended for a zone or region or not. For example, litchi and chicku are most suitable for Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Ropar, Chandigarh and parts of Patiala district. Planting such saplings at other places is a waste of energy.

Secondly, the potential spread of the tree when fully grown and nature of the tree, whether evergreen or deciduous, should be kept in mind. In case of later, one can prune to contain and regulate growth.

Trees like mango, litchi and chicku become huge and need to be placed at least 30 feet from each other. It would mean that these should get at least 15 feet breather on all four side. In case of close planting, limbs and branches start joining.

This cuts off light and air circulation at the terminals, the spot where fruiting takes place, resulting in poor flowering and fruit setting. There is also a premature fruit fall.

Short stature fruit plants like lemon, kinnow, guava, peach, plum can be adjusted in between. These are termed filler trees and by the time the bigger trees grow, these can be removed as these may have outlived their utility by then. Or else, these could be pruned to contain their growth.

Fruit plants should also be planted away from the wall, at the back and also on the side lest the fruit bearing branches should go in the neighbourhood or street. Keep in view the benefit of winter sun also.

Another important aspect is the passing of overhead lines. Select short stature trees in such a case or those in which one can contain growth annually by way of pruning without affecting the fruiting.

Care should also be taken to make the selection of the site with a view to allow the growth of other plants. In case you cannot help it due to the space constraint, select those species that can grow under the shade of tall trees.

The writer is a senior horticulturist. His e-mail is



Estate talk
Bhiwadi to have a mall

Sanjeev Kumar S. Satyanarayanan finds out that retail sector is moving towards Tier III townships

With Bhiwadi in Rajasthan emerging as one of the major industrial growth centres in the National Capital Region (NCR), it holds immense potential for investment in commercial properties like malls, Director of Jagrit Infrastructure Pvt Limited Sanjeev Kumar says.
                                                                                              Sanjeev Kumar

Besides locational advantage, the return on investment is expected to be higher as the cost of land is much lower than tier I cities as a town like Bhiwadi remains to be explored fully still, Kumar, whose company is launching a first of its kind fully air-conditioned mall in Bhiwadi, says.

“Bhiwadi, the gateway of Rajasthan, is the biggest industrial town situated in the north of the state in Alwar district bordering Haryana. So not only does it have immense locational advantage of being very close to Delhi, but it is also a major industrial growth centre in the NCR. Thus, it has immense potential for investment in creating of commercial properties,” Kumar says outlining the company’s foray into Bhiwadi.

“In tier I cities, commercial investments are being dictated by big players as the land costs are exorbitant and thus new entrants into the real estate development, like us can make most out of the opportunities available in tier II and III cities of Haryana and Punjab,” Kumar says, adding his company will be investing Rs 50 crore to commission BB Mall project in Bhiwadi.

BB Mall will be first of its kind fully air-conditioned mall spread over 1.5 acres.

“We have already got the necessary clearance from various government,” he says.

“We are looking at a short-term investment of about Rs 200 to Rs 300 crore in creating commercial properties in tier II and tier III cities, especially in Haryana and Punjab,” he adds.



TAX tips
Invest in bonds to save capital gains tax
By S.C. Vasudeva

Q. I want to invest my long-term capital gains in infrastructure bonds. My query is which agency is authorised to issue these bonds during the financial year 2007-2008 & whom (agency/office) should I contact to get these bonds at Chandigarh.

— Kanchan

A. The long-term capital gains can be invested in the notified bonds issued by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) or the Rural Electrification Corporation Limited to save the payment of capital gains tax arising on the sale of a long-term capital asset. You should, therefore, contact either of the above institutions for the purposes of acquisition of the bonds.

Sale and purchase

Q. We have residential building (house), which was purchased nearly 18 years ago. The house is registered in the name of my wife. I intend to sell it off. I am told by one of the income tax experts that long-term capital tax is not payable if the new house is constructed/purchased within three years/ two years (the specified period) of the sale of old house. Kindly advise the correct position.

– Om Prakash, Amritsar

A. You have been advised correctly that capital gains tax arising on the sale of a residential house is not payable, in case the capital gain earned on sale of such residential house is invested in the acquisition of a new residential house within a period of two years of the date of transfer of the residential house or in the construction of a new residential house within a period of three years of the date of transfer of the residential house. I may add that in case the investment in the acquisition or construction of the new house is not made before the date of furnishing of return of income under Section 139 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (the Act), the capital gain is required to be deposited in an account in any bank and utilised in accordance with the Capital Gains Account Scheme, 1988. Further, the new residential house will have to be purchased in the name of the same person who was the owner of the residential house which has been sold so as to save the capital gains tax.

Agricultural land

Q. Agricultural land, situated three km away from limits of Sangrur City, was acquired on April 1, 1981. Expenditure @ Rs 50,000 per acre was incurred in the last three years on removing sand dunes (no receipt) whereas Rs. 3 lakh were spent on tubewell installation. If the land is sold on April 1, 2007, at Rs 5 lakh per acre, what will be the tax liability, if any?

— B. S. Aggarwal

A. The query does not indicate the cost of agricultural land acquired by you on April 1, 1981. Such cost will have to be indexed on the basis of cost inflation index notified in the year of sale. You have also not indicated the area of the agricultural land acquired by you. In view thereof, it is not possible to compute the tax liability arising on the sale of such land.


Q. We are the shareholders and directors of a private limited company. The company owns 5,000 sq yards, which was purchased in 1941 at the cost of Rs.750 vide registered sale deed. Now the value of the land is about 2.5 crore. But the value of land in the company records is the same as it was in 1941.Please suggest whether we can transfer that land to the shareholders as per their shareholding. Also suggest about the tax liability if we sell that land.

— Ashok Mittal

A. A limited company is required to be wound up in accordance with the provisions of Companies Act, 1956. The winding up can be a members voluntary winding up, creditors winding up or winding up by the court. Section 497 of the Companies Act deals with the members winding up and provides that as soon as the affairs of the company are fully wound up, the liquidator shall make up an account of the winding up showing how the winding up has been conducted and the property of the company disposed of and call a general meeting of the company for the purposes of laying the account before it and giving explanation thereof. The dictionary meaning of the word 'dispose' is to alienate, sell and to give it to others. Section 511 of the Companies Act, 1956, which is also applicable to members' voluntary winding up provides as under:

"Subject to the provisions of this act as to preferential payments, the assets of a company shall, on its winding up, be applied in satisfaction of its liabilities pari passu and, subject to such application, shall, unless the articles otherwise provide, be distributed among the members according to their rights and interests in the company."

Technically it may be possible to distribute the property i.e. land amongst the members according to their rights and interest in the company. I would, however, suggest that you should consult a senior lawyer dealing with the liquidation of companies before taking any action on the aforesaid lines.

The sale computation of capital gain of land by the company (which can be to shareholders also at an arm's length price) would involve the ascertainment of fair value thereof as on April 1, 1981, which will have to be indexed to the present day consumer inflation index. The index for financial year 2007-08 is yet to be notified. In any case, the tax liability on the sale of land can be worked out after the fair value as on April 1, 1981, is available.

Ancestral property

Q. My father purchased a plot for Rs 3.5 lakh in 1995 out of money he got from partition of sale proceeds from his ancestral property. He spent about 1.5 lakh on construction. House is in the name of my father. In January 2006, my father passed away. We were four members at that time (my mother, myself, one elder and one younger sister). Last year my elder sister got married and now we are three members in the family. Sir, I am employed in a private limited company where I am subject to TDS on salary. During my service, I came to know that to save tax employees show payment of rent to their family members i.e. parents etc. I also want to do the same, but problem in my case is that we have inherited our house property after the death of my father and according to Hindu Succession Act all family members at the time of death are equal partners in the property of the deceased. According to it, I am also the owner of house inherited from my father and so I cannot pay rent on this property.

I have two questions: One is can I show this property as HUF property of my father's HUF of which karta is me (as original Karta, my father, is no more) because this property was purchased out of family funds and not from individual income of my father. I would like to tell you here that I do not know whether any tax on capital gain has been paid or not at the time of sale of our ancestral property by my father and my uncles, also I do not have any proof that funds were utilized from these proceeds only. If I can do it, will I be able to make payment of rent to my HUF to claim exemption u/s 10(13A).

Another question is whether I can transfer property in my mother's name (being legal heir of the deceased) after the death of my father and thus making my mother, the owner of the house. Thus, will I be able to make payment of rent to my mother and claim exemption u/s 10(13A) of Income Tax Act.

What is the best possible solution to claim exemption u/s 10(13A) so that I do not indulge in any tax evasion?

— Neeraj Gupta, Ludhiana

A. The employee is entitled to claim exemption under Section 10(13A) of the Act when all following conditions are fulfilled:

(i) The allowance from the employer must be specific to meet expenditure on payment of rent.

(ii) The residential accommodation occupied by the employee is not owned by him and

(iii) The actual payment of rent by employee should exceed 10 per cent of his salary. Since the exemption is not allowable if the property is owned by the assessee, in case you are able to prove that the property in which you are residing is a HUF property of your father it may be possible to argue that the deduction should be allowable as the property is not owned by you. Your share of property can be transferred by you to mother. This would however involve the registration expense. If you choose to do so, you can pay rent to your mother to claim exemption under section 10(13A) of the Act. It may be added that your mother would be taxable on the amount of such rental income.

The writer can be contacted at



Living by the seaside

People plan beach houses in Chennai as govt mulls norms, says Arup Chanda

For the rich and those who had money, it was a fashion statement two decades ago in north India to own a farmhouse in and around Gurgaon.

In Chennai, the latest fad is living by the seaside.

Calm and comforting, sea facing houses can be ideal for those who want to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Over the past few months there has been an upsurge in the number buying houses near the sea, particularly on the East Coast Road (ECR), which is the new main road from Chennai to Puducherry via Mahabalipuram.

With plenty of money to spend and a need to indulge in luxury, beach houses have become a perfect investment on this stretch.

However, last week after the Tamil Nadu government lifted the 1980 ban on construction along the East Coast Road, real estate prices have begun to skyrocket, where property was already selling at a premium.

Following the tsunami in December 2004, a large number of constructions barely 500 metres from the sea on the ECR were destroyed. Real estate sharks also spread a rumour that seawater had entered the atomic power plant at Kalpakkam, which is only 35 km by road from Mahabalipuram but only 7 km by sea and there might be a nuclear leak.

The prices of land went rock bottom and many out of sheer fear sold off their properties within a fortnight after the tsunami struck.

But those with foresight and the knowledge that tsunami usually comes once in a hundred years, hung on and are now reaping the benefits.

The ban imposed by the Tamil Nadu Government on this stretch was a complicated issue and there were several clauses, which were manipulated and people went ahead with building beach houses within 500 metres to the sea.

When such houses were damaged by the tsunami’s killer waves they did not receive any compensation. But now that the ban has been lifted and the building guidelines have been spelt out, people are thronging to the area either to buy land or residential accommodation offered by property developers.

Property developers are yet to calculate the difference following the sudden spurt in prices but they admit that land and property prices in the area will definitely touch a new high.

Said a real estate developer: “As soon as people came to know about the lifting of the ban, I received several calls asking me to find out the latest prices of land and property in the area.”

Though builders and property developers are yet to quote the differences in the prices, they feel that land and property prices in the area will definitely go up.

They say that there have been enquiries from all sections of the people as they consider it as a good investment over the years compared to the volatile stock market.

People have already started visiting the sub-registrar and village administrator offices in the area to check out on land available and the price.

Real estate developers say that the price of each ground (2400 sq ft) is now ranging between Rs 80 lakh and Rs 1 crore.

Since permission has been granted to construct only two stories, majority of the construction, which will come up in the near future, will be luxury bungalows and villas.

Says a builder: “People who can afford and their chauffeur-driven vehicles have already started moving out of the heart of city. It is only 45 minutes drive to the city and with less pollution, no traffic snarls, they prefer to enjoy living by the sea.

However, unlike the past the land development now is more planned. This stretch will be the most sought after residential area on the outskirts of Chennai.”

The area even has the potential to outclass upmarket residential areas like Nungambakkam, Adyar and Boat Club Road in the metropolis.

A property dealer says: “Those who already possess land in the permissible areas can rake in big money now. The place is ideal for group housing and villas. ECR is also well connected through public transport to Chennai as all the long distance luxury buses from Puducherry and other parts of southern Tamil Nadu pass through this road. So connectivity for those who do not want to drive is not a problem.”

However, the area needs to be developed by the local governmental authorities and constructions need to be closely monitored.

There are builders who flout building rules and pass off flats to unsuspecting customers who later realise that banks would not finance such apartments.

The underground water and sewerage network in the area is still in the project stage and is yet to commence.

Meanwhile, local builders have also requested the government not to increase the permissible floor area as it will increase population density, congest the area and spoil the environment.

Says one of them: “We shall wait and see as to how good the decision to lift the ban is. The town and country planners should stress on the development of infrastructure and only then the area might develop like a modern residential area.”



Building bridges in the Valley

Kashmir embraces flyover culture to counter ever-rising traffic, says Ehsan Fazili

In order to streamline the ever-increasing traffic through central areas of Srinagar city, particularly Lal Chowk, various measures by way of connecting links have been taken during the recent few years. Srinagar Municipality has been transformed into Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), which looks after 316 sq km with a population of more than 13.5 lakh.

It is the SMC that introduced the concept of construction of road links, flyovers and overhead footbridges, hitherto, unknown in the Kashmir valley. The first-ever flyover, connecting Budshah Chowk with the Civil Secretariat, was completed within a period of one year on July 13, 2004. This was followed by first-ever footbridge over Jhelum river, connecting Lal Chowk with Lal Mandi, thrown open to public in 2005.

With the aim of overcome traffic congestion around Regal Chowk on Moulana Azad Road, the first-ever overhead footbridge was thrown open to public on March 5 this year. The footbridge, constructed by the Public Works Department of the Jammu and Kashmir government, was thrown open by the Works Minister Gulchain Singh Charak last month.

The bridge, initially proposed to cost Rs 35 lakh, was completed at the cost of Rs 65 lakh, according to Superintendent Engineer, Srinagar-Budgam districts, Muzaffar Ahmad Ganai. “This is meant for the students’ of Women’s College, MA Road,” Ganai said.

Elaborating further, he said on an average about 12,000 students had to cross the road causing “tremendous traffic congestion”. While it was initially estimated to cost Rs 35 lakh, additional requirements on three heads increased the cost to Rs 65 lakh, the official said. The view towards the premises of the Women’s College had to be blocked to avoid any inconvenience and the sides of the stairs on the two sides had to be fully covered for security reasons.

An additional cost was also incurred on the rooftop to shelter the pedestrians from rain and snow in bad weather conditions. “If utilised properly, the overhead footbridge will definitely ease the traffic congestion in Regal Chowk area,” a lecturer of the nearby S P College said.

Regal Chowk provides a connecting link between the two main parallel roads, MA Road and Residency Road in the civil lines area. Not only the Women’s College, the crossing also serves host to many other offices and the student community of nearby College of Education (B.Ed College), the century-old Sri Pratap College and Sri Pratap Higher Secondary School.

The trend started in 2004 when the then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed ensured the completion of first-ever flyover at Jehangir Chowk connecting Budshah Chowk with the Civil Secretariat and the state High Court complexes. The plan to construct flyover had been shelved twice earlier due to different reasons, but was completed within a span of one year with Mufti’s keen interest.

Many other road construction works to ensure smooth movement of vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the municipal limits of Srinagar have been planned and are under execution. These include 17.8 km-long four-lane Padshahi Bagh to Parimpora bypass road, with four bridges and 1 km long flyover at Hyderpora bypass.



Glow on facade
It is about moods and aesthetics, says Jupinderjit Singh

Illuminating houses just to kill darkness is passé. Move over to aesthetic, designer and dynamic lighting as the Ludhianvis are doing these days.

The fad of strategic placing of lights to highlight the façade as a whole or project certain spots, pillars, corners, art work and plants, brought in the city by acclaimed landscape designers and architects is rapidly catching up.

The new craze has already caught on a good number of medium-sized and palatial houses.

The idea and motive behind the effort is simple. Special illumination effects are needed to make an impression at night.

Secondly, the illumination of key spots provides a soothing aesthetic environment. It offers a setting perfect for leisure stroll in the garden, family meetings or just sitting by oneself among lights of different hues.

Nomita Khanna who lives in Sarabha Nagar had aesthetics in mind when she and her husband highlighted the pillars on the first floor of their house. “We wanted our house to have beautiful looks but more than anything else, it had to have an aesthetic ambience, something that calms nerves, destresses and also projects key spots in the house.”

Vivek Sagar and his wife Kavita made a home near South City a year ago. Still, their evenings remain busy with entertaining curious guests, who line up to view the special lighting effects.

“It is all about the glow.” the couple feels.

Architects and landscape designers Ranjodh Singh and Sarvdeep Singh Basur, well-known for lighting up the Red Fort, India Gate and Taj Mahal disclose that the trend of lighting up the houses is spreading all over Punjab and Chandigarh but Ludhiana initiated the fashion statement, “We have done over 60 houses.

Explaining the forms of lighting, Basur says four major forms of lighting are mood lighting, dynamic lighting, spot lighting and static lighting. In mood lights, he elaborates the lights are automated and set up to a particular mood. The lights can be dim and bright and are programmed to suit an atmosphere.

Dynamic lighting basically provides automatic changes of light and shade over a period of time. It is not set for one mood but symbolises a variety and diversity of scenes.

Spot lighting is one of the most popular forms. Beams or bulbs of different shades are placed on metal stakes in the ground to light up a tree, wash a wall or splash up the entire façade.

Then, comes the static lighting. These lights are permanent. They don’t change but the owners can change the colours, shades for certain days.

The budget naturally varies from one person to another but good lighting is designed at anything between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 12 lakh on an average.



Chaff ceiling
Vishal Joshi meets a rice exporter who keeps his cool with husk ash

Before constructing a residential or commercial accommodation just think about the valuable suggestion of keeping the rooms comfortably cool under the scorching sun. These innovative and environment-friendly words come from the vast experience of a rice exporter Vijay Setia.

Just drop in the Karnal office of this leading rice exporter and feel it for yourself.

Air-conditioners remain switched off for most part of the summers yet you don’t sweat.

Ask Setia and he says it is due to rice husk ash (RHA) used on the rooftop. With his experience, Setia has “successfully” found a solution to one of the most hazardous waste of the rice mills.

After a thorough research on RHA by his R&D team, he concluded that the hazardous mill waste has lots of positive properties. Being a non- heat conductor, husk was replaced with mud on the rooftop, the material used in constructing buildings.

“I feel that it was wrong to cover the rooftop exposed to sun with mud which is again cover with mud bricks. Being a good conductor of heat, these materials heat up the rooms,” says the industrialist.

Besides, his experiments reveal that RHA has good water absorbing qualities thereby minimising the problem of water seepage from the ceiling.

Learning by Setia’s experience, a Karnal-based entrepreneur Naveen Verma has experimented to plaster the walls of his workstation in Sector 13.

“The room, which was termed a working oven, has suddenly been converted into a comfortable room where everyone loves to sit,” says Verma.

Setia suggests that one should use 5-6 inches thick layer of ash, available for free, at the any of the local rice-milling units. Cover it up with bricks. He stresses that such solutions should be popularised among the masses.

RHA can be also be used in rural areas or slums, where the problem of stagnant water is perennial, thus giving rise to epidemics

Do not forget to try another interesting experiment of “natural refrigeration”.

A compartment made of bricks, measuring 4x2 inches on a ground level, retains the relative humidity (RH) of 90 per cent sufficient to enhance the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. However, always be careful while using RHA as it mainly contains silica. Always consult an expert before undertaking any change.

After constructing a wall at the height of about 3 feet, construct boundary wall leaving a space of about three inches and fill it with RHA. Just fill a jug of water in the space filled with ash to retain the required humidity in the chamber.



Registry ban hits transaction
Rahul Das

The ban on registry of property in Sadar area has adversely affected property transaction.

Registry of property in Sadar area was banned a few weeks ago following the formation of a committee by the Haryana Government to look into the possibility of turning the Sadar area into a freehold area. Verbal orders were issued banning registry of property in Sadar area.

Property in Sadar area is much sought since the government has already banned registry of plots in unauthorised colonies outside the Municipal Limits of Ambala Sadar. Now, the fresh ban on registry in Sadar area has directly affected those persons who were keen to carry out property transaction.

Sadar area is considered to be the commercial hub of Ambala Cantt. A number of markets have come up in the various pockets of Sadar area over the last couple of decades. The prices of commercial property in the Sadar area had sky-rocketed during the past few years.

According to a rough estimate, the price of commercial property on Durga Charan road and Nicholson Road is one of the highest and it is in the range of Rs 40,000 to Rs 1 lakh per square yard depending on the location. The rest of the Sadar markets are witnessing an upward spiralling prices and prices are in the region of Rs 25,000 to Rs 40,000 per square yard.

The areas, which are on the fringes of the commercial centre like Katcha Bazar, have relatively less cost of business establishments. The prices there are hovering between Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 per square yard.

Ambala Cantt MLA Devender Bansal said that he is in touch with the Haryana chief secretary so that the verbal orders for banning of registry in the Sadar area can be withdrawn. “The verbal orders on ban of registry is causing a lot of inconvenience to the people who want to carry out property transaction,” he said.

He said that it is being hoped that the ban on registry will be lifted soon. “The buyers as well as sellers are directly affected due to the ban on registry of property in Sadar area,” he said.

Deed writer Kamal Kishore Jain said that in the last few weeks, property transaction in Sadar area has been affected due to the ban on registry.



Entertaining the region

Unitech has submitted a detailed map to the UT Administration, says Sanjeev Singh Bariana

The upcoming entertainment park in the city featuring rides like the world famous Disneyland will be commissioned by June 2009. Unitech has submitted a detailed project map to the Chandigarh Administration for a formal approval paving way for the execution of a definite tourist attraction for the entire region.

The entire campus plan has underlined the importance of leisure, pleasure and most importantly, comfort. Besides Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula, the venue is seen as a big tourist attraction for the visitors from Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.

The main sections include kids zone, teen zone, little India, family zone and water park. All sections have the provision of a restaurant and the entertainment park will also have a hotel, retail mall, spa and ceremonial gardens.

A senior official of the Chandigarh Administration said: “The concept of the park is at least a day’s outing for the family. In fact, a number of people will be interested in staying longer. A provision for a hotel has been made at the site.”

The Administration is laying special attention on managing the expected traffic rush at the venue. The entertainment park will have the education city and the film city complexes right next door.



Devendra Malik enlightens on various ways to jazz up a room’s base

Flooring plays a vital role in the appearance of a space and the ambience it creates. From cow-dug smeared surfaces to high-glass vitrified tiles, flooring has come a long way.

The colour and design of the floor change the apparent proportions of the room. A dark floor design highlights the flooring surface and tends to make the room smaller. Light colours have the opposite effect and give the room a larger and more spacious looks. Flooring is becoming more colourful and ornate these days.

Natural flooring

Stone and wood are the most common natural flooring materials used all over the world. Marble and granite are among the ‘more elite’ stones found in India and have a wide range like Udaipur Green, Rajnagar, Dhoongri, Jaisalmer, Makrana White. Most popular variety of granite is South Red Black and Jhalhore. Italian marble still remain a status symbol but a large variation of Italian and Indian marbles are used to create interesting inlays. Stone is also available in different finish, like textured, flamed, brush-hammered, and sand-blasted

Traditionally, wood was popular only in the colder region as it had the property of insulation. Today, the latest manufacturing processes have removed the inherent defects of wood, leading to its newfound popularity. Laminated wooden flooring is a new trend that is sweeping the country. Apart from cosy living areas of homes, it is also suitable for heavy footfall areas like showrooms.

Man-made flooring

This category can further be sub-divided into tiles, vinyl and rugs


These tiles have inherent advantages. Lesser thickness makes it easy to handle and reduces the weight of construction. These tiles are available both as anti-skid and smooth finishes. These tiles can be used for borders and to create different patterns in the flooring because of their colour and shape. It is used most commonly in areas where interiors change after a certain period of time such as offices, showrooms, bars, shops, hospitals, and banks. These tiles are not only suitable for flooring, but also for cladding the interiors and exteriors of offices and industrial complexes. Glass floor tiles are also available nowadays. These bring in a sense of openness and light into any space. It is a safe alternative to traditional opaque flooring products.

For external flooring, paving blocks are in great demand in modern buildings owing to beauty, durability and economy as compared to traditional cement and stones. Paving blocks flooring can be designed as per desire. It is most popular because of unlimited variety of pleasing patterns and colour schemes. Paving blocks are increasingly used not only on walks ways and jogging tracks but also in entire building compounds, storage yards, petrol stations, swimming pool decks, parking lots and other landscaping areas. Highly wear-resistant in nature, the life of the blocks is much more than the ordinary PCC done in the external areas

Vinyl flooring

Such flooring comes both in tile and sheet forms. An extensive range is available according to utility. For example, anti-static vinyl for computer rooms, anti-bacterial vinyl for hospitals (especially ICUs) and a unique anti-skid material for industrial kitchens. Synthetic flooring has an application in the sporting segment too. It is ideal for sports like tennis, badminton, volleyball and table tennis.

Carpet flooring

Carpet offers a variety of colour, pattern and style to satisfy personal style and match any décor. Carpet’s cushioned surface absorbs sound and is less noisy to walk on. Insulating properties of carpet provide additional warmth underfoot during cold seasons. Carpet is a non-slip surface that is safe underfoot and provides a cushion to prevent breakage when delicate items are accidentally dropped. Most synthetic carpets are treated with static, stain and soil-resistant treatments, making them easy to clean and maintain. It is suitable for living areas of homes as well as in malls.

The writer is a New Delhi based interior designer. He can be reached at



DS Group moves into hospitality

The 1,200-crore Dharampal Satyapal (DS) Group, primarily involved in the business of foods and beverages, is now expanding wings in the hospitality sector and will invest over Rs 425 crore for its two projects in Kolkata and Jaipur.

The DS Group plans to own eight properties by 2012. It will set up a 250 room-five star hotel, a 100-room budget hotel, at an investment of Rs 300 crore. — UNI