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Amartya Sen: Gujarat model pulling down Modi govt, neglect of health, education began under Nehru

By Our Representative
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has said that it is not just the BJP-led government which is neglecting health and education. In a blog-interview with Oxford University Press (OUP), the top economist believes, the neglect was the hallmark of earlier governments, too, only "with Modi, it has got worse, because the government has further cuts" in the two sectors.
Sen, who recently created a flutter on quitting from the prestigious Nalanda University chancellorship and charged the BJP rulers of only seeking to undermine academic freedom, says, "The neglect of the need for the state to get everyone schooled and literate, and getting everyone some kind of health cover began much earlier during the time of Jawaharlal Nehru."
According to him, "If you look at the Five-Year Plan, there were statements that education and health were top priorities, but not much was done. The entire tradition of Indian planning, of ignoring education and health care, continued through Indira Gandhi’s time, the Janata Party government and, later, through the BJP government and UPA I and II."
Published on India's Independence Day, Sen tells OUP that one can "deliver education and health care to all, even with a very poor economy, because a poor economy is also a low-wage economy, and education and health care are labour-intensive. So, first, it is affordable; and second, it will immediately have an impact on quality of life, infant mortality, etc."
"And, if you push money towards complete immunisation, it would lead to a better standard of living. Third, it would also improve the productivity of labour, because you can’t become an industrial giant with an unhealthy, uneducated labour force. Ultimately, improvement in the quality of labour has an effect on economic growth", he insists.
Pointing out that the Modi government has spent "far too little on education and health care, and hardly any time on organisation of schooling and health care", Sen says, "They have done very little for immunisation; India ranks one of the lowest in the world in vaccination coverage."
According to Sen, "Furthermore, Gujarat is one of the worst performers; in fact, way below Bihar, which shows that the BJP thinking, which is very Gujarat-dominated, has not gone in the direction of immunisation, unlike Bangladesh, which has gone for total immunisation."
While agreeing that it is possible to give Modi good marks on diplomacy, as he is rebuilding relations with other countries, including China, Sen says, "On the other hand, BJP leaders are too tied up with the Gujarat model, which is physical capital and easy business, while ignoring human capital and capability, and gender inequality."
Hitting out at the Modi government's programmes such as ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, Swachh Bharat, insurance for poor, etc., Sen says, "These are slogans. How much money and effort has Modi spent on the programmes? He has also said that every house should have a toilet. What has happened to that? One has to distinguish between slogan and action."

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