Maintaining rapid as well as environmentally sustainable growth remains an important and achievable goal for India. In An Uncertain Glory, two of India's leading economists argue that the country's main problems lie in the lack of attention paid to the essential needs of the people, especially of the poor, and often of women. There have been major failures both to foster participatory growth and to make good use of the public resources generated by economic growth to enhance people's living conditions. There is also a continued inadequacy of social services such as schooling and medical care as well as of physical services such as safe water, electricity, drainage, transportation, and sanitation. In the long run, even the feasibility of high economic growth is threatened by the underdevelopment of social and physical infrastructure and the neglect of human capabilities, in contrast with the Asian approach of simultaneous pursuit of economic growth and human development, as pioneered by Japan, South Korea, and China.
In a democratic system, which India has great reason to value, addressing these failures requires not only significant policy rethinking by the government, but also a clearer public understanding of the abysmal extent of social and economic deprivations in the country. The deep inequalities in Indian society tend to constrict public discussion, confining it largely to the lives and concerns of the relatively affluent. Drèze and Sen present a powerful analysis of these deprivations and inequalities as well as the possibility of change through democratic practice.
Chomsky’s early insights into the workings of power in the modern world remain timely and compelling. Published for the first time, this series of lectures also provides the reader with an invaluable introduction to the essential ideas of one of the leading thinkers of our time.
India is a country with many distinct traditions, widely divergent customs, vastly different convictions, and a veritable feast of viewpoints. In The Argumentative Indian, Amartya Sen draws on a lifetime study of his country's history and culture to suggest the ways we must understand India today in the light of its rich, long argumentative tradition.
The millenia-old texts and interpretations of Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Muslim, agnostic, and atheistic Indian thought demonstrate, Sen reminds us, ancient and well-respected rules for conducting debates and disputations, and for appreciating not only the richness of India's diversity but its need for toleration.
Though Westerners have often perceived India as a place of endless spirituality and unreasoning mysticism, he underlines its long tradition of skepticism and reasoning, not to mention its secular contributions to mathematics, astronomy, linguistics, medicine, and political economy.
Sen discusses many aspects of India's rich intellectual and political heritage, including philosophies of governance from Kautilya's and Ashoka's in the fourth and third centuries BCE to Akbar's in the 1590s; the history and continuing relevance of India's relations with China more than a millennium ago; its old and well-organized calendars; the films of Satyajit Ray and the debates between Gandhi and the visionary poet Tagore about India's past, present, and future.
The success of India's democracy and defense of its secular politics depend, Sen argues, on understanding and using this rich argumentative tradition. It is also essential to removing the inequalities (whether of caste, gender, class, or community) that mar Indian life, to stabilizing the now precarious conditions of a nuclear-armed subcontinent, and to correcting what Sen calls the politics of deprivation. His invaluable book concludes with his meditations on pluralism, on dialogue and dialectics in the pursuit of social justice, and on the nature of the Indian identity.
As its economy flounders and society comes under severe strain for heinous crimes against women, India suddenly find itself under the magnifying glass of academia. There are some important books published this year on the Indian economy. First, we had Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya coming out with their thesis in "Why Growth Matters: How economic growth in India reduced poverty and the lessons for other developing countries." This was followed by Princeton's release of Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen's "An Uncertain Glory". Not to be left behind, Harvard has published Sumantra Bose's "Transforming India".
Now we have the icing on the cake, an anthology of essays by academics, researchers, entrepreneurs, economists, bankers and bureaucrats, on what ails India's society and economy, put together by two Singapore-based journalists, Gurdip Singh and Sameer C. Mohindru. The compendium, titled, "What's Up? What's Down?", stands apart because it argues that society and economy are intertwined and drive or pull each other. For example, a weak economy with large slums is expected to have more incidences of crime against women. Interestingly most contributors in this E-book anthology are based in Singapore and provide a bipartisan bird's eye view on India ahead of the 16th Lok Sabha elections. They aren't blindly critical and instead suggest solutions for India to tackle its social and economic challenges.
The book gives voice to the sentiments of the Indian diaspora, which is keen to invest their hard earned money in their country of origin. Karan Singh Thakral, a Singapore-based businessman suggests that India must spruce up the infrastructure to revive its economy. Infrastructure is both needed for economic development and also a business opportunity for the entrepreneurs. The opportunity in the Indian market is immense because it is backed by a large middle-class, a strong spirit of entrepreneurship and a league of extraordinary businessmen, says Piyush Gupta, chief executive officer of DBS Group in Singapore.
As economists point out, India, a land of 1.3 billion people is not only a vast consumer base for manufacturers and businesses but also has a large pool of human resources to be tapped for giving a boost to manufacturing output and productivity.
Entrepreneurs and researchers are bearish about India's economic outlook in the short-term and suggest ways in which the country can unlock its potential. As Gupta points out, Indian companies and corporations are increasingly scaling up to meet world class standards, and can be the bulwark for higher growth in GDP.
Magnus Bocker, Singapore Exchange's chief executive and Professor Rajendra K. Srivastava a Deputy President with Singapore Management University elaborate about their plans for India.
Contributors in this anthology are concerned that Parliament, the temple of Indian democracy barely functions as lawmakers display more lung power than brain power. Though politically some might have triumphed in blocking parliamentary proceedings, but for the potential investors this is in bad taste.
The idea of an E-book germinated when an Indian brave heart girl, brutally raped in a moving bus in Delhi on December 16, 2012, was flown in to Singapore in a serious conditions. The girl's passing away less than two weeks later was covered by the two journalists who have edited the anthology.
"We had extensive interviews with businessmen and researchers to get their two cents on the Indian society and economy and found both a sense of disappointment and optimism all around and decided to analyse this paradox in a book," says Mr Singh, one of the journalists.
He says coalition politics isn't an obstacle in India's progress if the rulers are decisive and not afraid in taking unpopular decisions which change the course of India's economy, society and polity. Investors aren't afraid of multi-party coalition governments provided they are result oriented. Implementation of the Mandal Commission report that recommended reservations for the backward classes, liberalizing the Indian economy by abolishing the industrial licensing regim, testing of nuclear bombs to enhance national security and the inking of Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, are all decisions taken by coalition governments that have ruled India in the last 25 years.
There are some very interesting observations in the book. Cineplexes and slums are both products of a liberalized and urbanized Indian society economy. Both had a role to play in the rape and death of the brave heart girl. In the pantheon of Hindu Gods, a female is always named first, Siya-Ram, Radhey-Shyam, Gauri-Shankar, Laxmi-Narayan, Uma-Mahesh, Devki-Vasudev, Yashoda- Nand and yet when it comes to respect for the female community, they are being treated with disdain. Ironically, the main accused in the Delhi gang rape case was Ram Singh, named by his parents after Hindu God known for his character, idealism and virtue, Lord Ram, hero of the world renowned epic, Ramayana.
A top Singapore cardiologist, Dr V P Nair, suggests that a solution to India's woes lies in going back to its own ancient roots and principles of Vedanta. India lost momentum in the 1960s and 1970s due to a misguided commitment towards socialism, Girija Pande, former chairman of Tata Consultancy Services for Asia Pacific, in one of the essays.
In another essay, R Narayanamohan, chairman of the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry points out that Indian economy is one of the most heavily taxed in the world and a rejig and lowering of taxes is needed for the country to forge ahead in economic development. In an essay that analyzes India's new food security law, a retired officer of a state-run company, Tejinder Narang, terms it FoodCare and compares it with ObamaCare, the U.S. health care program, and argues that both will prove to be a drain on two of the world's largest economies.
The silver lining is that all is not lost. The long term structural opportunities are still there, says Gupta of DBS Bank. A chapter on Amarnath, analyses how one of the world's oldest pilgrimages, with historical references going back more than 2000 years, has become the prime driver of the economy of the Kashmir valley. It argues that regardless of the overall health of the national and global economy, there are thousands of pockets of local economies that are blossoming and many are based on religious tourism, which is an ancient concept. The general consensus that emerges in the anthology s is that entrepreneurs and investors can't afford to ignore the consumption and production driven Indian economy, despite the current political churning and paralysis.
This book will interest scholars and researchers of sociology, development studies, gender studies, economics, public policy as well as general readers.
Freedom, Sen argues, is both the end and most efficient means of sustaining economic life and the key to securing the general welfare of the world's entire population. Releasing the idea of individual freedom from association with any particular historical, intellectual, political, or religious tradition, Sen clearly demonstrates its current applicability and possibilities. In the new global economy, where, despite unprecedented increases in overall opulence, the contemporary world denies elementary freedoms to vast numbers--perhaps even the majority of people--he concludes, it is still possible to practically and optimistically restain a sense of social accountability. Development as Freedom is essential reading.