Amartya Sen, Nobel laureate, and Jagdish Bhagwati, considered by some as the greatest economist not to have won a Nobel, are known for their sharp ideological differences. They speak to TOI on Narendra Modi and the priorities of the next govt
Subhabrata Guha TIMES NEWS NETWORK
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen will cast his vote in Bolpur on Wednesday for the first time after the 2001 West Bengal assembly polls. The issue for him is secularism.
Articulating his political preferences, Sen, 80, said, “There is the issue of secularism. It is true that one judge cleared Modi, but many charges were not pressed. If minorities are scared of him assuming office, there are reasons behind it, though many well-placed Muslims don’t think so. In fact, some of them have joined him.”
“This election is important and I want to be a part of it. I am delighted that I can vote and participate in any political discussion without violating any norm that the country’s Constitution permits,” the eminent economist told TOI on Tuesday.
In July 2013, Sen had come out against Modi, saying he didn’t want him to become PM as he didn’t have secular credentials. “As an Indian citizen, I don’t want Modi as my PM… He has not done enough to make minorities feel safe,” Sen had said. “He could have been more secular and he could have made the minority community feel more secure.”
Elaborating further, Sen said, “On the basis of my conversations with BJP leaders like L K Advani, Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, there is a problem in understanding the issues of education, especially school education and healthcare. But I don’t see this understanding in Modi’s programme.”
Sen has often been criticized for being vocal on India’s socio-economic problems while staying in the US. People have even said, mistakenly, that Sen doesn’t have voting rights in India and is an American citizen. ‘I don’t think there’s any ideal party at this time’
The fact that I am going to vote tomorrow proves that I have not given up my Indian citizenship, unlike many of my friends in the US. I am not an American citizen. I have to go through all the rigours of standing in long queues at the airports across the world. I go through all the visa procedures, having to answer immigration officers’ questions,” said Sen.
According to him, this election is important because the country is on the crossroads over the focus on development. “We need development by expanding the human capability, regarding an educated and healthy labour force. That doesn’t mean we don’t need physical capital like power, electricity, roads etc. Both are important. But if you do one and leave the other, then there is a problem. What is the point if you emphasize on power but 30% of your state population doesn’t have electricity connections. When 600 million people plunged into darkness due to grid failure in July 2012, what the media didn’t mention was that 200 million out of 600 million people had no power connection ever.”
Another important reason is that some issues like corruption have come up. “AAP made a great deal of effort to address it, but they are novice. Why shouldn’t be illiteracy a major issue like corruption? Why India should not have a system of universal healthcare, like China, Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand? Pretty much entire population of Indonesia has some healthcare.”
When asked about ‘Modi-nomics’, Sen said, “Primarily the focus should be on education and human capital. Congress has spoken in so many voices, but they had some commitment. AAP had some commitment, too. I don’t think there is any ideal party at this time.”
According to Sen, the Indian economy, as a whole, has done a lot better. “China, with its skilled labour force, can produce an enormous amount of commodities. I think everything I use like telephone, calculator, thermometer comes from China. Our concentration is limited, because our labour force’s education is very limited. Literacy is very important and we don’t have the power because our labour force is not educated. I’m very much in favour of globalisation.”
On the recent bull run on Sensex, he said, “It’s quite natural. Every time a right-wing government comes to power, this happens. That has happened in France, Italy, America. The moment socialists come to power, markets collapse. The moment conservatives come in, the markets go up. That’s standard. But the euphoria doesn’t last long. In the long run, everything will depend on the health and education of the labour force.”
Readmore here — http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?Daily=TOIM&showST=true&login=default&pub=TOI&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW