Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2013 – Details

Feeling of having own home and living there is indeed special. However, purchasing an apartment/ independent home from a builder, getting all clearances and mandatory documents may often turn out to be a Herculean task.

Questions like; will builder complete the construction and handover the key in time? Whether plan is approved my municipality/ corporation/ other concerned statutory agencies? Whether the builder got approval for all the floors of the building? etc will give long sleepless nights for any would be buyer.

It is in this situation, where newly introduced, 'The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2013' (already approved by cabinet) bill will come in to picture.

Let’s go through some of its salient features.
[Courtesy to press release from 'Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation', GOI]

...regulate transactions in the real estate sector and is in pursuance of the powers under Entries 6, 7 and 46 of the Concurrent List of the Constitution, which deals with Transfer of Property, Registration of Deeds and Documents, and Contracts...

...standardization in the sector... through introduction of definitions such as ‘apartment’, ‘common areas’, ‘carpet area’, ‘advertisement’, ‘real estate project’, ‘prospectus’ etc... using only ‘carpet area’ for sale which has till now been ambiguously sold as super area, super built up area etc., will curb unfair trade practices.

...provides for specialized regulation and enforcement which includes both curative and preventive measures, with powers to enforce specific performance, not available under the consumer laws... powers to impose penalty for non-registration of projects including imprisonment for continuous violation upto 3 yrs and impose penalty in case of other contraventions.

... proposes to register real estate agents... with clear responsibilities and functions, thereby leading to money trail and curbing money laundering...

... aims to ensure consumer protection, by making it mandatory for promoters to register all projects, prior to sale; and only after having received all approvals from development/municipal authorities...

... disclosure of project details and contractual obligations vis-à-vis the project and the buyer.

... Real Estate Authority(s) and Appellate Tribunal in the States, to enforce accountability norms for the promoter buyer and the real estate agents.

... mandatory upon the promoters to deposit 70% or such lesser per cent as notified by the Appropriate Government to cover the construction cost of the project of funds received by the Promoter in a separate bank account, for purposes of ensuring timely completion of projects to be used only for that project, which shall help in timely completion of projects, and prevent fund diversion.

... speedy and specialized adjudication mechanism to settle disputes between the promoter, buyer and real estate agents.

The main features of the Draft Bill:-

Applicability of the Bill:
... limited in its applicability to residential real estate i.e. housing and any other independent use ancillary to housing. The two important definitions in this regard are:

“real estate project means the development of a building or a building consisting of apartments, or converting an existing building or a part thereof into apartments, or the development of a colony into plots or apartments, as the case may be, for the purpose of selling all or some of the said apartments or plots or buildings and includes the development works thereof”

“apartment whether called dwelling unit, flat, premises, suite, tenement, unit or by any other name, means a separate and self-contained part of any immovable property located on one or more floors or any part thereof, in a building or on a plot of land, used or intended to be used for residential  purposes, or for any other type of independent use ancillary to the purpose specified and includes any covered garage, whether or not adjacent to the building in which such apartment is located which has been provided by the promoter for the use of the allottee for parking any vehicle, or as the case may be, for the residence of any domestic help employed in such apartment”

Establishment of Real Estate Regulatory Authority:

... specified functions, powers, and responsibilities to exercise oversight of real estate transactions, to appoint adjudicating officers to settle disputes between parties, and to impose penalty and interest;

·         Registration of Real Estate Projects and Registration of Real Estate Agents: 
Mandatory registration of real estate projects and real estate agents who intend to sell any immovable property, with the Real Estate Regulatory Authority;

·         Mandatory Public Disclosure of all project details: 
... including details of the promoters, project, layout plan, plan of development works, land status, carpet area and number of the apartments booked, status of the statutory approvals and disclosure of proforma agreements, names and addresses of the real estate agents, contractors, architect, structural engineer etc.;

·         Functions and Duties of Promoter: 
Duty of promoters towards disclosure of all relevant information and adherence to approved plans and project specifications, obligations regarding veracity of the advertisement for sale or prospectus, responsibility to rectify structural defects, and to refund moneys in cases of default;

Compulsory deposit of seventy percent or such lesser... in a separate bank account... within a period of fifteen days of its realization.

·         Functions of Real Estate Agents: 
Real estate agents not to facilitate the sale of immovable property which are not registered with the Authority... obligation to keep, maintain and preserve books of accounts, records and documents, obligation to not involve in any unfair trade practices, obligation to facilitate the possession of documents to allottees as entitled at the time of booking, and to comply with such other functions as specified by Rules made in that regard;

·         Rights and Duties of Allottees: 
Right to obtain information relating to the property booked, to know stage-wise time schedule of project completion, claim possession of the apartment or plot or building as per promoter declaration, refund with interest in case of default by the promoter, and after possession entitled to necessary documents and plans. Duty of allottees to make necessary payments and carry out other responsibilities as per the agreement;

·         Functions of Real Estate Regulatory Authority: 
... to co-ordinate efforts regarding development of the real estate sector and render necessary advice to the appropriate Government...

·         Fast Track Dispute Settlement Mechanism: 
... through adjudicating officers (an officer not below the rank of Joint Secretary to the State Government) to be appointed by the Authority, and establishment of an Appellate Tribunal to hear appeals from the orders of the Authority and the adjudicating officer;

·         Establishment of Central Advisory Council: 
... to advise the Central Government... to make recommendations on major questions of policy, protection of consumer interest and to foster growth and development of the real estate sector. The Council to have among others, five representatives of State Governments, to be selected by rotation.

·         Establishment of Real Estate Appellate Tribunal: 
... to hear appeals from the orders or decisions or directions of the Authority and the adjudicating officer... headed by a sitting or retired Judge of the High Court with one judicial and one administrative/technical member.

·         Punitive Provisions:
... including de-registration of the project and penalties in case of contravention of the provisions of the Bill or the orders of the Authority or the Tribunal;

·         Power to make Rules and Regulations:
Appropriate Government to have powers to make rules over subjects specified in the Bill, and the Regulatory Authority to have powers to make regulations.



1. Press release from 'Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation', GOI

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

India – A dangerous country for women to spend holidays? Certainly not, but ...

This is what exactly I feared. Continuous news feeds of single and gang rapes coming from different parts of India are creating an impression that, nation is not safe for women. Unfortunately it is spreading an erroneous message - being a woman is enough to get raped, it doesn’t matter whether one is eight year old or eighty year old.

This may not be authentic, you can cry that more than 5000 year old Indian culture teaches us to admire women; these are isolated episodes; number of rapes per capita is low in India etc. But for those who want to spend vacation in India, to attend a business conference, to study in Indian universities; these news are providing enough reason to think twice about the visit.

According to NYT, “Visits to India by female tourists dropped 35 percent in the first three months of this year compared with the same period last year, according to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India. That three-month period came after the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student in New Delhi in December...”

High level media frenzy related to betting in IPL, election news etc is relentlessly trying to push the subject of women’s safety under the carpet. Rape incidents, coming every day in corners of newspapers may make this brutal crime look like an every incident. Gradually we may go back to steady state and overlook it. Nevertheless safety is an important factor in selecting holiday destinations. Those who do a small research on India will definitely come across these horrible incidents. Who want to live in a state of fear during vacations?
India is indeed incredible as GOI wants everybody to believe. Rapes and other violence against foreign women tourists are isolated incidents. Regrettably even a single incident would do enough damage to the reputation of our country here and abroad.

These reports are an indicator, we should take up the safety of women living here and coming from abroad as first priority. Raising a separate tourist police force in popular destinations, professional training for guides, drivers etc may solve the problem to an extent. However, permanent solution demands a fundamental change in beliefs, concepts, outlooks and mindset.


434 PhD in a year!!! UGC to go after a private university

Awarding 434 PhDs in a year!!! This is not the total number of PhDs issued by all universities in India, not even the total number PhDs issued by any state in India, but this miraculous feat was accomplished by a single private university in Meghalaya. UGC already set up an expert committee to check, how CMJ University, Shillong, Meghalaya made it; probably beating all other universities in India.

It was in last month, I pointed out the problems with Maharashtra's decision to go ahead with establishing private universities. I still wonder whether we really need private universities at this point of time.

You can read my article related to Maharashtra here - PrivateUniversities In Maharashtra: Delivering Baby On Seventh Month?



Thursday, June 6, 2013

Waking under monsoon rain in Bangalore

It’s raining in Bangalore. Sound of big raindrops hitting the roof of office building was irresistible. I woke up from chair and went outside, there was a lot of people standing in the steps. Some had umbrellas. After waiting for some time, four to five people opened their umbrellas and walked out. I thought some guys will be ready to walk without umbrella in that rain. After all office hours are over.

However, it was a girl who walked out first without an umbrella. What I failed to understand is, why she is speaking in phone and walking in rain? Probably she want to change that phone, and waiting for some reason to do so!!! I looked towards the sky, big droplets were coming down and hitting the floor. Suddenly a stream formed in front of the building I was standing. After looking towards the big group of people, standing in front of the door waiting for rain to end, I walked outside.

Suddenly a wave of big droplets hit my face and broke in to hundreds of small pearls. I felt so happy and relieved. After walking for some hundred metres, I moved to the shades of a nearby building and watched the rain. From here I could hear the cry of big drops hitting the tiled floor. Fifteen minutes went very fast.

Ten hours back I was in bus, stuck at a signal in Hosur Road (NH 7). I closed my eyes and tried to use only ears for some time; heard many voices but nothing from the mouth of a bird, nothing from smooth movement of a tree. Only voices I heard was that of heavy engine jerking after drinking more than enough diesel, one guy was hitting his horns even though he knew that, sound can't change the colour of sigal to green from Red. Will I ever able to hear to the sounds of bids and trees while travelling through the roads of the city?

This time, there was hardly any water in many of the bore wells, better to say nothing about normal wells. What many residential associations did was dig further deep, this idea partially worked in this year; but on next year? Probably we may get lava from those wells!!! One day BWSSB told newspapers that, without rains water stored in KRS dam may able to serve the city for next 20 days only!!! What will happen after 20 days? Fortunately rain came... but next time we may not be so lucky.

However, this doesn't stop builders from converting the existing dams to high rise buildings and layouts. For decades Karnataka and Tamilnadu were fighting for water in Kavery River, but how much they are trying to protect the catchment areas of said river? They are fighting in the courts now and may fight for the next decade as well, without agreeing that nature won’t support rivers without having enough forest in the first place. But this doesn’t stop miners from digging out the remains of Western Ghats.

As Douglas Adams once said, “We don't have to save the world. The world is big enough to look after itself. What we have to be concerned about is whether or not the world we live in will be capable of sustaining us in it.”

Some more things to complete, I walked back to the office.


RANBAXY’s $500mn settlement with US regulators – An Overview

Probably there is not much love left in western European and North American capitals towards Indian Pharmaceutical companies. Reasons are plenty. Most of those countries have their own mammoth pharmaceutical companies, whose interests are not aligned with the rise of Indian generic manufactures and Indian Patent regime- which according to their accusations are not strict enough.

Western Pharma majors are facing three major challenges from India. Firstly, India's patent regime. Indian government, court and regulators won’t hesitate in taking out the fantastic weapon called - compulsory licensing in cases of life saving drugs. Companies may not get patent in India, if their application running (or alleged to be running) on top of a horse called ever greening.

Secondly, Indian manufactures can make generic medicines which costs much less than that of foreign companies. This will make the competition in Indian market in favour of domestic generic companies. Thirdly, in foreign countries, like countries in Africa, Europe, Americas etc, Indian companies are creating much bigger footprints (with affordable medicines). This essentially (if not now, then in future) eating the margins (in generics) of many western Parma behemoths. In a world where money is in short supply, affordability (of drugs) is the name of the game. Western pharma companies, to an extent correctly, complain that they are the ones who invest in costly research, long drawn clinical trials etc.

It is to be noted here that, a huge amount of research output is coming from big universities as well, which again is publically funded.

Ranbaxy Case

However, recent settlement in Ranbaxy case is indeed a setback for India generic majors. According to NYT, "Ranbaxy pleaded guilty on Monday to federal drug safety violations and will pay $500 million in fines to resolve claims that it sold subpar drugs and made false statements to the Food and Drug Administration about its manufacturing practices at two factories in India"

"The company acknowledged that it failed to conduct proper safety and quality tests of several drugs manufactured at the Indian plants, including generic versions of many common medicines, like gabapentin, which treats epilepsy and nerve pain, and the antibiotic ciprofloxacin."

It is to be noted here that, "F.D.A. said it did not receive any reports of patients being harmed by the drugs made at the plants in question" - NYT.

Ranbaxy is not the only company facing problems related to quality, some western companies are also on the radar.

Indian Pharmaceutical Sector

Parma is big sector, we already have considerable market share here. According to Ministry of Commerce, GOI, India is,

1. 4th in the world in terms of production volumes;
2. 12th in terms of export value of bulk actives and dosage forms;
3. Largest exporter of formulations in terms of volume with 14% market share.

Major export destinations are USA followed by UK. In terms of Exports we registered a growth of 22.78% in 2011-12 and 10.55% in 2012-13.

What Ranbaxy case point out is Indian companies need to be more careful in manufacturing medicines. Medicines are something which directly affects the heath of consumer; any lapse on this front not pardonable. Moreover, these incidents will create a bad impression about Indian generic majors among foreign countries, even though it is not factually correct to label medicines manufactured in India as substandard, dangerous for health etc.

In future, government, Indian regulators, manufactures have to be more careful. We should take this penalty as a challenge and put a stricter regulatory framework in place, stricter quality control regime, implement best practices, more inspectors etc. At a moment, when we are asking Chinese, Europeans to widely open their market for Indian pharma, there should not be any lapse from our end.


PS: At least in one case - generic Lipitor - FDA traced the problem back to one of the Ranbaxy manufacturing plant in India. Why Indian regulators didn't find this out earlier?




Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Indian Universities - Transfixed in old world

President of India - Pranab Kumar Mukherjee - during the fourth convocation of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (BBAU) at Lucknow told,

"... there is a need to change the mechanics of rendering education and the time for it is now... our universities must deliver education of international standards... Every university should identify one department that can be developed into a Centre of Excellence".

India has a very long and successful history in University education. Many of our universities are more than a century old and churned out (still churning out) a large number of students every year.

However, world went through a lot of revolutionary changes in between. However many of our universities, remain transfixed in the old world. Instead of providing qualitative, dynamic as well as contemporary education, slowly but steadily they became places for mass production of graduates and post graduates. In short, when many other prestigious universities invested more funds in research in basic sciences, churning out research papers etc we missed the train. Number of Indians, studied in Indian Universities and found their place in Nobel laureates list tells a shocking story.

In this situation, president's suggestion to identify a department (say, Biotechnology) in a university (say, University of Pune) and transform it into a centre of excellence should get more attention. This will help it to focus (and specialize) more on a chosen field and produce concrete results.

However, just providing suggestions won't transform anything. Along with providing funds, we need to create an environment were taking research as a career path should be more rewarding, bringing accomplished teachers (from India and abroad), direct collaboration with industry, focusing on research to find answers for practical problems as well as theoretical conjectures, more exchange programs with international universities etc need to be implemented.


Blocked highways - Manipur required Angioplasty and bypass surgeries

Manipur - Road connections to rest of India
This North-Eastern state is connected to rest of India mainly through two highways - NH 39 (connecting Manipur to Dimapur, Nagaland) and NH 53 (connecting Manipur to Silchar, Assam). Apart from this Manipur has an airport in capital Imphal - Tulihal Airport, Changangei. In short, all essential items have to come to the state through these three routes. Transporting commodities through air is costly, Manipur is no exemption; so remaining routes are two national highways.

In such a situation, what will happen to the state if someone blocked these arteries to protest? Considering large number of ethnic groups with conflicting demands, this is not a rare scenario. Any blockade on these highways will severely affect the people. Unfortunately, many times in the past various groups blocked these roads to register their protest or to show strength.

38 hour blockade by ‘All Tribal Students Union Manipur (ATSUM)’ started from Saturday midnight is the latest in the series. Their demand is to establish a "State commission for the Scheduled Tribes in the hill areas for holding the Teacher Eligibility Test in the hill stations and other academic facilities". Fortunately, this blockade was for 38 hours. Last time it ran in to many weeks. Tomorrow, some other group will find some other reason to block these highways. Whoever doing this, in whatever name, people of Manipur are going to suffer.

In a democratic nation, citizens have full right to raise their demands and to protest. However, if it is through cutting the supply lines to a state, then both central and state governments should take serious actions - both talks as well as strict measures on ground. At the same time, government should speed up the projects to connect NE states to mainland India through Bangladesh and to Bay of Bengal through Myanmar (Burma). This will help the land locked states to get supplies from other places we well.


PS: According to one report, "providing armed escort, police brought 33 trucks and 12 buses here from Mao where the vehicles were stranded."

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Law Commission of India released Consultation paper on Electoral reforms: Last date to submit suggestions - June 30

1.2bn people, 1.2bn ideas. Out of that, a good percentage will definitely turn out to be effective as well as practical. However, an idea which looks perfect in paper may be a monumental failure in practical scenarios. As someone said, we don’t need to have perfect solution for all problems, what we need is a solution which can handle practical scenarios.

What make democracy better than other forms of administration is - it gives an opportunity for people to elect their representatives for a period of time and vote them out if they are not up to the expectations. For this process to work we need to have proper elections - transparency in election funding, revealing the sources of funds for political parties, accountability, eliminating paid news phenomenon, stopping electoral offence like booth capturing etc.

Considering the seriousness of issue, Law Commission of India prepared a consultation paper to get feedback from all stakeholders – political parties, NGOs, elected representatives, voters etc. "The Commission proposes to focus largely on... qualifications/disqualifications of  those seeking election, or disqualification of the persons already elected; modes, methods and quantum of funding of elections; transparency, accountability and sources of spending by political parties and their respective candidates during elections; regulations and ethical conduct of political parties or candidates participating in elections; filing of false affidavits – A ground for disqualification; electronic and print Media – impact of ‘paid news’; quantum of punishment for electoral offences; and adjudication of election disputes etc."

Consultation Paper is available at Those who want to submit comments/suggestions can send their written comments to "Secretary, Law Commission of India, Hindustan Times House, 14th Floor, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, New Delhi-110001" or e-mail it to "" before 30th June, 2013.

Submit your suggestions today itself and make an impact on our election process.


Dakshinayana Part Fifteen – Pune: The Maratha heartland

Sitting in front of Delhi Gate, Shaniwarwada, Pune
At 10.30 in night, I left Aurangabad for Pune in bus. Less than 15 people were on board, so I moved to an empty seat in the back and slept. After some time, someone started calling me. At first, I thought I was hearing that sound in dream. Then I opened my eyes and checked time in watch – 2.30 in the morning. A well built man standing in the front told me - “Pune”. Why Pune is so close to Aurangabad? If Pune was somewhat far I could have for more time. Finally I woke up, took my bag, got down from bus, moved towards the stand and sat in a chair. After trying desperately for half an hour, I was able to sleep in sitting mode itself (However, cold wind woke me up several times). A couple of hours passed and the environment became nosier; I opened my eyes and turned around – as Stephanie Meyer said “Breaking dawn”!!!

Pune – Citadel of Maratha power

Pune Jn Railway station
Just like many other cities, Pune also started as a small agricultural settlement. She saw the administration of Rashtrakudas, Yadavas of Devagiri, Ahmednagar Sultanate, Mughals, Marathas, East India Company, British crown, before finally settling under newly born republic in 1947. Pune rose to prominence under the founder of Maratha Empire – Chatrapati Shivaji (crowned as Chatrapati in 1674). However, the rise was not peaceful - Mughals under Aurangazeb were determined to bring Deccan under their control. This led to a 27 year long conflict between Marathas and Mughals, which end with the death of Aurangazeb in 1707. It is to be noted here that, this three decades long conflict also bankrupted Mughals both militarily and economically. Just 7 years after the death of Aurangazeb, Marathas reached Delhi which resulted in a Mughal firman (imperial directive), which practically conceded almost all Maratha demands.

Later Pune came under the control of powerful Peshwas. During the years of Marathas ascendency, they won a good number of wars [Battle of Palkhed (1728 against Nizams), Battle of Vasai (1739, against Portuguese), Battle of Arcot, Battle of Trichinopoly, Battle of Delhi (in 1757 against Afghans), Battle of Peshawar (in 1758 against Afghans) are some of them] and brought a major portion of India under their control.

However a major loss in 3rd Battle of Panipat - against Ahmed Shah Durrani in 1761 AD - broke the central authority. Later the empire metamorphosed and emerged as a confederacy under Peshwas of Pune, Gaekwads of Baroda, Puars (or Pawars) of Dewas & Dhar, Holkars of Indore and Malwa, Scindias of Gwalior and Ujjain, Bhonsales of Nagpur etc. Marathas once again become prominent and scored a couple of major victories, especially under the command of Mahadji Scindia (capturing Delhi in 1788, defeating Nizams of Hyderabad etc are some of them).

Then came British, Marathas fought three major wars against them.

First ended in the defeat of British at Battle of Vadgaon in 1782.

Second resulted in British victory and Treaty of Deogaon in 1803 (in Odisha, after the Battle of Laswari Marathas gave up province of Cuttack then included included Mughalbandi/coastal Odisha, Garjat/the princely states of Odisha, Balasore Port, parts of Midnapore district of West Bengal), Treaty of Surji-Anjangaon in 1803 (after the Battle of Assaye and Battle of Argaon, Marathas ceded Rohtak, Gurgaon, Ganges-Jumna Doab, Delhi-Agra region, parts of Bundelkhand, Broach, some districts of Gujarat, fort of Ahmmadnagar to British) was signed.

Narayan Gate
Third one also ended in British victory. At the end of this war, Treaty of Gwailor (Shinde and British East India Company) was signed on 1817, which gave Rajasthan to Company; Treaty of Mandeswar on 1818 (Holker and British) made Holkar state a subsidiary to Company; Bhonsle was defeated on 1817; Peshwa was surrendered on June 1818. This war made the Company an overlord of present day India south of River Sutlej. Peshwa's territories become part of Bombay Presidency; land seized from Pindaris became Central Provinces; Rajputana princes accepted British overloadship as well.

At the end of third Anglo – Maratha war, after the victory at Battle of Khadki against Peshwas, Pune was captured by Company on November 1817. During British rule, Pune became a torch bearer to many social and national movements led by Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Tarabai Shinde, Vitthal Ramji Shinde, Dhondo Keshav Karve, V. D Savarkar etc. M.K Gandhi was imprisoned in Pune's Yerwada Central Jail and kept in house arrest at Aga Khan Palace.

Currently second biggest city in Maharashtra, Pune is also home to National Defence Academy (NDA) at Khadakwasla and National Chemical Laboratory at Pashan. This city also serves as headquarters for Indian Army's Southern Command.

Kasba Ganapati Temple

Kasba Ganpati Temple
From bus stand, I went to Pune Jn railway station. After placing my bag in clock room, took another bus to reach Kasba Ganpati temple. Kasba Ganapati is the presiding deity (gramadevata) of Pune. It is believed that, Shivaji’s mother queen Jijabai Bhosale built this temple in 1630. This is a small temple; you can see Ganpati’s different forms here. After praying there for some time, I went outside and walked towards Shaniwar Wada.


Inside Shaniwarwada
Built using teak, stone, lime etc this palace was the seat of Peshwas until they surrendered it to British East India Company on 1818. Unfortunately, a sudden fire in 1828 razed this building to ground. After walking for a short distance from Kasaba Ganpati temple, I reached at the entrance of Shaniwar Wada. There was a bus, conducting city tours, parked outside the building. However, I had to reserve that facility in advance to use it.

Most beautiful of Shaniwarwada’s remains is its iconic and imposing Dilli (Delhi) gate. I stood in front of the gate for some minutes, watching its size as well as rows and rows of iron spikes in it. After buying ticket from fort entrance I went inside. Only a big outer wall and foundations of an old building are there. Outer wall contains six gates - Dilli Darwaza, Mastani Darwaja, Khidki Darwaja, Ganesh Darwaja, Jambhul Darwaja or Narayan Darwaja. As the name may suggest, Dilli darwaza is facing Delhi. After spending some 30 minute inside the building and hearing a conspiracy theory about 1828 fire, I went outside.

Sinhagad Fort

From Shaniwarwada, I boarded a bus to Swar gate. It is from here we have to go to Sinhagad fort. Due to some reason, I loved this name – Swargate - at the first instance itself. After having a juice, I went to the bus stop to catch a bus to Sinhagad. Without much success, I waited there for a long time. Finally, got a shared auto – 40 INR. Within a short duration, other co-passengers got down at various points. So auto driver talked with another one, and arranged my rest of the journey in that auto. Before reaching Singagad, I had to take one more auto. Last one dropped me in a Y junction near to Sinhagad.

Kadakwasla Dam and Pune city
From this Y junction, one road is going to the fort. However it’s not a bus route. Either we can use our private vehicle or in a jeep waiting there. The problem here is jeep will start her journey after 8 people are there on board. If one wants to start early he/ she have to pay for missing people. As I was the first person to reach there, had to wait for 7 more people. They assured me that, enough people would come in next bus. Next bus came and went; only three girls came - making the total to 4. As I was waiting there for long jeep driver came and asked me – Are you ready to share the cost for rest of the people? I said ok, but girls refused. In between a marriage possession came and went – traditional Marathi marriage. Next bus added a couple as well as a guy to our group, making the total to eight. Finally, we started our journey through the lap of hills. Through the glass in the front I could see the see the beautiful colour covering the hills.

A view from the top
From the top, view was excellent. One can see numerous small hills on one side, Kadakvasla dam and Pune city on other side. National Defence Academy, Kadakvasla dam are located on the side Sinhagad – Swar gate road. One can see the dam from road, however NDA is 3km away.

A view from other side
Aga Khan Palace

Aga Khan Palace
Before reaching Pune, I thought Sinhagad fort may be the difficult one to reach. However, Aga Khan Palace turned out to be the difficult one. Most of the people I checked with were not heard about this palace. Finally, I got a person who knew where it is, with his help I got down at Yerwada. From here many shared autos are available. At the beginning itself, I told the driver – “Aga Khan Palace”. We started the journey and it went on and on. At one point we took a right turn from the highway and moved to suburban areas. Finally he told – “last stop” and took a U turn for return journey.

What the hell? I asked, “Where is the palace?” 
Suddenly an elderly lady got in. She told the driver “Why you took him here? Palace is on the main road”

Driver “He (means I) had to remember him about my destination”

I told to the driver, “That’s exactly what I told you in the beginning itself.” I was sad and angry, if I could not make to the palace today, it may not be possible to visit Panjgani – Mahabaleshwar belt tomorrow. After all how can I leave Pune without visiting Aga Khan Palace? Only 15 more minutes left to close the Palace.

Old lady to me “Palace is way back in the main road, take another shared auto to go back and get down in the main road.” (please note that entire conversion was in Hindi)

Damn. Finally I got in to another auto, this time I told the girl sitting opposite to me “Tell me when we reach Aga Khan Palace”.

She “Sure”
After some time, when we reached a corner she told “That is Aga Khan Palace”
Me: “That is?”
She: “Yes” (pointing to a corner).

I asked the driver to stop and got down at that corner itself. Auto continued its journey. I looked everywhere; there was no sign of a palace. All I could see is a building with a cross at the top – a church. It can’t be Aga Khan Palace. Whatever happened I am sure, Aga Khan is not going to place a cross on top of his palace. People were going in to church for praying. After checking with many people, finally I got a person who knows about the said palace. It was far away from the place, on the side of main road itself. Then on what basis, she told me that – Aga Khan Palace located in that area? I spent around quarter of an hour talking to that guy and waiting for an auto. However nothing was coming. Finally I had to walk all the way back to main road and catch another bus to railway station.

Before 8 ‘o’ clock I reached the railway station. After having some dinner from the station, I spent rest of the night in the station itself – by sitting, walking, sleeping in a chair in sitting mode itself. Without mentioning an interesting incident, that day’s accounts won’t be over. After 10pm, some guys came put their bed sheets in the platform itself and slept there. One dog was standing some 6 meters away from my chair (in the platform itself). Suddenly one guy came, for some 5 seconds looked towards that dog, and gave a kick (using his legs) at its back side. Dog made a crying sound and ran away. This guy put his bed sheet at the same position and slept there.

Pataleshwar Cave Temple (also called Panchaleshvara or Bamburde)

In the morning, from a bus stand close to railway station I got a bus to Pataleshwar Cave Temple. Located in Jangli Maharaj Road, this cave temple was built during the reign of Rashtrakuda period in 8th century. After getting down the bus and walking through Jangli Maharaj Road for a while, I reached the temple. This temple, carved out of basalt rock is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple, even though left incomplete, is still in use. In front of the temple, there is a Nandi mandapa – top of this mandapa is supported by stone pillars. There was not more than 4-5 people when I reached there. After praying there, and took a walked around I came back to the main road.

Nandi Mandapa

Walking... Walking... and Walking

View from Ambedkar Bridge
I didn’t have any other plan for that day, so thought of seeing the city in foot as far as possible. I started walking from JM road, in the direction of Railway station; in between I crossed the river flowing through the city. It is hardly a river; I can say a big open drainage channel in the middle of the city. People were defecting openly in to the river. I spent some time on the footpath of one of the bridge built across it. In some parts, especially close to the river, foot paths are so dirty that you would often think twice before making another move. However, this is not applicable everywhere, in many other locations city was very clean, roads were wide and vehicles generally obeyed the traffic rules.

Crushing the cane to make juice - Sweet and tasty. On the way to Palace
I continue my walking, and finally reached the railway station, through Sasson Road. I thought of taking bus to Aga Khan Palace for a while, however though better of that and continue on foot. After some time, crossed the river once again – using Ambedkar bridge (located close to Yerwada bridge) – and finally reached Aga Khan Palace. In total it took more than 8 kms on foot.

Aga Khan Palace

Palace from a side
This palace was built by third Agakhan, Sultan Muhammad Shah Agakhan, in 1892 in order to provide a source of income for famine affected people in nearby villages. After the launch of Quit India movement in 1942 Gandhi, his wife Kasturba, his secretary Mahadev Desai are arrested and interned in this palace from August 9, 1942 to May 6, 1944. Both Kasturba and Desai passed away during the captivity, and their samadhies are located here. This palace also contains a number of items used by Gandhi; a small amount of Gandhi’s ash is also present next to the samadhi’s of Kasturba and Desai.

Ashes of M. K Gandhi
Samadi of Smt Kasturba Gandhi

Samadi of Mahadev Desai, Secretary of M.K Gandhi

After visiting the entire palace, I sat in the lawn of the palace for close to an hour. School students who came to visit the palace were playing near-by.

Pune Junction

A View form the platform
From Agakhan palace I got a bus to Pune Jn railway station. As there is nothing else to do in Pune and there was not enough time to visit either Lonawala or Mahabaleshwar range, I thought of staying for rest of the day in the railway station itself. Many trains came and went, however a long queue was forming at one end of the station – people were standing in this queue for a more than one hour. I walked towards them, and asked one guy about his destination. They were general compartment travellers waiting for an express going to Patna, but that express will come in the night only!!! 

Fixing street lights
For rest of the time, I walked throughout the railway station, and slept for a while. In the night, when the train to Patna came, officials from RPF also came to maintain the queue. Whoever tried to break the queue, were forced fall in line. Finally that train headed towards its destination. What made me sad is the fact that, in order to get in to the general compartment they have to stand for close to half a day!!! When railway officials are thinking about high speed rails and other things for extra ordinary high cost they might walk through some of the busiest stations in India and try to understand what is the real solution for mass transportation in India.

Finally, after midnight, around 1.30 in the morning my train came. Finally back to Bangalore...


From the middle of the road

Traditional marriage yatra

Pune city from a distance

From the top of Sinhagad Fort

Another view of road

A view form the bridge

A view form the road

Another view of Palace
For reading rest of the articles please visit,

Dakshinayana Part One – An Introduction
Dakshinayana Part Two – Bangalore to Bhopal
Dakshinayana Part Three – Sanchi
Dakshinayana Part Four – Bhopal: The city of lakes
Dakshinayana Part Five: Ujjain – The Holy City, hearing the sounds of forefathers
Dakshinayana Part Six: Indore – Trade hub of Central India
Dakshinayana Part Seven – Jabalpur: Kalchuris, Gonds and Narmada
Dakshinayana Part Eight – Kanha National Park and Mandla
Dakshinayana Part Nine – Chhattisgarh and Raipur
Dakshinayana Part Ten: Nagpur – The Orange City
Dakshinayana Part Eleven – Sevagram: Walking with Gandhi
Dakshinayana Part Twelve – Aurangabad: The City of Gates
Dakshinayana Part Thirteen – Ellora Memories
Dakshinayana Part Fourteen – U shaped Ajanta
Dakshinayana Part Fifteen – Pune: The Maratha heartland