Citizens' Issues
‘Land use’ meet highlights need to speed up acquisition and construction, rework compensation

Speakers at conference on land use in economic development describe hurdles that increase development costs; call for measures to revamp the process

Developers need to rethink about the process of land acquisition and the use of technology for construction, said various speakers at the conference on 'Use of Land Resources in Economic Development of Maharashtra'.

The two-day programme focused on the use of land for housing and township development. Affordability and timely delivery are priorities in the matter of accommodation, and the speakers talked about various problems and shared insights on land acquisition and administrative delays.

"Land acquisition already figures as an important issue, but the conventional methods will not serve us any more. What must be ensured is a sustained compensation for the original owners," said MD Lele, chief planner, CIDCO.

Mr Lele argued that the prevalent methods of compensating original landowners were insufficient and that developers and planners must seek new strategies. "It is important that the entire land which is required for the project must be acquired at one go. Piecemeal acquisition will only lead to bad planning," he said. However, acquiring large tracts of land at one go is not only difficult, but may stir up local resistance.

CIDCO compensates original landowners by giving back a part of the acquired land with some built up area, vocational training and employment. However, in order to complete their Navi Mumbai project and extend it to the proposed international airport, it will need to acquire 144 sq km more.

Mr Lele explained that "CIDCO has a cost-sharing model, which includes the railway authorities. We believe in a flexible approach, because methods of compensation undergo changes constantly. We have to prove to the landowners that their land will be used for finance generation, in which they too will have a part. It is not an easy job."

But convincing the landowners to give up their holdings is only possible when details of landownership are available. Vivin Matthew, regional CEO, western region, Value and Budget Housing Corporation, said land records are often in dismal shape, and many deals go unrecorded. He said, "If land records are made online, it will save both the developers and customers a lot of time and energy."

He also believed that speeding up the construction process overall would automatically lead to a significant correction. "If only the records are digitised, one can save up to 5-10% in land acquisition costs," he said.
The more that a project is delayed, the more time it gets for appreciation and the more it costs. A possible remedy for this is the use of advanced technology, which can cast more structure moulds at a go and ensure speedy construction that can cut down the time required for completion by about a third.

However, such machines and methods are imported, which further results in increase in cost. Development of indigenous technology could be helpful.

Ajit Marathe, director of Nirman Group, also urged government officials to speed up the authorisation process. He said, "In most of the cases, a lucky man will get the necessary clearances in about a year. If the process involves more approvals, it becomes cumbersome and costly."

Reports on the first day of the conference:
(Former civic chief: Government nod for chawl redevelopment in Mumbai )
( Focus shifts to urban fringes as stress mounts on existing structures in Maharashtra )


Nokia and Union Bank begin mobile payment services rollout

The service will leverage 3,000 UBI bank branches, 2,500 ATMs and Nokia’s retail network

Union Bank of India (UBI) together with Nokia, today announced the commercial launch of a service called 'Union Bank Money powered by Nokia' across India, starting with the National Capital Region. The service is already available to consumers in Gurgaon, and will soon go live in Delhi, Faridabad and Noida, said a release from the company.

This will be followed by a nationwide rollout over the next few months. The service specifically targets users who do not have a bank account today, by providing access to financial services through their mobile phones, to drive financial inclusion. For customers in the 'no-frills' category, the turnover will have an annual ceiling and the prepaid card will have a balance ceiling as per Reserve Bank of India guidelines.

Other customers, who complete KYC compliance norms at the bank, can use the product without any restriction on turnover. The service will enable consumers to transfer money to other individuals, withdraw cash from 'Business Correspondents' cash-out outlets (registered Nokia stores) and ATMs, pay utility bills as well as recharge prepaid SIM cards (top-ups) by using their mobile devices, eliminating the need for intermediaries.

Today, it is estimated that more than 50% of Indians do not have access to a bank account, and it is further estimated that 90% of the 600,000 plus villages in the country do not have a bank branch, according to UBI.


ING Investment Management to launch ‘multi-manager’ scheme

This fund will attempt to invest across selected best-of-breed funds from different asset management companies

ING Investment Management India today said that it is launching its ING Optimix Financial Planning Fund (an open-ended fund-of-funds scheme) aimed at "simplifying investing" in mutual funds.

This fund will invest across selected best-of-breed funds from different asset management companies in one fund.

In addition, investors can invest in four different asset classes-liquid funds, debt funds, equity funds and gold ETFs (exchange traded funds) while getting the flexibility to choose from four convenient plans that cater to different risk tolerance levels investors may have, said the company in a press release.

"Mutual fund investing today has become complex and stressful. Investors need to choose from thousands of funds, closely track their performance, take decisions to retain or change funds, attract tax liability if funds are changed before 12 months and finally, reconcile all these holdings at the end of the year. ING IM's unique Multi Manager Fund of Funds capability simplifies all of this in an instant," said ING Investment Management India's MD & CEO, Navin Suri.

"ING has been offering multi-manager funds in India since 2006 and already manages close to Rs 347 crore from a wide base of nearly 30,000 investors," he said.

Investors can choose from four risk profiles-'cautious', 'conservative', 'prudent' and 'aggressive'-each offering a different mix of asset classes.


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