Anna comes out of Tihar, heads towards fast venue

"We got freedom in 1947. Now the second freedom struggle has begun on 16th August. A revolution has started. The fight against corruption will continue whether I am alive or not," Anna Hazare told his supporters as he stepped out of jail

New Delhi: Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare came out of Tihar Jail on Friday to launch a fortnight-long protest demanding a strong Lokpal bill declaring that the fight against graft will continue whether he was 'alive or not', reports PTI.

Looking fit on his fourth day of fast, the 73-year old social activist came out of the jail premises and made a brief address to the waiting supporters that the 'second freedom struggle' has started.

"We got freedom in 1947. Now the second freedom struggle has begun on 16th August. A revolution has started. The fight against corruption will continue whether I am alive or not," he said as the hundreds of supporters waiting for him since early morning cheered and clapped.

Escorted by police officials, Mr Hazare came out and mounted a small podium erected just outside one of the gates of the prison that was his home for over 67 hours. He had refused to come out of the jail on Tuesday despite government ordering his unconditional release after his arrest in the morning to foil his indefinite hunger strike.

In the short speech, he declared that his campaign was aimed at making the country corruption-free.

Before getting on to a mini-truck heading a procession for a short distance, he appealed to his supporters not to indulge in violence or damage public property.

Flanked by his aides Arvind Kejriwal and Suresh Pathare, the Gandhian also invited them to join his protest that he would begin from the historic Ramlila grounds.

Greeted by rains, the procession made a slow progress as Anna waved to his supporters on his way towards Rajghat where he will pay obeisance to Mahatma Gandhi before proceeding to Amar Jawan Jyoti at the India Gate. From there he will go to Ramlila ground, the protest venue.


ONGC overtakes RIL to become country’s second-most valued firm

In pre-noon trade today, ONGC commanded a market valuation of Rs2,38,528 crore on the Bombay Stock Exchange, which was a little over Rs600 crore higher than that of RIL

Mumbai: After losing its position as the country's most valued company to state-run Coal India (CIL), billionaire Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries (RIL) today slipped below another PSU major, ONGC, in the market valuation charts, reports PTI.

State-run exploration and refining major ONGC pipped corporate giant RIL in late morning trade to emerge as the country's second-most valued company with a slightly higher market valuation.

At around 1145 hours, ONGC commanded a market valuation of Rs2,38,528 crore on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), which was a little over Rs600 crore higher than that of RIL.

RIL's market value stood at Rs2,37,882 crore at that time, as its shares were trading 1.81% down on the bourses. In contrast, the ONGC stock was trading with a gain of 1.07%.

At the same time, CIL maintained its top position with a market capitalisation of Rs2,50,580 crore.

At the end of Thursday's trade, CIL had a market cap of Rs246,780.36 crore, followed by RIL at the second position (Rs242,267.27 crore) and ONGC at third (Rs236,003.02 crore).

Earlier, on 17th August, CIL had toppled RIL to become the country's most valued firm, thus ending the private sector corporate giant's over four-year reign at the top of the market valuation charts.

Interestingly, RIL had toppled state-run ONGC over four years ago to become the country's most valued firm, but has now slipped below the two public sector firms in terms of market valuation.

A company's market valuation, or market capitalisation, is determined by multiplying its share price by the total number of shares.

CIL and ONGC had been closing the gap on RIL in terms of market valuation for the past few weeks, as RIL's stock has been under selling pressure and the two PSUs have been mostly outperforming even in a weak market.

ONGC had also come very close to toppling RIL as the country's most valued firm last week, but lost ground in the past few trading sessions.

RIL had first toppled ONGC to become the country's most valued firm way back in late 2006, but the state-run energy giant reclaimed its top position, albeit only for a brief period. RIL has managed to stay on the top since February 2007.

Since then, ONGC had mostly been the country's second-most valued firm after RIL, but was pushed to third position by Coal India in May this year.

After a gap of about two months, ONGC again pipped past Coal India about a month ago to become the country's second-most valued firm and the most valued PSU. But weakness in ONGC shares over the past few days again brought the company below Coal India in market valuation charts.


Competition Commission penalty on DLF highlights the need to correct the system

CCI order sparks off debate over problems of property buyers as well as issues that affect developers

Property buyers will welcome the decision by the Competition Commission of India to (CCI) punish DLF, the country's leading realty firm, with a fine of Rs630 crore for abusing its dominant market position, to engage in unlawful activities in disregard of consumer interest.

If this order over the company's Belaire project in Gurgaon has surprised the market, there could be more shocks in store for the industry as the CCI is reported to be also investigating complaints with regard to at least three other projects by DLF, and if the company is found guilty it would have to pay further penalties amounting to Rs900 crore.

Some 10 other cases involving other real estate players are also pending before the CCI, and this highlights the need to correct the loopholes in the system. "The decision will act as a deterrent for developers, who usually have the upper hand in the bargain," said an analyst.

Echoing the sentiment, an industry representative said, "The decision implies that the builders can no longer take customers for granted."

However, some developers are already questioning the authority of the CCI in this matter. "I never knew such a body existed in the first place," said a Mumbai-based developer. "I am not sure what it has to do with the realty sector."

Former CCI chief Vinod Dhall's statement in a television interview also suggests that the CCI has acted as a proxy for a real estate regulator. "The absence of a regulator is a vacuum and you can say that the Competition Commission, sort of, has stepped in to fill an existing vacuum. It is possible that there may be more such applications filed in CCI, but it also has to be wary and should not allow itself to be converted or treated as a consumer court."

Other experts have raised doubts about the capability of a real estate regulator to be fair. One industry representative said there is no guarantee that the regulator will not abuse his position or succumb to industry pressure.

The issue of delays that developers have to face must also be carefully looked into, industry representatives say. Developers complain that getting approvals often takes years, which pushes up costs and consequently the prices.

"Sometimes, delays happen due to things that are beyond the developer's control, and he may also have to make some structural changes," says Pankaj Kapoor, managing director, Liases Foras. "In that case, he must be provided with guidelines. But if the developer starts selling before getting necessary approvals or sits on the project after getting all necessary clearances, he must be fined."

CCI found that DLF had registered bookings for flats between August and November 2006, whereas the application for approval was submitted in December, and the clearance was obtained only in April 2007.

Instances of violation of customer rights are rampant, and home buyers across the country will identify with the buyers in the DLF case. But while in the DLF case customers can approach the Competition Appellate Tribunal to seek compensation from the builder, in most such cases, customers usually have to pursue their complaints before consumer courts, where they have to go through a lengthy process and they may not always be successful.

"What we need is transparency," Mr Kapoor, says. "We already have laws, and if government makes all the records and documents-from land records to project completion certificates-available to the public to see, a lot of ills will disappear. But they don't want to, because the officials themselves benefit from the opaque mechanism."

In the absence of other methods of grievance redressal, the best and the most effective thing that a customer can do is to read the contract carefully before signing it. "It is a tiresome thing to do, but the contract tells you exactly what you have been handed over," a property lawyer pointed out. "Many future complications can be avoided, and one can challenge the developer if there is an unfair clause, and can even negotiate with him on the spot. Once the contract is signed, one can always approach the court, but it is a long and exhausting process."


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