Citizens' Issues
‘The Jaipur Development Authority hasn’t even started on the purpose it was set up for’

What’s equally disappointing, is that the institution which was set up by the Rajasthan government to create “a state-of-the-art city of substance”, will not answer a citizen’s questions about development rules and enforcement

A recent survey ranks Jaipur 24th in a list of the top 100 fastest-growing cities in the world. But if you presume that civic governance has kept pace with the rate of growth, you are going to be sorely disappointed. The Jaipur Development Authority (JDA) which was set up by the Rajasthan government to "create a state-of-the-art city of substance" is like a typical land development body-a web of obfuscation, ineptitude and corruption.

I found out to my horror that land use, zoning, and enforcement, or implementation of the rules that have been drawn up for the purpose, are tasks that the JDA has not even started on. This is precisely what JDA has stated in its letter, in reply to an application that I made recently under the Right to Information Act.

The JDA Website proudly proclaims: "JDA has been working… (to) ensure public convenience and safety. JDA firmly believes in bridging the gap and reaching out to its citizens and to provide them with quick and hassle-free service… JDA has been working towards time-bound construction, creation and development of the western part of Jaipur, based on major scientific and hi-tech strategies. Thus, Jaipur has been beautified intensively to augment the tourist attraction in the city and to raise the living standards to suit convenience of its citizens."

My recent experience is that these claims are balderdash. My RTI application (dated 1 July 2011) asked for the following information:
"Whether in the planning of the layout of JDA-approved colonies, requirements of zoning, land use, etc, are specified and changes if any, made by the respective colonies/plot holders require the specific permission of the JDA.
"Whether roads demarcated in these layout plans can be used for any other activities other than access roads.
"Whether erecting of cowsheds and stables or regular keeping of cows, bulls in approved colonies are allowed as part of land usage in JDA approved layouts.
"What action has been taken against any violator of rules by JDA, if any area of an approved road is used for maintaining cows/buffaloes?
"Whether all JDA-approved colonies are required to function within the ambit of any laws of housing societies; whether it is laid down by law that any society/association has to be formed and set up for the proper maintenance and upkeep of such colonies; if yes under what laws and whether they are required to report any change of land use to the JDA/any other statutory authorities; and if so, which authority?"

When I received a reply from JDA on 22nd July, I was impressed by the quick response, but that was only till I opened the envelope. (Ref. no. Javipra/Upa/Zone-11/2011/D-4255 dated 21-07-11.) It was a one-line reply informing me that the information required by me is "not available on the records. Hence it is not possible to provide the information."

Since then, I have received four other replies-all of them from different desks of the JDA. None of them gives the information that I have asked about the encroachment on roads, or about whose responsibility it is to enforce any rules (if there are any), about the administration of so-called 'JDA-approved colonies' which command a premium in the real-estate market due to the charges that citizens have to pay for the 'approved' status.

My experience with complaints through JDA's website, or its helpdesk, has been equally frustrating. Try clicking on the drop-down box of the 'citizen service' menu which is supposed to take you to enforcement complaint ( The page just will not open. I tried on 27th July from 12 noon to 1pm and then again from 3pm to 4pm, without any luck. If providence works in your favour, it may open through Google.

But JDA has a strange system of handling complaints. The complaint number that you are given when you call their helpdesk is what is 'entered in a register'. Apparently, when the number is entered in their database, a different number is allotted. So if you try to track your complaint number through the Website-like I did-you will come a cropper. Your 'register' number will not show your complaint details but someone else's!

Isn't all this set up to make 'greasing of palms' the only way to get your grievance redressed, which should otherwise be yours by right?


As construction of office space slows down, rentals are hardening

Nomura Research has found in a study of six Indian cities that the demand for office space remains stable, but it is not enough to reduce vacancy which remains high

Construction of new office space is expected to slow down further in the July-September quarter, with fresh starts likely only in some of the southern cities where there are signs of a pick-up in demand after a steep decline in new supply in the first half of the year, according to Nomura Research.

Demand has been flat and developers are struggling to get funds which have become more expensive. But lower supply is also pushing up prices and rentals, Nomura has found in a study of office space demand and supply in six Indian cities published this week.

There has been much concern around the performance of the realty sector, which has suffered the most on the stock market this year. The Moneylife Real Estate index has fallen 24% since 1 January 2011, as compared to a 12% drop in the benchmark Sensex during this period. The index includes 31 companies.

Perhaps the only exception is the information technology (IT) business which has been increasing its headcount and as a result of which fresh absorption of office space has hit its highest in three years.

Fresh demand from IT and IT enabled services is outstripping new supply in Bangalore where rentals are up 6%-7%. So vacancy is under control although supply under construction is still low.

Hyderabad, which has been through political turmoil recently, is also seeing a revival in demand from IT/ITES and some non-IT sectors. This has resulted in higher absorption and a sharp drop in vacancy from a peak of 29% in April-June last year to 13% in the corresponding period this year.

In Chennai limited supply addition coupled with a recovery in demand-the highest seen in two years-has resulted in a hardening of rentals. While Nomura does not expect a further upside for rentals, lower new supply in the face of funding problems could see vacancy levels come down rapidly and rents harden somewhat.  

Mumbai, the National Capital Region and Pune are a different story, where rebalancing of the large oversupply is likely to take some more time.

In Mumbai, vacancy levels have risen to 22% from 20% in the April-June 2011 quarter and this has kept rents in check. Office space is still under construction in Mumbai and will likely take five-six years to be absorbed at the current run-rate. It is believed that Mumbai is likely to witness a fresh bout of rental correction if developers do not go for a slowdown on their plans.

In the National Capital Region, Nomura Research says demand for office space improved quarter-on-quarter, but with the supply momentum staying the same, rents have remained flat. However, continued supply addition in Noida has resulted in a sharp increase in vacancy there from 13% in early 2008 to 27% in the April-June 2011 quarter. In Gurgaon the rise has been relatively lower as it is still the preferred tenant market.

In Pune, which likely Bangalore and Hyderabad derives a large part of its demand from IT/ITES companies, has not seen any pick-up in demand in the last quarter. With demand remaining moderate through the past three years, vacancy levels have shot up to a record 29% and in the suburban and peripheral areas it is even higher.
Overall, based on these numbers, it appears that at the current demand rate, vacancy levels are likely to remain at similar highs through this year. Only in 2012, as supply addition drops and there is a pick-up in demand, would there be any likelihood of vacancy dropping and a meaningful recovery in rentals.


Indian stocks to open weak: Wednesday Market Preview

The slowdown in developed nations and weak domestic data has kept investor sentiment low

Indian stocks are likely to see a gap-down opening as nations try to grapple with economic issues. With most domestic banks hiking their interest rates following the Reserve Bank of India’s steep in its key rates late last month, corporates are going slow on their expansion plans.

On the global front, despite the US Senate approving a deal to raise the debt ceiling to avert a debt default Wall Street closed down overnight on lower-than-expected consumer data for June. Investors are seen opting for commodities like gold as a safe haven bet, pushing the precious metal by 2% on Tuesday to another all-time high. Asian markets were in the red in early trade on Wednesday as economic concerns overshadowed the last-minute US debt deal. Fresh concerns in Europe also weighed on the sentiments. The SGX Nifty was 85.50 points down at 5,382 compared to its previous close of 5,467.50.

On Monday, we had mentioned that a one-day rise shouldn't be taken as the end of the decline. Yesterday, the Nifty lost 60 points, which is the maximum the benchmark has lost in a single day over the past five trading sessions. And both the Sensex and the Nifty closed at their lowest level in the last 28 days as the market fell on negative news across the globe.

For the indices to see some strength, it would require some real positive changes in the fundamentals. We can expect the Nifty to show a rising trend if it closes above 5,570 in the coming days.

Earlier, the market opened lower on concerns over the slowdown in domestic growth, following mixed announcements yesterday. The Nifty resumed trade at 5,493, down 24 points, and the Sensex opened 30 points lower at 18,284. While the Sensex opening level was its high for the day, the Nifty's 5,496 immediately after the opening was its high point.

The indices were range-bound in subsequent trade and a lower opening on key European bourses pushed the market further southwards in afternoon trade. The market fell to its intra-day low in the post-noon session, as the Nifty touched 5,434 and the Sensex struggled at 18,038.

The market made a half-hearted attempt to recover, but selling pressure saw the indices close in the red. The Nifty closed 60 points lower at 5,457 and the Sensex lost 204 points to close at 18,110.
Markets in the US fell on Tuesday despite president Barack Obama signing into law a bill that raises the nation’s debt ceiling and cuts the budget deficit by at least $2.1 trillion over the next decade. Investors are now turning their attention on the nation’s economic growth.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday consumer spending slipped 0.2% in June, the first drop since September 2009, after edging up 0.1% in May. Also, data showed that the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final index of consumer sentiment fell in July to the weakest since March 2009.

The Dow tumbled 265.87 points (2.19%) to 11,866.62. It was the blue-chip index's eighth consecutive decline marks its longest losing streak since October 2008. The S&P 500 fell 32.89 points (2.56%) to 1,254.05, marking its seventh straight loss.  The Nasdaq declined 75.37 points (2.75%) to 2,669.24, its biggest percentage drop since last August.

Gold jumped 2.6% on Tuesday, its biggest gain since early November just after the US Federal Reserve launched a second round of government debt purchases, or quantitative easing.

Oil prices fell on Tuesday as more weak U.S. economic data fuelled concerns about a fall in demand. US September crude fell $1.10 to settle at $93.79 a barrel, the weakest close since 28th June. ICE Brent crude for September fell 35 cents to settle at $116.46 a barrel, having traded from $115.53 to $118.40.

Markets in Asia were down in early trade on Tuesday as economic concerns took centre-stage. Weak consumer data from the US put pressure on export-driven economies in the region. Fresh concerns about the debt crisis in Europe also weighed on investors.

The Shanghai Composite declined 0.91%, the Hang Seng tumbled 2.37%, the KLSE Composite declined 0.85%, the Nikkei 225 plunged 2.21%, the Straits Times sank 1.70%, the Seoul Composite tanked 2.75% and the Taiwan Weighted was 1.97% lower.

Back home, the National Stock Exchange (NSE) is likely to launch futures contracts on benchmark US indices—S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA)—in the near future, a senior exchange official said yesterday.


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