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”.
A reductionist western science is incapable of answering the ‘why’, science can only seem to answer the 'how'. Does science need to borrow from spirituality and vice-a-versa?
Nobel laureates, like Peter Medawar, tell us that science is designed to answer only certain (mundane) questions and not answer esoteric questions like ‘what after death’? Or ‘why does the heart contract’, etc. He compares science to a railway engine designed to run on a track but not fly like an aeroplane, in his classic, Limits of Science. The reductionist Western science is incapable of answering the ‘why’, although it tries to answer ‘how’ or ‘how much’. Unfortunately, answers needed are only for the ‘why’ questions.
As a doctor for more than five decades, I am disillusioned by modern Western science. Why does a young man, apparently healthy, die suddenly of a massive heart attack, despite his having done everything scientifically correctly, while an elderly gentleman, with advanced coronary artery disease, still jugs on beyond 80? Science is simply making models which are mathematical constructs and, with verbal jargon, they are supposed to work. When one sees liquid helium climb up the sides of its container to overflow one wonders what happened to all our laws of thermodynamics. Liquid helium, kept in a silicon bowl, leaks out through its intact base!
When we claim that the heart, a small muscular structure weighing just 300 grams, pumps blood into a capillary system of totally 500,000 kilometres, which are thinner than our hair, not letting even a red blood cell to pass through easily, we are not being truthful. But neither did we ask such questions nor do we let our students do that.
When I read science books which are more than one 100 years old, the authors did have sentences like: “My God, only God can answer this question!” Today’s science wants to be all-knowing and the concept of God does not seem to exist.
A recent science study in biology, of experiments with rats, showed that the sex and sweat smell of the researcher affects the results to the extent of 40%—male researchers being more effective. Observer’s consciousness does affect the results. Quantum physics is absolutely right when it says everything exists as energy vibrations but collapses into matter on observation. That final awareness, observation of the observer, his/her consciousness, makes this world come alive. How very true indeed!
Robert Lanza, a genius of a physician and his co-author, Bob Berman, a maverick astronomer, have written that wonderful book, Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe, where they claim that the world lives around life and for life—bio-centrism—as they call that all-encompassing consciousness—which is at the root of all science.
Hopefully, medicine would become bio-centric and not drugs- and surgery-centric reductionism. Candace Pert, a daring young researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health, did show to the world for the first time that opiate receptors also exist outside the brain. Now we know that the human mind resides in every single cell at the cell membrane called MemBrain.
Providentially, I had written in my book, Holistic Living, in 1993 that there is a possibility of a mind in every cell. The editor of the publication had questioned my serendipitous thinking.
Recent research at Oxford, led by Professor Bingel, elegantly showed that all healing occurs, NOT because of our medicines but because of the patient’s belief in the doctor and the medicines he gives, true placebo effect, another brainchild of consciousness.
Only one thinking scientist in the Western world, Max Planck, has written that “I regard consciousness is fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness.” I don’t think that the best surgeon will not able to heal a surgical wound in a dead body without consciousness!
Caring and sharing is spirituality in essence. Occult healing methods were used in healing in many civilizations and with success. We will have to re-invent them, for the good of mankind. Let us get out of our arrogant mind-set that only science can solve all our problems. This is partly due to the success of reductionist science-based technologies, like the semiconductor, etc, which have apparently made us more comfortable at the cost of our good health. Let wisdom prevail and God help mankind.
Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS.
The tendency of pushing through substantive changes in the law through the Rules, completely bypassing the parliamentary process, continues unabated and is an extremely undesirable practice adopted by the MCA
Clearly, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) is working fast and hard, in correcting the scores of anomalies and absurdities of the law passed and hurriedly enforced by the previous government. Over the last few days, lots of circulars, notifications and removal of difficult orders have continued to flow in. However, the abominable tendency to push through substantive changes in the law, while ignoring the parliamentary process continues unabated. The change discussed in this article, made by a notification of 12th June, actually amounts to putting in place a completely new provision for offsetting of past losses before companies may distribute dividends. This changes the position as it prevailed under the 1956 Act, and this change was nowhere discussed by any of the Committees that preceded the 2013 Act. Neither does the main law, the 2013 Companies Act envisage such a change. Therefore, the question is – could such a substantial change in law have been done by a virtually unnoticed notification?
Dividend declaration rule:
Rule 3 (5) of the Declaration and Payment of Dividend Rules has been replaced by a notification of 12th June 2014. The rule, before its replacement, read as follows:
(5) “No company shall declare dividend unless carried over previous losses and depreciation not provided in previous year are set off against profit of the company of the current year the loss or depreciation, whichever is less, in previous years is set off against the profit of the company for the year for which dividend is declared or paid.”
Clearly there was something terribly wrong with the language of the old Rule. Now, the said garbled rule has been replaced by the following:
(5) “No company shall declare dividend unless carried over previous losses and depreciation not provided in previous year or years are set off against profit of the company of the current year."
Impact of the change:
The amendment, besides clearing the wording of the earlier rule, marks a change from the position in the 1956 Act. In sec 205 (1), proviso (b) provided as follows:
(b) if the company has incurred any loss in any previous financial year or years, which falls or fall after the commencement of the Companies (Amendment) Act, 1960, then, the amount of the loss or an amount which is equal to the amount provided for depreciation for that year or those years whichever is less, shall be set off against the profits of the company for the year for which dividend is proposed to be declared or paid or against the profits of the company for any previous financial year or years, arrived at in both cases after providing for depreciation in accordance with the provisions of sub-section (2) or against both;
Though the language of the proviso was also unclear, but in Ramaiya’s Guide to Company Law, this proviso has been discussed at length. The interpretation has been that if there is a loss before depreciation, and then there is a loss after depreciation, it is necessary to offset only the depreciation and not the loss before depreciation. This interpretation became clear with the combined reading of proviso (a) below sec 205 (1) with proviso (b). Proviso (a) required the company to provide for depreciation, if the same was not provided for in the previous years. There was nothing in sec 205 (1) requiring the company to offset losses of previous years before declaring dividends.
Now, Rule 3 (5) requires all “carried over losses” and all unprovided depreciation to be offset before declaring any dividends.
For companies that have just turned around, attracting capital on the strength of dividend payments becomes quite important, particularly if it is preference capital. If the company has to make good all its past losses before it starts distributing dividends, the company’s ability to declare dividends, particularly when it is so necessary to attract capital infusion, gets impaired.
Substantive change comes silently via a subordinate law:
The tendency of pushing through substantive changes in the law through 'Rules', completely bypassing the parliamentary process, continues unabated and is an extremely undesirable practice. Before a law changes substantively, there are extensive pre-Parliament discussions (such as the Irani Committee, Standing Committee of Parliament, etc). There may be debates in the House as well. There is a benefit of a Bill, discussions with the stakeholders, and so on. However, the change in the Rules simply comes by way of a notification, and it may actually change the law substantively.
The present change in the dividend distribution rights of companies is an example. Section 123 (1) (a) provides for payment of dividends out of current profits. It does not make any reference to offsetting of losses of previous years. Neither does it empower the Central Government to make any rules about what amounts may be offset before distributing dividends. It is questionable as to how the Central Government goes and make a rule with no empowering provision in the Act.
There is no discussion in the Irani Committee Report, or in the Parliamentary Committee reports, on the issue of whether past losses should be offset before distributing dividends.
(Vinod Kothari is a chartered accountant, trainer and author. He is an expert in such specialised areas of finance as securitisation, asset-based finance, credit derivatives, accounting for derivatives and financial instruments and microfinance. He has written a book titled “Securitisation, Asset Reconstruction and Enforcement of Security Interests”, published by Butterworths Lexis-Nexis Wadhwa.)