An uncertain Glory: India and its contradictions
Remember the great grid failure last year that left some 600 million people powerless, enveloped half the country in darkness for nearly two days? To Jean Dréze and Amartya Sen, it's an apt indicator of the many ills plaguing India, not just energy planning or the lack thereof. Similar deficiencies can be seen in water supply, drainage, garbage disposal and public transport, among other areas.
The authors acknowledge the rapid economic growth inked in the last 20 years when India has started to appear 'young' again — a Picasso flourish — in stark contrast to the so called 'Hindu rate of growth' in the first three decades post Independence.
But the need for rapid growth is far from over since India, after two decades of rapid growth, remains one of the poorest countries in the world.
“India has been climbing up the ladder of per capita income while slipping down the slope of social indicators,” the authors rue.
Among these indicators are education, healthcare, poverty and the gamut of inequalities (caste, class and community; education; income; gender; disempowerment and deprivation, you name it).
“Human development in general and school education in particular are first and foremost allies of the poor, rather than only of the rich and affluent,” the authors note.
The irony is for all to see. Indian education, despite its huge limitations, often receives spectacular acclaim from abroad. Truth is, despite the great successes of the first boys, India’s education system is tremendously negligent in both coverage and quality.
Ditto with healthcare: “The 1990s were largely a lost decade for India as far as health is concerned, and much of the 2000s did little better.” What more can you expect in a country where public expenditure on health has hovered around 1 per cent of the GDP for most of the last 20 years?
According to the authors, India’s failure stems from the fact that it is chasing...