India exempts Bhutan from ban or restrictions on food exports

India and Bhutan also agreed that they will not allow each other’s territory to be used for interests inimical to the other

The Indian government on Monday announced that the country will exempt Bhutan from any ban or quantitative restrictions on export of items like milk powder, meat, edible oil and non-Basmati rice.


This step has been taken with a view to boosting trade ties with the neighbouring country.


India and Bhutan also agreed that they will not allow each other’s territory to be used for interests inimical to the other.


Earlier in the day, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the 600-MW Kholongchu hydro-electric project, a joint venture between India and Bhutan.


The foundation stone was laid by Modi electronically from the courtyard of Bhutan’s Parliament building after addressing a joint session.


Three hydro-electric projects totalling 1,416 MW (Chukha, Tala and Kurichu) are already operational. Three more projects [Punatsangchu I (1,200 MW), Punatsangchu II (1,020 MW) and Mangdechu (720 MW)] are under construction. They are scheduled to be commissioned in 2017-18.


In April, 2014, the two countries had signed a framework agreement on four more joint venture model hydro-electric projects (HEP) totalling 2,120 MW. Of these, pre-construction activities for the 600 MW Kholongchu HEP as a joint venture model project between Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) and Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) will commence soon.


On the second day of his two-day visit, PM Modi also addressed the joint session of Bhutan's Parliament. He said, India is committed to good neighbourly relations and assured Bhutan that change in government will not alter the dynamics of Indo-Bhutan ties.


“India is committed to good relations with its neighbours and if India progresses, it will directly impact the development of its neighbours," the PM added.


May inflation at five-month high on expensive food items

Expensive food items and beverages like coffee, tea, poultry, fish and vegetables pushed the WPI inflation in May to over 6%

Rising prices of food and beverages like coffee, tea, poultry, fish and vegetables pushed up inflation to a five-month high of 6.01% in May against 5.20% in the previous month. The wholesale price index (WPI)-based inflation was 5.20% in April and 4.58% a year ago in May.


According to the data released by the Commerce and Industry Ministry on Monday, food items whose prices rose the most during the month include coffee (23%), poultry chicken (7%), fish-inland (6%), tea, fruits, and vegetables (4% each).


The other items in the primary articles segment that became dearer are condiments and spices, fish-marine, urad, and masur (3% each); rice and moong (2% each); and milk, barley, pork, mutton and arhar (1% each).


However, the prices of maize came down by 5%, wheat and ragi by 2% each; egg, jowar and gram came down by 1% each.


In the 'non-food articles' category, guar seed became expensive by 13%, soyabean (10%), copra (coconut) (8%), tobacco (7%), raw jute (5%), raw silk (3%), mesta (2%); and groundnut seed, raw cotton and cotton seed (1% each).


However, the data showed, the price of gingelly seed and flowers declined by 8% each, fodder by 3% and linseed, castor seed and sunflower by 1%.


The inflation figures for March were revised to 6% from 5.70% reported earlier. The previous high was 6.4% in December.


Need to create a suitable environment for elders, says report

For accessibility to be meaningful for older adults from both rural and urban areas, the elderly must be given priority in everyday activities at all publicly and privately owned utilities, says a report

India's elderly face issues ranging from a lack of quality palliative care, assisted living and inadequately equipped old-age homes besides less sensitive youth to elders' needs. There is a need for a holistic approach to creating a suitable environment for elders to live and create a public infrastructure to facilitate easier use by elders among other things says a report prepared by the India Backbone Implementation Network (IbIn) for the Planning Commission.  

According to the report, 'Aspirations for the elderly', India needs to promote accessibility through age-friendly systems and barrier-free environment. “Accessibility is a key enabler for social, cultural, and economic participation with the community at large. In the case of senior citizens, it helps to maintain essential links with friends, family and one’s neighbourhood. For accessibility to be meaningful for older adults from both rural and urban areas, the elderly must be given priority in everyday activities at all publicly and privately owned utilities in sectors such as urban transportation and mass rapid transit systems, government offices, hospitals, banks, restaurants, cinema halls and recreational centres. Assisted add-on facilities, such as separate waiting lounges provided with customer assistance staff, ramps that ease boarding and disembarking from buses, trains and aircraft, elder-friendly restrooms and walkways exclusively designed for older adults should be provided,” the report says.

The document suggests that a society whose children, youth, and young adults, together with those in middle age care for and support the dependent elderly, is alive and vital. Such societies also readily adopt barrier-free standards in living and working spaces and transportation systems. They facilitate access for the elderly to friends, family and the wider community, and strengthen instrumental ties across those age brackets.

Further, public transport operators should be encouraged to introduce low-floor buses with wheelchair accessibility. Universal design concepts should be promoted for products and environments intended for the public’s use. It points out that “Changing the attitudes of the younger generation and fostering a climate of tolerance toward the elderly through value-based education in schools and colleges are the need of the hour. These can be promoted through the inclusion of geriatric care subjects and sensitisation towards the same in NCERT, ICSE, CBSE and other curricula. Value education, along the lines of HelpAge India’s “extra-curricular” model and China’s Golden Sunshine Action Programme, can be implemented. Exposure visits to old-age homes and promoting volunteerism among school children and youth will sensitise the younger generation to the needs of the elderly”.

Sensitising families to the need to allocate quality time for children and parents and to make that time non-negotiable is one of the most effective ways to instil positive values in children. Parents should make special efforts for children to spend time with their elderly grandparents during school holidays and family functions, thereby promoting family relationships and cohesiveness.

Moreover, while talking about the dependent elderly, the report advises that political will and adequate allocation of funds for implementation and simplification of administrative processes play a pivotal role in the efficient functioning of systems and services for the dependent elderly. Putting effective systems in place would allow the elderly to enjoy considerable independence in their day-to-day lives.

“Day care centres are considered to be a culturally acceptable alternative to placing the elderly in old-age homes. They provide services for frail elderly persons who need supervised care in a safe environment during the day. Day care offers the older adult a break from monotony and boredom, and provides a platform for socialisation with peers. With such centres, supplying meals for users and engaging them in social and recreational activities, simple physical, mental exercises and spiritually nourishing activities would bring significant value addition. Transport services could be arranged to carry the elderly to and from the centres. NGOs, corporate and other social enterprises could be appropriately supported by the government to help run such centres”, recommended the report.

Adding to the concern, the document put forward the idea of encouraging various stakeholders in elder care to building synergy. It covers “A process for accrediting and capacity-building of NGOs participating in the initiative should be put in place. The benefits for accredited NGOs should include funding from central and state governments. Contributions to such NGOs made by corporate businesses and the general public must be made tax-deductible. The social sector’s involvement in promoting positive ageing should be incentivised. Under the newly mandated CSR scheme for corporates, special efforts must be made to focus on elder care. Corporate businesses should be persuaded to fund accredited NGOs and other institutions working in the area of Elder Care. Such businesses could be encouraged to conceptualise and implement innovative schemes for the care of older adults”.

Lastly, on making existing social security schemes elder-friendly the report says, “the vulnerable elderly should be included in the social mainstream transparently and on priority. The systems that operationalise this must be fair, friendly and fast and provided with innovative monitoring mechanisms to check malpractices and optimise system efficiency. These principles could be applied to improve access to housing schemes. Also, banks can be encouraged to fund inclusive parks for elders and residential estates in clusters in the rural and urban areas”.


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