Ahmedabad is the most livable city while Mumbai is ranked the least liveable city of India. CNN-IBN’s Deputy Editor Sagarika Ghose in a special programme ‘Life in a metro’ discusses that why does the infrastructure problems continue to plague the big metros.
Anchor: Shyam Sunder
Guests: Shailaja Chandra (Fmr. Secretary, Delhi Govt. ; Mukesh Mohan Gupta, Director, Dena Bank, Manohar Manoj, Editor, Economy India, Santosh Malhotra and Anchor: Arfa Khanum Sherwani
Faced with stinging criticism, outrage and demands to step down, CBI Director Ranjit Sinha on Wednesday expressed regret and apologised for his “enjoy rape if you can’t prevent it”.
Guests: Smt Shailaja Chandra, Ex-IAS officer ; Smt. Vrinda Grover, Lawyer; Sh. Vikram Singh, Former DGP, UP; Smt Ranjana Kumari, Director CSR and Anchor: Sagarika Ghose.
I come in at 6.50 minutes,14. 53 and at 21.04 .
Tags: Doordarshan, enterprise and media, Rathikant Basu, Television
FIRST STIRRINGS: With the charming Bhaskar
Ghose as his Secretary and the royal KP Singh Deo as his Minister in Information and Broadcasting Ministry, it was a propitious start for Basu in Doordarshan
With the charming Bhaskar
AMONG my list of unusual civil servants, I was particularly keen to do a story on Rathikant Basu. This man had left the IAS when he had several years to go; also at a time when this was not a popular thing to do. But his departure was doubly remarkable because he straightaway plunged into the cut-throat world of electronic media where even finding ones feet can be precarious.
Even today, after 17 years, Basus name evokes two diametrically opposite responses: admiration and envy.
“Oh dont you know how he dumped the government and joined Rupert Murdoch” is invariably the first reaction.
“No, but he brought the difference between night and day to television” is the other reaction.
Since I too was witness to Doordarshans metamorphosis in the early 1990s, I knew he was worth writing about. Rathikant Basu spent much of his early career doing nothing very spectacular besides being Ahmedabad citys highly visible Municipal Commissioner. As his colleague and Gujarat cadre-mate Dipanker Basu, also a fellow Stephanian, put it, every officer in Gujarat was expected to deliver but Rathi just did it a whole
side better than anyone else.
Basus posting as the Director-General of Doordarshan, coupled with the dual charge of Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in 1993, conferred on him enormous powers, rarely exercised even by secretaries or ministers. With the charming and winsome Bhaskar Ghose as his Secretary and the royal KP Singh Deo as his Minister in Information and Broadcasting Ministry, it was a propitious start for Basu. Of course, he had the unenviable task of clearing DDs Aegean Stables even as Amita Maliks acerbic columns gave weekly bulletins on DDs never-ending fiascos. But in the civil service it is said that it is better to inherit rot because whatever one does thereafter glows by comparison. And so it was with Basu.
Those were unusual times. The satellite TV invasion had just begun. DD had been in limbo for several months without a DG; litigation abounded, mostly against the selection of sponsored programmes. A CBI inquiry was making its rounds. No new programmes were being aired and the repeats of aged programmes had become unwatchable. An illadvised attempt to use the (now infamous) first-come-first-serve for selecting new programmes was
stillborn, landing the organisation into further litigation. All this was compounded by unrelenting bad press. Revenue from sponsored programmes and advertising was plummeting. Altogether, it was a perfect case for dumping the leftovers into the cold storage.
Against this background, the turnaround of DD could have been put on the backburner with no negative consequences. But, Basu was made of sterner stuff. He started with a slew of new programmes like Shanti, Newstracks Indias first daily soap, which became an instant hit. The launching of DDs first international satellite channel (christened DD INDIA with the choicest programmes selected from the National Channel, enraptured the South Asian diaspora. Within the country, 18 regional language satellite channels, carrying the contributions of local terrestrial DD stations, became a delight to watch.
Basu also embraced the press, something civil servants are taught to abhor. Just dont talk to the press, was the training given to all government employees in those days. But, Basu did just the contrary. He promptly gave entry to every reporter, howsoever small, and was readily accessible to anyone. DDs image got a makeover in no time even as top newspapers and magazines began recounting DDs success stories.
Given the times, perhaps one of Basus best achievement lay in persuading the finest journalists in DelhiMadhu Trehan, Vir Sanghvi, Karan Thapar, Raghav Bahl and Dileep Padgaonkarto anchor DDs current affairs programmes. Objective news became the new mantra as the bold and the beautiful entered the homes of middle-class Indians, bringing in a level of urbanity and sophistication they had never seen. What a far cry from those monotonous newsreaders, the beauteous Salma Sultana pink rose and all!
One of Basus bravest steps was to sign up with CNN to broadcast a co-branded channel called DD-CNN! Of course, Minister Singh Deo was hauled over the coals in Parliament, but his response was accepted at face value when he quite simply spoke the truth: the DG had full powers to source programming and had exercised authority! As Bhasker Ghose puts it, ”Basu had great clarity of thinking. He was a real go-getter but had astuteness to consider the long-term implications of every move.”
But even as Basus contribution and DDs make-over made first-rate copy, it came with a cost which has been the nemesis of many a live-wire civil servant. Jealousy was palpable. Snide comments followed him everywhere; as always, those hurt more, given all the hard work that he put in. Unknown to him, rumblings had already stated behind the scenes.
It was January 1996. Basu was engaged in opposing a devious move which would have deprived DD of its exclusive rights to broadcast the cricket world cup being played on South Asian turf. DDs appeal came up before the division bench of the High Court and everything was going in DDs favour. But a day before the final hearing, Basu got orders to join instantaneously as Secretary, Department of Electronics. That left the door open to wheedle a compromise, one in which DD surrendered its exclusive broadcast rights and substantial revenue to boot.
RELEGATED to the Department of Electronics in the dreary CGO complex, Basu missed Shastri Bhavan and Mandi House where he had been the monarch of all he surveyed. But, visitors from his former world kept dropping in and offers to join private TV channels and media houses multiplied. Initially he rejected these overtures out of hand. But in May 1996 a new visitor turned upGene Swinsted, Star TVs Hong-Kong based country representative. He made an unexpected request. He wanted Basu to travel to New York or London or any place of his choosing for an interview with Rupert Murdoch, Chairman of News Corporation, the parent company of Star TV. Basu told him in no uncertain terms that he was Secretary to Government of India and reported to no one less than the PM. He simply could not go rushing off abroad, not even on a personal visit. If Murdoch wanted to meet him, he would have to come to Delhi.
A month later, Swinsted called early in the morning to say Murdoch had come to Delhi and could a meeting be arranged? When they met at the Presidential Suite of the Hyatt Regency, Murdoch stood long and tall above him and asked Basu, “What is your vision for TV broadcasting in India?”
Basu launched forth into what had become his passion: the growth of satellite channels and the need for a Direct-To-Home distribution service, somehow bypassing hundreds of unorganised cable operators who were fighting turf wars amongst themselves and harassing consumers. Even as he was outlining his vision for a DTH network, Murdoch occasionally slipped into his bedroom to make calls. Three hours later, as Basu was still holding forth, Murdoch returned from yet another foray into the bedroom, clapped his hands like a child and announced: “The $500 million you estimated as the project cost of bringing DTH has been organised. Panamsat has been booked, as suggested by you. Encryption technology and set-top boxes are ready for shipment. Twenty-five international channels have agreed to form part of the first bouquet of channels. You can find other partners in India.And, almost like an order, he asked, Will you join me?”
BASU was dumbfounded by the speed of Murdochs decisionmaking and the proposition. As he put it, ”I was really speechless. I mumbled something about needing time, and was immediately ashamed of myself for dithering.”
He told Murdoch that he would convey his decision in a week. During the next few days, he consulted his wife, who was willing to shore up any decision he took. He also combed through the IAS Service Rules and consulted a senior lawyer. The legal opinion was that the provision about obtaining the governments permission for taking up employment after retirement was in the AIS Pension Rules and those rules applied only to pensioners. So, if an officer after retirement renounced his pension, he could not be termed a pensioner. In effect, the rules would not apply to Basu once he relinquished his pensionary benefits. This interpretation was later confirmed by senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani.
With general elections round the corner in 1998, Basu snapped up a proposal from Prannoy Roy to create the first Indian 24×7 news channel.
But, even so, one of the first lessons of bureaucracy is to watch your back and buy insurance whenever you can. Precisely for that reason, Basu met I K Gujral, who was then the Minister for External Affairs and whom he knew socially. From behind an imposing desk in the wood panelled interiors of the Foreign Ministers office, Gujral told Basu to accept the offer without a second thought. But Basu was still worried. How do you think the government will react? he asked. The reply was typical of the old man. The government should only be proud. One of its officers is being picked up for an extremely prestigious job, instead of an outsider. The next morning, Basu sent his acceptance and within no time the contract arrived. On June 30, 1996, Basu filed his application seeking premature retirement and waited in trepidation during the three-month notice period. On the afternoon of September 30, he walked out to join Star India as its first CEO. As Bhasker Ghose recounts, Yes, at an unbelievable salary of half a million dollars a year! But, Basu still harboured a few middle-class aspirations. He wanted the ultimate insignia to herald his arrival into Bombay. His Mercedes Benz arrived and performed that duty royally.
The initial change from the cosy security of a government job left Basu feeling lonesome and exposed. He carried with him four female officers from DD, but for all their elegance and charm they could not replace the comfort of running to a Bhaskar Ghose or securing the last word on the subject from his minister! Nonetheless, as CEO he had complete hire and fire authority and full financial powers; reporting only to Murdoch, who travelled between homes and offices all over the world. He virtually became a one-man show and, within a couple of weeks, the Star Plus team was well in place. He looked to NDTV for news and the Prime Channel and UTV, among others, for entertainment. The first half-hour band of Hindi programming commenced almost immediately after the English programmes. Meanwhile, from its very first week, NDTVs daily English news programme became a runway hit. While Star Plus was thus gathering momentum, Basu began chasing the launch of ISkyB, the first DTH service to India. But unknown to him, storm clouds were gathering in Delhi. The then Cabinet Secretary fired the first missile for accepting employment without permission. Close on its heels came another peremptory shot, directing him to resign forthwith. Then another, demanding that Murdoch remove Basu forthwith from his employment! Selected newspapers got the front page headlines on a platter.
Fortunately, the private sector has its own conventions and style. Basus legal advisers told him to take no notice. The orders lacked the force of law, and thats all that mattered. But the negative press coverage appearing day after day began to get insufferable.Basu revisited his mentor IK Gujral, by then the Prime Minister of India. All it took to halt the vituperative crusade was one phone call from the PMs Principal Secretary. Meanwhile, the Hindi content on Star Plus was reaping unanticipated bonanza for Star group. Simultaneously, the ISkyB DTH project also began gaining momentum and was all set to make its debut. The press conference to announce the launch was scheduled for March 26, 1997. The international press had been invited. But, mysteriously, on the evening before the event, the government announced that broadcast in the Ku Band frequencies was prohibited. This, Basu believes, was instigated by Stars competitors, aided and abetted by his band of detractors in the government. The ban came despite the absence of an enabling lawsince the uplink was from Hong Kong and the satellite was American, it was nothing short of high-handedness. But nonetheless the launch had to be abandoned. As a face saver, the press was shown a demonstration of DTH using a C-band dish. Poor show, but all was not lost.
WITH general elections round the corner in 1998, Basu snapped up a proposal from Prannoy Roy to create the first Indian 24X7 news channel. It was a big gamble. The estimated cost was US$50 million over five years! But, undoubtedly, it would give Star all the eyeballs it could possibly crave for. Basu called Murdoch. The tycoon sounded thrilled but also apprehensive about the cost. Basu repeated it slowly and clearly, It will cost $50 million over five years, or $10 million a year. Murdoch could not believe his ears and retorted, Less than a million a month for a 24X7 channel does not even merit a discussion. Just do it man, he thundered, additionally offering support from Sky News, UK.
In a matter of weeks, Star News channel was ready to roll. Basu then used his ace of trumps! He invited Prime Minister Gujral to launch the channel! And Gujral agreed. Star News became the first and only private channel to be launched from 7, Race Course Road. While endless imitations came and went, Star News remained the benchmark for many years to come. Meanwhile, the fight for DTH continued in the courts with the government claiming that it was planning a comprehensive broadcast law, even producing a hastily put-together draft to stall things. But, as it happens, the government changed and a new minister for I &B took over. He too pushed for a law until Pramod Mahajan replaced him as the minister. Basus meeting with the flamboyant and media-savvy Mahajan left no doubt that the minister favoured DTH. But even so, a Group of Ministers was appointed to go into its ramifications. The broadcast law has not been heard of since.
Basu could not help recalling that for all his success, he had joined Murdoch to fan out DTH. But his lone battle against the system began telling even on his booming enthusiasm. He sounded Murdoch out, telling him that DTHs clearance was getting increasingly difficult. Murdochs response was typical of the man.
“If it is not difficult for you and me, it is not worth doing. There are plenty of others to do the easy things!”
Basu then changed track. Star TVs partner Zee TV had been Stars main competitor. Armed with a win-win offer, he proposed that Star and Zee channels merge into a single company, dividing the equity 50:50 between the two holding companies. Basu met Subhash Chandra in Hong Kong and Murdoch in London. Fortunately, both thought it was an excellent plan.
A joint meeting in London ended in a businessmans handshake. But at Subhashs insistence, it was decided to conduct a valuation of their assets through an international consultant. Unexpectedly, the valuations turned out to be adverse for Zee. Although Murdoch was willing to go back to Basus original proposal of 50:50, Subhash was not agreeable. The merger plan was aborted and ended in Zee buying out Murdochs stake in the company.
It was a blessing in disguise. With the end of restriction on Hindi content, Zee TV could now be easily overtaken by Star. While the old rivalry over DTH continued, the illfated merger plan yielded a valuation report that might not have come into sight otherwise. The Star News channel had been valued at $300 million. Murdoch had spent just about $20milllion until then. He had been compensated fully, simply by Basu riding the horse of pure entrepreneurship.
HAVING failed to realise his DTH dream, Basu began to tire of the continued struggle against the establishment at Delhi. He approached Murdoch and requested to be relieved. Murdoch asked him what he proposed to do next. I want to start a clutch of regional language TV channels on my own, said Basu.
Murdoch agreed with three conditions: He would invest $1 million in Basus new company in exchange for a 5 per cent share in the equity; Basu would continue to be on the payroll of Star and draw his salary and perks until the end of his five-year contract; and, Basu would not start any Hindi or English channel for the next two years. On January 1, 2000, Basu set up the office of Broadcast Worldwide Private Limited at the World Trade Centre, Mumbai. He assigned the preparation of a business plan to Ashok Wadhwas Ambit Corporate Finance and started raising funds for the new venture.
The media explosion in India was just beginning. Raghav Behls muchhyped IPO for TV 18 had fired the imagination of sponsors on the look out for new investment options. As soon as it was known that Rathikant Basu was starting a TV network of his own, he was besieged with offers from potential investors. The initial requirement of Rs 18 crore was soon subscribed, and the date for launch of Tara Bangla was set for April 28, 2000. Basu roped in a friend from his DD days, iconic film star Amitabh Bachchan, to launch the channel in Kolkata. Along with Bengali film personality Aparna Sen, it could not have been a more stunning event. Precisely at 7 pm, Bachchan pushed the button and the first transmission of a private Bengali TV channel burst forth from a teleport in distant Thailand. Basus cup of joy was filled to the brim!
Basu won the 2008 Kolkata bid for the ICCR cafe. Naming it Café Thé, he now spends his afternoons checking the quality of tea and fine-tuning the recipes of the delicacies on offer.
By 2004, Basu replaced the original Tara Bangla with two new channels, the first 24X7 Bengali news channel Tara Newz to provide unbiased and immediate news, and the first 24X7 music channel Tara Muzik to promote and preserve Bengali culture. The latter became the most popular music channel among Bengalis worldwide, especially in neighbouring Bangladesh. In 2007, Basu created the first multinational TV platform in the world, TV South Asia, with participation from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh, all from the non-governmental sector. The project was presented at an UNESCO conference in Sao Paulo, at a session chaired by the UN Secretary-General, who personally acclaimed the initiative. By the time he sold off Broadcast Worldwide Limited in 2011, Basu had successfully created the largest private TV network in Bengal. If there is such a thing as media diplomacy, Basu had pulled it off.
Basu still remains active and engaged. Having developed a taste for high-end exotic teas, he secured the bid for the Tea Boards Tea Centre in Mumbai, which he ran for six years in preparation for his ultimate retirement. But not before winning the 2008 Kolkata bid for the ICCR cafe. Naming it Café Thé, he now spends his afternoons checking the quality of tea and fine-tuning the recipes of the delicacies on offer.
Basu is fond of entertaining his friends, both at his cafe and at his home in Kolkata. He now plans to return to his adopted roots in Gujarat, to stay in a tiny house he had built in Gandhinagarwhich he considers as his homein the early nineties. He misses his wife, who succumbed to a botched-up surgery in 2006. He will continue to visit Kolkata to look after his café and hopes to start another in the Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar circuit. His ultimate dream is a European destination like Helsinki! Basu has not drawn any pension since his voluntary retirement, but lives comfortably. As he says, “the good things in life are anyway free!”
When the bureaucracy has to approach the judiciary to restrain the political executive through a PIL, times must be really bad.
The first prayer made before the Supreme Court by T.S.R. Subramaniam, a former cabinet secretary, and 83 others (including myself) was for setting up independent civil service boards (CSBs), which would, inter alia, prescribe fixed tenures for civil servants. Citing the recommendations of the Santhanam Committee, the Hota Committee and the second Administrative Reforms Commission, the SC has directed the government of India to issue rules under Article 309 of the Constitution to establish CSBs to guide and advise the Central and state governments on service matters, especially on the tenures of officers. The SC has recognised that the political executive has the authority to overrule the CSBs if its reasons for differing with the their recommendations are duly recorded. The CSBs, which will be made up of senior serving officers, are to be established within three months and are to make recommendations on most service matters.
This is nothing spectacular. Civil service boards already exist in many states — including in Uttar Pradesh. Despite this, successive governments in several states have buffeted and battered countless senior civil servants, such as Ashok Khemka and Durga Shakti Nagpal, with impunity. Earlier the Central government would step in and intervene when states took arbitrary decisions. Of late, coalition politics has curtailed that. The CSBs, even if they draw authority from Article 309, will have limited power and influence if they do not have functional independence. Even though it does not have statutory backing, the Central Establishment Board, chaired by the cabinet secretary, has worked reasonably well. This is because its key officers — the cabinet secretary, the personnel secretary and the home secretary owe nothing to individual ministers or other powerful individuals. They can afford to be independent, both individually and collectively. It is this triumvirate that takes a call on the empanelment of officers who later rise to be secretaries to the government of India. When individual ministers seek the removal of their secretaries, or heap humiliation on them, the cabinet secretary usually intercedes and gets the prime minister to override those ministers by not transferring the officers in question. The Shibu Soren versus P.C. Parakh episode is a case in point.
This, however, does not hold true for state governments, where three quarters of all civil servants are posted at any point of time. In a state, the chief minister is omnipotent and the chief secretary is usually a person of the CM’s choosing. Chief secretaries exercise authority more on account of their proximity to the CM and less because of their own position. The good news is that the state CSBs, as mandated by the SC, are to be constituted within the next three months. The bad news is that only in-service officers can be members of the CSBs, some of whom might have a history of pliable, even errant, decision-making. The court’s exclusion of the word “independent” is, therefore, a major risk factor for the still unborn CSBs.
The judgment does however leave it to Parliament to consider establishing independent, statutory CSBs through the enactment of a civil services act, and to induct experts from administration, management, and science and technology for “bringing more professionalism, expertise and efficiency into government functioning”. But first, the government must want to introduce such a bill. The very fact that the Civil Services Standards, Performance and Accountability Bill, 2010, has not got the final approval of the cabinet three years after it was prepared is indicative of the priority that the government accords to civil service reform.
The other prayer in the PIL was that the court direct civil servants to formally record every request or instruction that they receive, not only from administrative superiors but also from influential political authorities, legislators, businessmen and those having an interest in or purporting to represent persons in positions of authority. On a philosophical note, the apex court highlighted the need for transparency — to enable democracy to endure through the implementation of the Right to Information Act — which perforce has to rely on documentation and the maintenance of records. Leave aside reiterating what the All India Service (Conduct) Rules have stated since 1968, that superiors must reduce verbal orders into writing and that civil servants should seek confirmation of oral orders, the court gave no direction on an issue on which the PIL had expressly sought direction: to make it obligatory for informal requests made by influential people and power brokers to be brought on record. An order to this effect would have helped enormously.
At root, the greed, dishonesty and political brinkmanship of an expanding group of civil servants are responsible for the quagmire that now substitutes for governance. As one petitioner put it, “If our brethren had not colluded with erring politicians, things would not have come to this pass.” The recent Supreme Court order will not alter the situation dramatically. For now, the battle has been won, but the war is far from over.
Tags: ageing, elderly population
In India the proportion of elderly is increasing rapidly. The over 60 population that accounted for less than 7% of the total population in 1991 is expected to increase to more than 10% by the year 2021. In actual numbers this will total to more than 140 million elderly more than the size of Germany and France put together today. Most policy prescriptions have not addressed feasibility issues and seem to assume that the state will fill the gaps despite the fact that the needs of the rural elderly, the urban poor elderly, the urban middle class, the well-to-do elderly, the female elderly or the elderly living alone, vary greatly. Most policy prescriptions tend to lay all expectation on government welfare schemes or to argue for wider involvement of NGOs.
It is unlikely that funds would be forthcoming in adequate measure to be able to make much impact considering the size of the country, the federal nature of its polity and the overall paucity of resources which stand committed for essential infrastructural development and providing health and education for a burgeoning young population. The focus of most programs is on preparing the young population to become useful members of society by increasing their skill, productivity and employability. In all this consideration for the aged and their issues take a backseat.
Despite knowledge being available and sufficient human resources also at hand could be trained to become caregivers, the response from the market and more particularly insurance systems has been insignificant.
Pre-occupation with policies for the poorest of the poor
India comprises of a large informal economy and huge variations exist between the lower wealth quintiles and those “above the poverty line.” There are wide variations in the manner in which institutions are managed and the way in which people access institutions – e.g. confirmation of their land rights, access to the judicial system, housing, utilities and health services. This has often led to a situation in which the older segments of the population are left to fend for themselves which becomes a burden on society.
The Director-General of WHO Dr Margaret Chan writing a Foreword for Program on the Global Demography of Ageing produced for the World Economic Forum 2012 is on record saying that people are already questioning the traditional view of older age. According to her in the United States only a small minority were found to want to retire at the traditional age. Around 80% wanted to continue to participate – but they wanted to work part time, or start a new career, or launch a small business. They wanted flexibility. The Director-General felt that if older people could remain active participants in society, they could continue to contribute to socioeconomic development and such engagement would prevent isolation and loneliness while also ensuring financial security. This philosophy is not restricted only to developed countries or the United States. Even India has a large number of educated professionals who have to retire at a given age which with the increase in longevity is at variance with peoples potential and aspirations. Therefore the very first need is to decide how the capabilities of the elderly can be channelised in a way that benefits them and also society but makes the pursuit worthwhile even if it is not financially as lucrative as in earlier years.
Special Health Problems of the Aged in India
Indians are prone to suffer from certain diseases the older age groups have become chronic patients of diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, cardiac problems and cancer. Whereas this is the situation throughout the world, due to Indian habits and food intake, lack of exercise, some of the problems especially relating to diabetes have become a disproportionate burden.
What is at stake?
Knowing all this, there is a need to investigate what measures would ease the burden of ageing in selected segments of Indian society and what initiatives could mitigate the burden borne by the aged and by society.
Overwhelming Influence of the Media
The elderly are admittedly the major consumers of media and entertainment. But even so they continue to be portrayed in negative, gendered stereotypes, and usually as victims. As more and more Indians join the ranks of the educated elderly, they remain the most avid readers of newspapers and magazines and ardent television viewers. Even so they are usually discarded by the media or relegated to age old stereotypes. Far from reducing the gender divide which starts at birth, and goes on through childhood, adolescence and middle age it continues to be stretched even in old age.
Professors Srivastava of the Institute of Economic Growth in India felt that this was not related to the spending capacity of the elderly but more to the historically conservative role that media has played when it comes to social issues. Archana Kaushik from the Department of Social Work in Delhi scanned over 30,000 articles covering six English and Hindi newspapers having the widest circulation and in the 30,000 articles that she scanned, she found that the print media accorded less than 1% space to the subject of the elderly. She also scanned 500 articles in leading magazines over a period of three months and could only find one article on the elderly and that too on dementia. Even this was not a full-fledged article but only dealt with the life-threatening aspects of the condition. (Again fulfilling the spectre of vulnerability and hopelessness.)
Both the electronic and print media like to cover the susceptibility of the elderly as victims of crime, so re-enforcing images of feeble old people, lonely and defenseless. Yet the insecurity of the elderly never merits a policy response which is commensurate with the media coverage about their helplessness. One cannot help feeling that the media seems to believe that the reading public would take ghoulish interest in the elderly becoming the terms of crime but there are no protagonists who translate this into a worthwhile policy response.
In television commercials however the position is completely the opposite. A research study scanned over 300 TV commercials and found that the elderly were featured in double the proportion in the population but while the elderly men were invariably shown as jovial extroverts, the wives remained confined to home settings. Professors Shrivastava observes “that such depictions of elderly men leave open possibilities that are closed off to women; it is one of the enduring taboos of Indian society.”
All insurance advertisements project men as providers and by inference show women as dependent beneficiaries. Although the elderly are the largest users of medical devices, consumables like syringes, gels for the treatment of arthritis and wrinkles, the models are always young and are shown in situations which involve only young people.
Among television serials, the elderly occupy almost a third of the leading roles – four times higher than their proportion in the population. But whereas men are shown as physically vibrant decision – makers, the women are usually swathed in old women colours, playing the role of religiously inclined grandmothers capable of making huge sacrifices. Research also found that in the case of feature films, the elderly constituted almost 50% of the total characters – almost 5 times more than the proportion of older persons in the general population. Most of the leading characters were however played by men, while the women actors just tagged along with no definite personality.
Media has unwittingly created a stereotype reducing elderly people to simple categories and converting assumptions into realities – so accentuating inequalities and prejudice. Their portrayal of the elderly resurrects taboos and cultural traditions which although they are on the wane in actual life are being reinforced through the media.
Distinguishing between Elderly Men and Women
With life expectancy and disposable incomes of the elderly increasing with each passing year, it is time that women (who outlive men) are projected as leading fulfilled lives. Otherwise far from integrating with society, elderly women will believe what they see and read and continue to play the role of appendages, afraid to lead fulfilled lives as citizens with a voice. The fear of being discarded for being incompetent and unwanted is what the elderly fear the most. That fear has to be dispelled.
According to the report of The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India titled Situation Analysis of the Elderly in India (2012)more than 75% of elderly males and less than 40% of elderly females live with their spouse. Less than 20% of aged men and about half the women live with their children. In India with the majority of the population aged less than 30, the problems and issues of the older population hardly get serious consideration and only a few studies are available on the subject. Although in the past the traditional Indian society and age-old joint family system were instrumental in safeguarding the social and economic security of the elderly, with rapid changes in the social scenario and the emergence of the nuclear family, elderly people are now exposed to many more emotional, physical and financial insecurities states the report. The study also showed that both in urban and rural areas around 80% of the men and women were supported by their children.
India’s National Policy on Older Persons (1999) envisages state support to ensure financial and food security, health care, shelter and other needs of older persons, protection against abuse and exploitation and availability of services to improve the quality of their lives. The policy tries to encourage individuals to make a provision for their old age and that of their spouse; to encourage families to take care of their older family members; to support voluntary and non-governmental organisations to supplement family care; provide care and protection to vulnerable elderly people; provide adequate healthcare to them and promote research and training to train geriatric care givers and organisers of services for the elderly and to create awareness about elderly persons to help them lead productive and independent lives.
In 2007 the Maintenance and Welfare Parents and Senior Citizens Act was enacted which provides for the maintenance of parents/senior citizens by children/relatives which has been made obligatory and justiciable through Tribunals. It provides the revocation of transfer of property by senior citizens in the case of negligence by relatives; penal provisions for abandonment of senior citizens; establishment of old-age homes for senior citizens and adequate medical facilities and security for senior citizens.
Specific Value Added
At present, the approach in India has been restricted to making parental care a responsibility of the children. In practice this does not work and trying to put an end to individualism and the nuclear family is not the answer. The expectation that children will take care of the elderly in the family is not likely to be fulfilled and unless people make decisions earlier in life they would be faced with a life when they lose control over their own property and income. Stories of ill treatment of older people by children have been the subject of societal concern and have even been the themes of blockbuster movies. Even so expectations have not altered. Institutionalization of the elderly is also not an answer in the Indian milieu.
It is therefore necessary to develop indicators for assessing the financial, physical and social situation of the elderly. The media needs to hold individuals, governments, business and civil society accountable for progress in this area. First, the indicators should include a reference to WHO’s guidelines on age friendly cities which would further include variables on quality of life, health status, economic and physical security and vulnerability to crime. Together with this indicators should include the use of new technology to improve the quality and access to health care for the elderly. . In developed countries smart homes provide a range of monitoring and supported devices including wireless sensors. In the context of developing countries, there is a need for standardisation of old age homes and encouraging older people to invest in ownership rights for their own living space for as long as they live. Therefore the twin indicators would be availability of standard requirements for old-age and assisted living and the use of telemedicine to talk to clinicians and manage chronic problems at home rather than in a hospital.
It is also essential to think about investments in social integration that payoff for all ages. Second there is a need to improve the care and autonomy of disabled older adults so that they can continue to contribute instead of becoming a burden. Third, there is a need to make a realistic assessment of retirement ages bringing in modifications which allow work after retirement.
Another important indicator would be whether the policies are aimed at preventing and reducing the burden of excess disability, chronic diseases and premature mortality will. The indicators should also include the ease with which older people can access paid caregivers at a reasonable rate (implying that training and education would be given to potential caregivers in an organised way).
Other indicators would include avenues for social participation, actively engaging older people in economic activities and those which help the family and community; also whether the indicators address the safety and dignity of older people and lay down guidelines to signify age discrimination and what should be done to remedy the same.
India will face an enormous burden of a rapidly ageing population and will have two confront fresh problems of age-related dependency even before the needs of the younger population are attended to fully. There is therefore a need to lay down indicators which would provide a ready retina or addressing the needs of the elderly. The preceding article has any merit it various issues which have already arisen and would grow in the years to come in a country like India. It is recommended that the following indicators should be included when considering a situation of a developing country which is already facing demographic changes in terms of ageing coupled with a population momentum which will take at least 30 years more to stabilise. The vulnerability of the elderly in countries where it is presumed that the family will take care of them, both in terms of policy as well as the law, the challenges greater. This is because unless there are benchmarks to judge well-being, quality of life and human rights and dignity, the resources would be laid to thinly and there would be no way of judging progress or achievement. The indicators should therefore include:
- A description of the meaning of old age;
- Indicators that measure access to financial security;
- An indicator that addresses the special problems of women and ageing;
- An assessment of the portrayal of ageing by the media;
- Encouragement to lifelong learning and social innovation for the elderly;
- Whether scope exists for the elderly to assume positions of leadership within society. (Social Voice)
- Investment in geriatric health care through family practitioners or specialists to cater to specific health needs of the elderly.
- Providing palliative care and home-based care for chronic non-communicable diseases.
- An indicator which captures the Human Rights of the elderly.
- Indicators to cover aspects of ageing related to increased urbanisation
- An indicator that addresses international migration and challenges faced by parents/grandparents left alone in the home country.
Tags: AADHAAR, Govt Schemes
Published on 11 Oct 2013
Guests: Shailaja Chandra (Former Chief Secretary, Government of Delhi) ; Biraj Patnaik (Principal Advisor to the Commissioners to the Supreme Court on Right to Food) ; T N R Rao (Former Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Govt. of India) ; Jyoti Mukul (Energy Editor, Business Standard) Anchor: Girish Nikam
Air date: October 10, 2013
I come in at 9.36 minutes and again at 23.23 minutes.
Tags: APRAIS, Retired officers
FOR as long as I can recall, retired officers have settled down in smaller cities like Jaipur, Pune, Indore and Bhopal. Even after apartment living became an option, smaller cities continue to hold charm; the prospect of a laid-back lifestyle, a garden dotted with winter flowers, and the enjoyment of eating homegrown vegetables sounds like a recipe for contentment. But, unforeseen by some, the need for support systems surfaces as the years pass. This article describes the challenges that older pensioners face and the things the All India Services (AIS) (Rajasthan) Pensioners Association (let’s call them APRAIS for short) has done to surmount those struggles.
But, first, why should AIS retirees need special propping up? Surely everyone has to face the prospect of ageing? What is so different about these pensioners? The main difference is the transferable life that these officers lead, providing them little opportunity to bond with the community, or build durable relationships. Relocated from one district to another, constantly changing departments and offices and, later, alternating between the State capital and Delhi, each move means making a fresh start. No wonder, then, that a retired State Director of Horticulture, who has worked for three decades in the same department, often has more support systems than a retired Chief Secretary!
What do these AIS septuagenarians and octogenarians do once old age sets in? What happens when circulars emanate from New Delhi affecting their pensions and health entitlements? Every question invariably leads to an “it’s all on the website” response. But how does an 80-yearold open the website when he never learned to use a computer? Who will disentangle all the ‘ifs’, ‘buts’ and ‘althoughs’ that invariably bind bureaucratictext? Only someone conversant with the stuff can unravel those communications. Alas, at the age of 90, where does one find such a genie?
APRAIS is that genie, the perfect answer to the pensioner’s prayer. The remarkable part is that the association has provided this service not just for a year or two; it has been assisting AIS pensioners for the last 44 years! Striking is also the fact that the association is a coalition of three All-India Services (Administrative, Police and Forests), whose members shared little in common during their service When the saints go marching in years. Only retirement and pensionhood brought them together and keep them connected.
The association was the brainchild of Rajasthan Chief Secretary RD Mathur. When he retired in 1969, he had the astuteness to bring all the retirees from the three services together—with one aim—to apprise them (pun intentional) about changes in their pension and health entitlements. Mathur’s commitment kept the movement alive for the next 20 years until his failing health could no longer cope. It was then that he suggested that formal elections be held, which is how the first elected president, secretary and treasurer took office, along with one vice-president representing each service. Ever since, elections have been held every alternate year and today the association represents the shared interests of more than 600 members (stationed as far as the NCR and Chennai). The number includes 133 spouses of deceased officers (called ‘family pensioners’ in government parlance). The present executive committee will continue until 2014 with Rajendra Shekhar (Retd IPS, 1957) as its president and Prabhat Dayal (Retd IAS, 1982) as the secretary.
Pensioners and pay commissions
So what has APRAIS achieved? Several things, and all meaningful and necessary. When the Fifth and APRAIS is the perfect answer to the pensioner’s prayer. The association has been assisting AIS pensioners for the last 44 years! Sixth Central Pay Commissions were set up, the association highlighted a slew of pension anomalies before a committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary, until solutions were found. It also raised the subject of family pension and got it enhanced for those who have little voice (where and how would the widows have broached this subject?).
But even as numbers carry strength, not everything falls into place easily. That is exactly what the head of the forest service in Rajasthan found to his chagrin. Although the post of the Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) had been re-designated as the Principal CCF and he had been officially promoted to the higher post, when it came to his pension, it was pegged with the lower post. His representations to the State government went unheeded.
An identical case of an officer from Himachal Pradesh had been battled in the High Court and the pensioner had won. But even that order was not given effect to. Instead, the State as well as the Central governments went in appeal to the Supreme Court! Even more astonishing, after the apex court upheld the High Court’s decision, orders were not issued. The former head of the forest service in Rajasthan continued to draw a lower pension. It was only when justice simply could not be denied any longer that his pension was revised from 2011.
The very fact that arrears were paid from 1988 illustrates how long the process took. It is noteworthy that, throughout those hard times, APRAIS supported the beleaguered retired Principal Chief Conservator at every step!
But, sometimes, even when the Government orders are well-intended and explicit, the benefits fail to flow. Despite an enhancement in the pensions of those who attained the age of 80, 85, 90, 95 and 100 having been ordered, the banks continued to ignore the instructions. In May this year, APRAIS’ executive committee met the Chief Secretary, which led to automatic enhancement of the pension for every individual on the due date without insisting on personal presence. How many octogenarians and nonagenarians would have had the physical energy to have pursued this on their own?
Sometimes, quite unwittingly, the use of technology throws up new challenges. Rajasthan prescribed bar-coded medical diaries for pensioners, which soon became a stone around the neck for some. Although well-intentioned, no one realised how cumbersome the bar-coding process could be. It required producing all original documents before the treasury officer, the ultimate mover and shaker for pension matters. For some obtuse reason, this worthy is located in the old city of Jaipur (akin to making a foray into Delhi’s Chandni Chowk).
B Ram (IAS, 1958), a one-time member of the Rajasthan Board of Revenue and now 80 years old, managed to submit his application, but still no diary arrived. In the case of his senior (in age), Mangal Behari (IAS, SCS, 1958), ironically a former Finance Secretary of Rajasthan, a volunteer collected the papers. But even so, Behari (by then 90 years old) could not locate his original pension payment order. This is akin to losing a passport but, miraculously, with the intercession of APRAIS, both the pensioners received their bar-coded diaries. And without having to make expeditions to the old city of Jaipur! In the case of Mangal Behari, the association actually persuaded the bank to loan its copy of the original pension payment order! That the bank obliged speaks volumes for the credibility that the association has built for itself!
But more pitiable than these stories was the plight of AIS widows living in Pune and Kolkata. In their case, formalities would have ordinarily involved not just the State finance department but also the Accountants General in Rajasthan, Pune and Kolkata. The correspondence could easily have been prolonged for another lifetime. But, once again, APRAIS Retired bureaucrats: Vocation for welfare INITIATIVE all-india services (rajasthan) pensioners association played the fairy godmother and resurrected the cases just as they were doomed to dust.
On the general health coverage of AIS pensioners, APRAIS has managed to wheedle out a welcome decision. They are now permitted to avail of medical treatment, both under the Central health scheme as well as the State government’s facilities —provided the pensioners pay dual subscriptions. Why should this matter so much? Because, when an elderly person has been under the treatment of a particular government specialist for years, it is but natural to want to continue with the doctor and the treatment. If that means avoiding the CGHS’ rigmarole of referrals and reimbursements in the bargain, who can object?
Pensioners and State guesthouses
Fortunately, not all things in the lives of retirees revolve around their pensions and health. Travel within the State and to Delhi is a welcome diversion, but occasionally even these forays can pose a challenge. Where to stay and what to pay become big issues for those accustomed to staying at the State guesthouses throughout their long career span. Being treated like outsiders and paying accordingly can hurt one’s pride as well as one’s pocket. But APRAIS managed to convince the Government that retired AIS officers, who stay in State guesthouses, should be charged the same as serving officers on leave. This has given the pensioners some financial relief and certainly recognition for their past services!
The Officers’ Training School has allotted office space and a telephone to the association. Every working day, five APRAIS members are available to respond to questions across the table or on telephone. Nine neighbourhood groups have also been formed, comprising 30-40 members. Smaller clusters respond to seemingly trivial, but critically important, tussles like the need for a driver, domestic help or simply watering the garden. Of course, such issues affect everyone, but older people living alone have no links to fall back on. It is here that the friendly neighbourhood groups suggest temporary solutions until regular arrangements fall into place.
FOR all its good work, the onetime membership fee of Rs 1,000 per member was proving to be inadequate to do anything meaningful, which went beyond the members’ own interests. But, fortunately, the pay commission arrears and enhanced pension helped create a corpus fund which has collected Rs 8 lakh from 160 members.
The association is now reaching out to the less fortunate among the State pensioners. In partnership with Sumedha, an NGO set up some 10 years ago by a former Chief Secretary, the effort is to support children whose families have an annual income less than Rs 1.5 lakh per year, provided the child has secured at least 70 per cent marks in the last public examination and is pursuing a professional course. While sharing the contribution of Rs 10,000 per child, APRAIS will confine its support to the children of retired State government employees only.
Pensioners’ school time
In the meantime, it is back to learning for some members. Starting September this year, the association has organised a one-month computer training programme for interested members, lasting two hours a day. Already 15 ‘trainees’ have enrolled, the oldest nearing the age of 80! The enthusiasm is palpable and the association has decided to increase the capacity if interest grows.
Pensioners’ fun time
Every January, the members meet for lunch at one of the Forest Department’s idyllic retreats. Felicitations are given to those who have crossed the 80th milestone. Thoughtfully, someone quietly digs into the past achievements of each elder and publishes them in Sampark, a newsletter which has been published annually for the last 17 years. This unpretentious little bulletin not only carries key information about pensioners’ benefits and entitlements, but also gives updated contact details of all retired officers and their widowed spouses. The first step towards re-connecting!
An association member, Inderjit Khanna, a former Chief Secretary, had this to say, “If only All-India Services pensioners in other cities understood the benefits of working together as a group! Protection and security are the best takeaways.”
*Reform Act of 2014*
- No Tenure / No Pension: Parliamentarians collect a salary while in office but should not receive any pay when they’re out of office.
- Parliamentarians should purchase their own retirement plans, just as all Indians do.
- Parliamentarians should no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Their pay should be linked to the CPI or 3%, whichever is lower.
- Parliamentarians should lose their current health care system and participate in the same health care system as the Indian people.
- Parliamentarians with tainted records, criminal charges & convictions, past or present should be summarily banned from the parliament and fighting election on any pretext or the other.
- Parliamentarians should equally abide by all laws they impose on the Indian people.
- All contracts with past and present Parliamentarians should be void effective 1/1/14.
The Indian people did not make this contract with them. Parliamentarians made all these contracts for themselves.
Serving in Parliament is an honor, not a lucrative career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.