Nobel laureate Prof Amartya Sen has taken strong exception to the current “misunderstanding of what globalisation is”, insisting, “I don’t want to see countries withdraw into their shell and detach themselves from the rest of the world, and that applies to the world of ideas as well as the world of political practice, economic relations and social priorities.”
Suggesting that protests against globalization are populist, in an interview, the top 83-year-old economist says, “It is inequality that gives many people reason to ask ‘what’s going wrong’ and globalisation often seems like a usual suspect and then it is damned”, adding, “If the world had resisted globalisation at any time, whether you look at the 10th, 15th or 18th centuries, it would have made the world a very retrograde place.”
“What we enjoy today, our standards of living, the much greater human capabilities than we used to have (to live longer, to live better, to have more freedom to do what we have reason to do) – all these have depended on people learning from each other and having economic, social and political relations”, Prof Sen says, insisting, “We shouldn’t chuck the baby out with the bathwater.”
Speaking on a wide range of issues in his 3,000 word interview, Prof Sen says, dissent in India is increasingly losing its voice in India, adding, this is reflected in the newspapers being “scared to carry anti-government stories”.
“What we have today is a takeover of the running of universities with a massive absence of academic autonomy”, says Prof Sen, adding, “And there’s a sense of panic in a large part of the university community even about freedom of expression, so important for academic pursuit.”
“If you say what the government thinks is the ‘wrong thing’ – and there are certain subjects on which you should say nothing at all, like Kashmir – you’ll be immediately subject to the possible charge of being ‘anti-national’, or perhaps have a sedition charge slapped on you’, a charge which is “being outrageously misused in India”, he says.
Coming to the Modi government’s governance, Prof Sen says, he was critical of the previous Government for not doing enough in education and healthcare, but “in the case of Modi, those deficiencies have intensified instead of getting remedied.”
Pointing towards a “huge failure” of the Modi government, Prof Sen says, it is with regard to the fact that “the minority communities have a sense of fear and uncertainty”, adding, “India is not a single- religion country. We want a multi-religious, multicultural, multi-ethnic combination on the basis of which India has always flourished.”
Prof Sen says, one should follow what Gandhiji said after arriving in England to negotiate in the early 1930s, when he was described as ‘a leader of the Hindus in India.’ Protesting, Gandhiji said, ‘To the extent I’m a leader, I’m a leader of people of all religions in India, and if I have to choose any side, it wouldn’t be that of being a leader of a particular religious community, but a leader of the poor landless labourers’.”