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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Court summons MLA Kshitij Thakur in the cop beating case
MLA Kshitij Thakur was summoned by Dadar's Metropolitan Magistrate Court for beating up a cop last year. The Court has asked the MLA to appear before it on 17th June  

The Metropolitan Magistrate Court at Dadar has issued a summon against Khitij Thakur, member of legislative assembly (MLA) from Nala Sopara constituency near Mumbai, for allegedely beating a police officer last year. 
 
Santosh Daundkar, who had filed the complaint before the Magistrate Court, pasted the summons on Thakur's home in Virar with the help of local police.
 
Daundkar's advocate Abha Singh said, “Since Worli Police Station did not file a case, a case was filed in the Court of Metropolitan Magistrate, Dadar, Mumbai under the provisions of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Based on the evaluation of the credibility of information, the Court decided to issue process in the case. Thereafter, the accused MLA was summoned in the Court.
The initial summons could not be served for various reasons linked to red tape and also over the fact that it was reported by the police that the accused was abroad.”
 
MLA Thakur has been ordered to be present in the court on 17th June to hear a complaint filed by social activist Daundkar regarding the abuse and assault of Worli Traffic Branch's assistant police inspector (ASI) Sachin Suryavanshi on 19 March 2013. 
 
Last year on 18th March, Suryawanshi allegedly stopped Thakur's vehicle and fined him for speeding on the Rajiv Gandhi Bandra-Worli Sea Link. Next day the cop was summoned in the Assembly, where Thakur and the four other MLAs allegedly assaulted Suryawanshi.
 
Thakur, the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi MLA, alongwith Ram Kadam (MNS), Rajan Salvi (Shiv Sena), Pradeep Jaiswal (Independent) and Jaykumar Raval (BJP) were also suspended in the Budget Session of the state legislature last year after beating up policeman Sachin Suryawanshi in the Vidhan Bhavan premises. Later in July 2013, the state Assembly revoked the suspension. 

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Prashant Bhushan seeks CBI probe in Air India biometric passenger ID scam

The AAP leader asked for a detailed CBI probe into Air India's proposal in 2006 to install biometric passenger identification systems at select domestic and international airports

Following the recent judgement from Canada's Superior Court convicting an official from Cryptometrics, a Canadian company, for bribery. The Aam Admi Party (AAP) leader Prashant Bhushan has filed a complaint to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for initiating a detailed probe in Air India's proposal to install biometric passenger identification system.

 

In his complaint to the CBI, the lawyer said, "I am writing to you regarding an open and shut case of high-level corruption involving former Union Minister of Civil Aviation Praful Patel, former Chairperson of Air India V Thulasidas and others. I understand this case might have been the subject matter of some CBI investigation in the past, but nothing much has come out of that and apparently no FIR/RC has been registered. However, now with new facts are coming to light, in the form of judgments of Canadian Superior Court and a book written by Former Executive Director of Air India, there is no room for doubt that the matter is crying for a thorough investigation and swift prosecution."

 

Bhushan alleged that the case involves a huge scam, whereby in 2006 a proposal was mooted in Air India for installing a biometric passenger identification system at select domestic and international airports.

 

Here are the allegations made by the AAP leader:

1) Executives from a company called Cryptometrics had visited Mumbai to explore a biometric identification project when not even a single document regarding any such tender had been created in Air India. Only in 2006, a proposal was mooted within Air India for installing a biometric system for passenger identification.

 

2) The cost estimate of the Security Department was about Rs75 lakh, but the tender committee on the basis of bids received pegged the cost at a whopping Rs500 crore.

 

3) About 20 bids were received in response to the tender MMD/42018, but 18 of those were later disqualified.

 

4) Only two Canadian companies were shortlisted: Ipcon and Cryptometrics. It was clear from several facts that Ipcon’s bid was bogus and non-serious.

 

5) Cryptometrics stated that there should be no termination clause. This demand ought to have meant that it should be disqualified since similar demand by another company (Electronic Corporation of India Ltd, a public sector undertaking) had led to its rejection. However, this demand was accepted.

 

6) Cryptometrics was on the verge of being awarded the contract at a cost of Rs500 crore (at then exchange rate). Though the tender committee had almost recommended placement of contract with all three committee members having already signed the document, the project was fortunately dropped. This was due to the objections raised by an upright officer in the finance department. The huge cost also could not be justified, owing to the fact that Air India was already suffering from huge losses due to the actions of Mr Praful Patel himself in the form of unnecessary purchase of 68 aircrafts in 2005 (which also need a thorough investigation).

 

7) Eight years after the tender was floated, Air India still does not feel the need for any biometric identification of passengers, demonstrating that huge money was sought to be spent on an unnecessary purchase.

 

8) All the above facts are clear from the remarkable book written by Shri Jitender Bhargava, former Executive Director of Air India. A few relevant pages of his book ‘The Descent of Air India’ are enclosed.

 

9) On 15 August 2013, the Ontario (Canada) Superior Court of Justice convicted one official Mr Nazir Karigar of Cryptometrics for having offered to bribe (with other company officials) Mr Praful Patel, Mr V Thulasidas and other Indian public servants. The judgement records meetings between company officials and Mr Patel and how the money was to be paid to Mr Patel.

 

10) Recently, on 23 May 2014, the Ontario Superior Court has sentenced Mr Nazir Karigar to three years in prison for having offered to bribe Mr Praful Patel and other Air India officials. Despite this, no action has been taken against any Indian public official by the authorities in India.

 

Bhushan said this is a good example of how costly projects were conceived by Civil Aviation Minister and Air India Chairperson with the sole intention of siphoning off money. He said, "Bhargava’s book lists further such examples: Purchase and leasing of aircrafts, refurbishment and conversion of aircrafts. All these projects were being designed in order to serve the corrupt designs of the Ministry and Air India Management."

 

"In view of these glaring facts, I implore you to immediately register an RC/FIR and get this matter thoroughly investigated so that all those guilty can be swiftly prosecuted," the AAP leader added.

 

Bhushan also said that if an FIR is not registered in the case he would then approach Supreme Court in the next two weeks.

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