The word ‘Amartya’ means immortal and it is said that the name was conferred upon Amartya Sen by Rabindranath Tagore. Let us, for the moment ignore the fact of conferment of the Nobel Prize; even otherwise, Amartya Sen is one of India’s most illustrious sons. He is one of the most well respected voices globally, in the spheres such as economic and social justice, welfare economics and in evaluating of factors that impact well-being people of developing countries.
Widely regarded as a being among top most influential people in the world, he is a brilliant academician and someone with a profound understanding of Indian economy and polity. So when he opines on something, the world listens – we Indians should have the sense to do so too:
- “Educate, organise and agitate” – This slogan was originally uttered by the architect of our constitution Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar in his historic speech of 1942. Amartya Sen subscribes to this formula to help spur India’s growth and development, by helping equalise social and political inequity in Indian society. This demonstrates that Sen ideas are deeply rooted in Indian thought and reality.
- Sen’s suggestions for development have always been oriented towards growth. He believes that it is education and healthcare that will create human capacity, which in turn will spur growth.
- As early as 1980, Amartya Sen opined that famine is caused not by food scarcities, but by unequal food distribution systems. The truth of this idea propounded by him is evidenced each time we hear reports of food grain stocks rotting away or being consumed by pests in one corner of the country, while at the same time, in another corner of the country, Indian citizens die of hunger.
- In his new book, An Uncertain Glory, India and its Contradictions, Sen stresses that social development is as necessary as economic growth; it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Sen offers the example of Kerala – which is one of the more prosperous states of India because of the way that political attention was paid to healthcare and education.
- Sen believes that we can also learn from other growth models such as Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat (even with Gujarat’s dismal record of the treatment of minorities he adds).
- Sen gives credit to Narendra Modi as a good business administrator and appreciates what Modi has done and why people admire him. He feels that there is much that the rest of India can learn from Gujarat’s model of market economic expansion.
- However even Sen has shown his preference for a more secular person than Modi to lead the country; Sen expressed concern against the possibility of a future PM who generates fear and concern among minorities. His views on Modi echo his fundamental theory that social development is as important as economic progress.
- If Sen expresses his doubts about Modi as PM, he has reservations against Rahul Gandhi as PM too. Though couched in polite terms, Sen essentially had nothing to recommend Rahul for the post either.
- While Sen compares India’s growth story unfavourably with that of others such as China and Brazil, he remains optimistic about India’s long-term outlook. There are many instances of effective bureaucratic functioning when the Indian Administrative Service has been held properly accountable, such as Chhatisgarh and Himachal’s food distribution and other public welfare schemes.
- Contrary to popular belief, Amartya Sen is not in favor of the Food Security Bill; he merely said that it could be a good idea only in the absence of any other alternative. Sen is in favour of removing all subsidies that do not help the very poor and would like to start by removing subsidies on electricity and fertilizer. He points out the irony of people talking about fiscal responsibility, while using subsidised electricity for their A/c, driving cars that run on subsidised diesel and eating food cooked on subsidised LPG!
I shall now wait for personal attacks against Sen for daring to say anything against Modi and against me for saying that someone said something against Modi. It is unfortunate that Modi-worshipers cannot stand sane debate and that any hint of criticism is met with unpleasant hectoring.
By – Reena Daruwalla
Amartya Sen Is Like Donald Trump