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Uncertain Glory

Editorial |

Figures can on occasion be a route to self-deception. And for all the pleasure that the Government of India occasionally derives from articulating statistics on growth and development, it remained for Amartya Sen to expose the bitter irony that India has effected by taking what he calls a “quantum jump in the wrong direction”. This is poor economics, to say the least.

Which explains his uncharacteristically robust pitch on matters political ~ “At this time, the whole issue of Opposition unity is so important.” He has underlined the fundamental economic disconnect that direly needs to be addressed. He has posited the paradigm of growth and development in the context of time, and expressed the view that “India since 2014 has been moving backwards in the fastest-growing economy”.

The resignations of the Chief Economic Adviser and the Reserve Bank governor (earlier) are merely symptoms of the overwhelming malaise. So overwhelming indeed that the country’s position today is the “second worst in the region” that covers six countries ~ India, Pakistan, Bangladesh,
Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan. And then with tongue firmly in cheek, “Pakistan has managed to shield us from being the worst.”

Even Bangladesh, that came into existence 47 years ago, has surpassed us. The presentation could scarcely have been more apt ~ the launch of the Hindi edition of the book, “An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradiction”, co-authored by Sen and Jean Dreze. Aside from the economic disconnect, Sen has dwelt on the societal implications.

The fine print is that the subaltern class has been kept out of the overall construct, notably by excluding the caste groups and Scheduled Tribes. For all the high-mindedness of Swaach Bharat, there exists a “whole group of people who clean lavatories or sewage with their own hands and whose demands and needs have been neglected.

“Dalits are going around without any kind of certainty about their next meal, healthcare or education”. It is not often that Sen has made so stout a presentation on public policy, underlining the need for a public health insurance scheme to counter the exploitation ~ is fleecing the right expression? ~ of the private healthcare network.

Horror of horrors, a Dalit youth was recently whipped for asking for a salary hike from the manager of a petrol pump in Madhya Pradesh. It scarcely needs to be underlined that living conditions are sub-human for a fairly large segment of the populace.

“It is not a battle of one entity against the other or Mr Modi against Mr Rahul Gandhi. It is an issue of what India is,” was Sen’s succinct prognosis. The country exemplifies a missed call to development. This in essence is the Uncertain Glory, according to India’s best known economist.