Amartya Sen Again


Professor Amartya Sen has once again come out with a strong statement that should ideally cause a lot of heartburning among the acolytes of the Modi-Shah combine. In a book-launch programme held on 8 July, he has revealed the truth that in respect of human development, India's position in South Asia has dropped over the last twenty years from the second to the fifth, ahead only of Pakistan. This simply means that India is now behind not only Sri Lanka, but Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan also. Professor Sen has sarcastically said that "Pakistan has managed to shield us from being the worst." There is no ostensible reason to disagree with Professor Sen's observation, and it is a slap on the face of the advocates of all-round liberalisation. It remains to be seen if persons like Jagdish Bhagwati, who called Modi's enthronement in 2014 a kind of 'second revolution', has anything to say on it. Acolytes of Modi and Shah will however not feel ashamed to the least, because they believe in lying and barking and propagating aggressive Hindutva in the name of nationalism. Bhagwati and other advocates of complete liberalisation may however dismiss Sen's argument by saying that it is growth that matters, not human beings.

Professor Sen has lamented that a political battle can at present be won by playing up the Hindu identity, which was difficult to imagine during the freedom struggle. Here one additional point may be raised in view of the recent propaganda campaign by the BJP on the memories of the Emergency of 1975-77. The electoral battle against the Emergency was not won by playing up the Hindu or Muslim identity. The people, irrespective of religious beliefs, wanted the tyrannical rule of the mother and son to go. The 1977 polls embodied a massive mandate against the Emergency.

One point in passing. The Modi government is planning to introduce a new health scheme entitled Ayusman Bharat with an allotmennt of Rs 20 billion, which means an allotment of less than Rs 20 per person, even if all the money meant for the scheme is spent. Certainly it is a grand plan.

Highlighting the dangerous consequences of the practice of playing up the Hindu identity, Professor Sen has correctly stressed the importance of the issue of opposition unity. He has also admirably argued that it is not a matter of pitting Rahul Gandhi against Narendra Modi. But the problem is that most of the leaders of the opposition are narrow and selfish, and promoters of corruption and sometimes obscurantism. The 'opposition unity' referred to by Professor Sen may thus be a temporary instrument of defeating the present fascism through an electoral battle, but it is more than urgent to look much more beyond that if a really democratic India has to be built.

Vol. 51, No.3, Jul 22 - 28, 2018