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Modi govt adding up to "sins" of past government, wants to be economic power sans educated, healthy labour force

By Our Representative
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, one of the world’s best-known economists, has sharply criticized the present and past governments of India for “trying to become a global economic power with an uneducated and unhealthy labour force.” Sen said, “It’s never been done before, and never will be done in the future either.”
Giving the examples of other countries, Sen said, “There is a reason why Europe went for universal education, and so did America. Japan, after the Meiji restoration in 1868, wanted to get full literate in 40 years and they did. So did South Korea after the war, and Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and China.”
In an interview published in the London School of Economics blog, Sen said, “The whole idea that you could somehow separate out the process of economic growth from the quality of the labour force is a mistake against which Adam Smith warned in 1776”, calling it “an ancient danger.”
Sen said, the policy makers much understand why “someone as intensely keen on the market economy as Adam Smith thought the government has to make the country fully literate.”
Giving the example of the US in this context, he said, “Every American has a right to primary school education paid for by the government, you’re picked up from your home by government buses, delivered to your state school and educated there.”
“India is trying to be different from America, Europe, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Singapore, China – all of them”, Sen said, adding, “This is not good way of thinking of economics.”
Pointing out that “foundationally, the government’s understanding of development underlying their approach is mistaken”, Sen said, “Having said that, the previous government was terribly mistaken too, adding, what one finds now is, “all the sins of the past government have been added up.”
Coming down heavily on governance of the present government, Sen said, “It is very fast when there is a crisis. So if there is a famine threatening, India could stop it straight away. If there is the threat that a cyclone in the Bay of Bengal would kill a million people, they can move two million people away from the coast because all the Indian apparatus comes into force.”
However, he underlined, “If you want to change the system, spend more money in state schools, state hospitals, provide health coverage for all, that requires convincing the people. The rhetoric has been so badly distorted in India that most vocal Indians – which tend to be upper classes – don’t even recognise how bad the healthcare is for the bulk of the Indian population.”
Praising Kerala’s “policy for universal education and universal healthcare”, which dates back to the Communist Party when it first come into office in 1957, Sen said, at that time “Kerala was the third poorest state in India”, but “in the latest round of national sample survey, if you put the urban and rural together, Kerala has now the highest per capita income in the whole of India.”
He concluded, “The fact is that a people-friendly education and health policy could make a difference, not only to their lives – which happened immediately, life expectancy shot up in Kerala straight away – but also ultimately on economic growth.”

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