Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and Economist Dreze share views on their book ‘Bharat Aur Uske Virodhabhas’, published by Rajkamal Prakashan

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New Delhi: Nobel Laureate and Bharat Ratna Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze made a rare appearance at Sahitya Academi Hall on Saturday, 7th July, 2018, to participate in a discussion on his book Bharat Aur Uske Virodhabhas, published by Rajkamal Prakashan Samuh which is the Hindi translation of his book: An Uncertain Glory: The Contradictions of Modern India.

The session was moderated by journalists and author Saba Naqvi and Ravish Kumar. Ashok Maheshwari – MD,Rajkamal Prakashan Samuh, after welcoming the honorable guests, said how honoured and privileged he felt on an occasion of the Hindi translation of the book reaching out to so many readers.

Focussing on the three major aspects of the book, such issues as health care, education, corruption, lack of accountability, growing inequality, and their suppression in India’s elite-dominated public space, Sen and Drèze threw light on some of the aspects of democracy in their simplest manifestation, drive the successful implementation of welfare programs, such as the Public Distribution System. In return what the masses get is an inequitable treatment. In its critical analysis of India and its politics, both Sen and Dreze probe the analysis of the Indian economy and its enormous potential. They also discussed in brief the three primary points – Development as Freedom; Public Action and Fundamental Importance of Public Health and Education, and Social Security.

Emphasizing the need to look at overall welfare for the nation, Saba Naqvi asked Sen,”Why are we not able to achieve success? Citing references from his book, Sen explained how India is, unfortunately, many things, and, thus, many needs and demands of the people have been denied. Or not met with. In the same breath, he rued the raging controversy that made headlines in the media when the ruling party called The Taj Mahal unIndian.

The book that takes a comprehensive view of the inequality that pervades India, has been a joint endeavor of Sen and Dreze, though Sen called it as a book where he merely had 10 percent to offer while Dreze gave his 90 percent. Dreze was quick to clarify that it was “a joint 50-50 effort.”

Sen also underlined the idea of India that “needs to be modified.” He was direct in attacking the half baked partly genuine and partly fake form of politics that was more of a ‘Propaganda.”

Though the book deals with the time when after India gained independence in 1947, and the then government decided to adopt a political system that was democratic in nature and involved the existence of several political parties and many political rights, both Sen and Dreze felt that the Modi government has turned its back on some social security programmes and shared how much more needs to be done. Refuting voices of dissent that sound more like cynicism Dreze said that there is a somewhat resistance to social reform policy, he doesn’t see as the system getting collapsed.

During the question and Answer round, Sen was specifically asked to comment on the issue of Kashmir. In his characteristically unequivocal style, Sen didn’t mince words and said that to talk about Kashmir towards the tail end of a discussion would be gross injustice, and said that Kashmir needs a full-time examination and a conversation for another day.