“Lack of basic facilities a catastrophic failure”

Amartya Sen: Indian democratic system needs a certain commitment for its citizen

trithesh

Trithesh Nandan | January 5, 2013



Terming India’s failure in providing basic facilities such as sanitation, health and education to its people as catastrophic, Professor Amartya Sen has said it needs fixing and accountability. He has also said people’s anger is suppressed because nobody talks about the deprivation that people are facing.

“We have a catastrophic organisational failure and that certainly needs fixing because the Indian public sector requires accountability that it doesn’t have and India’s infrastructure - physical not just social - both requires building. It has to be in proportion,” said the Nobel laureate. He was speaking at the inauguration of the International Centre for Human Development set up by the ministry of human resource development and the Indian Institute for Advanced Study (IIAS) in collaboration with UNDP in New Delhi on Friday.

Armed with statistics on India’s poor performance in human development (the country ranks a low 134 among 187 countries in terms of the human development index - HDI), he stressed that the Indian democratic system needs a certain commitment for its citizen from its political masters. “We have to look at how we can combine our democratic system with a kind of commitment that the government of China has been able to produce in the interest of human development,” said the economist who is known for its "development with a human face" ideas. Prof. Sen also helped Pakistani economist Mehboob-ul Haque in developing in certain aspects of HDI in 1989.

According to Prof. Sen, “The expansion of human capabilities is at the core of the Asian development model. While there is no contradiction between high growth and human development outcomes, it is the nature of growth and how resources are utilised that should be at the heart of the growth debate.” He also suggested that others should learn from the example of Kerala, which is not a rich state but far ahead in terms of social development. “Kerala and Himachal Pradesh outshine others in terms of development because they follow the Asian model of development, which gives emphasis on human development,” he said.

He was supportive of the recent wave of protests in India and demands for strong action to curb crimes against women following the December gangrape. He also noted that violence against dalit women had been going on for long without protest. "I am happy that violence against women is getting attention now... but dalit women have been undergoing violence without protest for long," he said.

Prof. Sen also noted that government needs to also address opposition policies. “You don’t have to only address just the government policies, you have to also address opposition policies and responsibilities that we as citizens wants to take,” he emphasised.  

Jairam Ramesh, minister for rural development, said, “High economic growth does not necessarily translate into superior human development outcomes, which may in fact be demonstrated at lower rates of growth. However, there is no escaping that given the enormity of India’s development challenges, high economic growth is imperative.”

The International Centre for Human Development set up aims to assist national governments in the Global South towards mainstreaming human development in planning processes and policy making.

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