Putting Growth In Its Place (Amartya Sen & Jean Dreze; OUTLOOK, Nov. 14, 2011)

The piece is depressing, and a must-read — Qalandar

EXCERPTS:

“India’s growth achievements are indeed quite remarkable. According to official data, per capita income has grown at a compound rate of close to five per cent per year in real terms between 1990-91 and 2009-10. The more recent rates of expansion are faster still: according to Planning Commission estimates, the growth rate of GDP was 7.8 per cent in the Tenth Plan period (2002-03 to 2006-07) and is likely to be around 8 per cent in the Eleventh Plan period (2007-08 to 2011-12). The “advance estimate” for 2010-11 is 8.6 per cent. These are, no doubt, exceptional growth rates…”

“The comparison between Bangladesh and India is a good place to start. During the last 20 years or so, India has grown much richer than Bangladesh: per capita income was estimated to be 60 per cent higher in India than in Bangladesh in 1990, and 98 per cent higher (about double) in 2010. But during the same period, Bangladesh has overtaken India in terms of a wide range of basic social indicators: life expectancy, child survival, fertility rates, immunisation rates, and even some (not all) schooling indicators such as estimated “mean years of schooling”. For instance, life expectancy was estimated to be four years longer in India than in Bangladesh in 1990, but it had become three years shorter by 2008. Similarly, the child mortality rate was estimated to be about 24 per cent higher in Bangladesh than in India in 1990, but it was 24 per cent lower in Bangladesh in 2009. Most social indicators now look better in Bangladesh than in India, despite Bangladesh having barely half of India’s per capita income.
No less intriguing is that Nepal also seems to be catching up rapidly with India, and even overtaking India in some respects. Around 1990, Nepal was way behind India in terms of almost every development indicator. Today, social indicators for both countries are much the same (sometimes a little better in India still, sometimes the reverse), in spite of per capita income in India being about three times as high as in Nepal. … As expected, in terms of per capita income, India’s rank has improved—from fourth (after Bhutan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) to third (after Bhutan and Sri Lanka). But in most other respects, India’s rank has worsened, in fact, quite sharply in many cases. Overall, India had the best social indicators in South Asia in 1990, next to Sri Lanka, but now looks second-worst, ahead of only Pakistan. Looking at their South Asian neighbours, the Indian poor are entitled to wonder what they have gained—at least so far—from the acceleration of economic growth.”

Read the complete piece HERE.

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67 Responses to “Putting Growth In Its Place (Amartya Sen & Jean Dreze; OUTLOOK, Nov. 14, 2011)”

  1. Many will doubt the veracity of the Commie Sen and ,Socialist NAC’s ex-member, Dreze.

    • pega: such “doubt[s]” must also be squared against the hard data marshaled here — to be a communist/socialist is one thing, but a liar is another.

      • Propaganda leaves little sanity. They apply the logic of Nargis. Why does Ray focuses on poverty, he should show the good things ie Dams. Here the logic is that HDI aint matter much, look at the F1. Many of them are here. I am curious to hear their views.

  2. Re.-The comparison between Bangladesh and India is a good place to start

    all the bangladeshis are in India, so their record for sure will look better than India. LOL

    just kidding, will read the entire article and get back……

  3. and not to compare the hundreds of children dying of Malnutrition & hunger..and not to mention the large chunk of the population using open air grounds,railway tracks as toilet & bathrooms, last but not the least all the brothels in Calcutta,Mumbai etc where the childrens of the prostitutes cant even send their kids to school as no schools will enrole them for education…still we take pride in the developments of the Nation?

  4. This should have come as no surprise. The gap between the richest billionaires and the poorest masses is so huge, it has resulted in India having the steepest social pyramid of the world.

    I am not a socialist-commie at all, but I do believe that effective governmental taxation combined with efficient fiscal allocation results in general social upliftment. We lack both effective taxation and efficient allocation. I have heard lots of Indians gloating about having more billionaires than the Chinese. Well, the Chinese have less # of billionaires, but a much higher per capita income than Indians. Its because they have exponentially better taxation and infrastructural programmes.

    Consider this: Gadhaffi was killed for being brutal. However, by and large, the 6 million Libyans enjoyed basic income and govt subsidies at a per capita of around $6000 per annum. In comparison, GOI has set Rs 28/day or about $300 per annum as the poverty line. Lets ponder over that. The poor Indians do not even have NATO helping out to eradicate the Gadhaffis residing in our parliament.

    • NYKavi: it isn’t just about the Gaddafis in our Parliament — it’s about us too: “we” have all been cheering as everything that was good about the pre-1991 system has been dismantled along with everything that was bad (and Heaven knows, there was plenty that was bad). We can’t always outsource our responsibility to those in Parliament — in fact reaction to this piece will illustrate my point, with many choosing to shoot the messenger.

      • The way I see things..Pre-1991 everyone was poor, so nobody cared.Now some are rich and it is causing heart burn :)
        ps – People should go in villages and find out instead of looking at statistical data which are always prone to bias based on interpretators leanings. I am not suggesting there are no problems but if I look pre 1991 and now, there is lot of difference. Could we have done differently? May be but we haven’t been able to find out that “different”.

        • I dont think any educated Indian will be jealous, most probably he/she has had ownership of assets in India and has benefited handsomely over the last 20 yrs. That would include almost every Indian who comments on this blog. The question is not of heartburn. After all, what use are stashed away trillions, if even a insignificant percentage of that stash does not find its way to social services.
          Absent effective taxation, we keep collecting black money ever more vigorously. Not knowing what to do with it, we keep pumping it into property, thus inflating it beyond the levels of affordability for most avg Indians. If even 10% of that stash is used effectively in social schemes, it would help a lot more.

          • Of course heartburn part was not for Q :) I for one try to look for positives in any situation. My problem is with Govt. They are one at helm and have all power. I am not going to blame private sector for these inequalities. It is upto Govt to make these fields flat for everyone. If they are not able to do so, it is not a private sector problem.

            ps – US mei bhi desi restaurant wala bolta hai ki if you pay cash there won’t be tax!

        • But munna, the same statistical data is being used year-on-year, and across countries — the macro problem of statistics should be affecting everybody, i.e. it isn’t clear why your objections should lead to greater distortions for India than for Nepal; or, within India, for state ___ than for Tamil Nadu or Himachal…

          • Q – Why are Indian psephologist wrong most of the times ? Because it is just too diverse for any kind of statistical analysis. I am pretty sure all this is based on “supposedly ” representative data. In India nothing is sure shot until you have whole population as your data. I have lived many years in India to actually laugh at comments if someone says they know maternal mortality ratio. I will take this analysis with bucket of salt (the main figure at end says 1990 data could be significantly wrong ).

      • This is one of the arguments I dont like very much.

        The data shown is bad. And that needs to be worked on to fix. Instead of politicians swindling money alloted for fertilizers to mid-day meals to swindle the money even before it comes to government like 3G -if that was spent on all these crucial human index improvements, that would have been better.

        That doesnt mean we need to repent for improvements we find in our zone, Atleast something good happened.

  5. Aside: on social indices everyone talks about Kerala, so that was an obvious candidate for discussion in this article; but it was very interesting (and heartening) to see the discussion on Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu as well.

    Aside 2: a few days ago there was a news item in the Indian Express on how India’s average teen female fertility is now higher than in either Pakistan or Bangladesh; and then a few days later this appeared. In this piece, what I found was most striking was the comparison table from 1990 — nothing can justify how in the last 20 years — the best in a hundred or two hundred years in terms of economic growth — we have fallen behind RELATIVE to other sub-continental countries (than where we were in 1990) on so many important markers…And then there is the broader failure since 1947 to invest in primary education (where the Communist countries tend to do pretty well, not just China but Cuba and others; even the likes of Syria) — we’ve made decent investment in higher education, but not primary education.

    • On the contrary, I found this article having positive connotations.
      Atleast its not a cul-de-sac. There is some hope with democratic process. Those who see this as an eye-opener have been living in the matrix ( Plato’s Cave).

  6. This is an awesome read. I’ve yet to come across such a comprehensive dissection of India’s economic story…brilliant and very thought provoking.

    Here’s the crux of the matter though:

    “The growth record is very impressive, and provides an important basis for all-round development, not least by generating more public revenue (about four times as much today, in real terms, as in 1990).”

    So the public revenvue, adjusted for inflation, is actually 4 times that of 1990, and obviously is on the rise. That’s primarily Income Tax from people in the private sector. But inspite of this money coming into the Government’s coffers, the state of rural India has become much worse!

    That’s the key point. It’s not the rapid service sector and private sector growth that is the problem (in fact, one can argue that these industries do provide low level jobs to a lot of people), it’s the politicos who are sitting on this pile of cash that’s the biggest problem (hardly surprising!).

    And I’m going to state the obvious again — it’s so important that Anna Hazare and his team win against the government.

    More to the point, the PM of the country, no less, an Oxford PhD in Economics btw, gives out the statement that the rise in inflation is because of a rise in “affluence”. If you look at that statement in the context of the this research article, it looks like a sick joke rather than an extremely naive analysis of the situation. People’s salaries in the private sector, on an average, are not rising at the rate of 12.5%, which is the rate of food inflation in the country!

    Now give this argument to someone who earns 32 Rs a day and is just above the poverty line! It’s just sick…plain and simple!

    • Re: “That’s the key point. It’s not the rapid service sector and private sector growth that is the problem (in fact, one can argue that these industries do provide low level jobs to a lot of people), it’s the politicos who are sitting on this pile of cash that’s the biggest problem (hardly surprising!).”

      But along with the politicians, the problem is also that the capture of public power in the service of private interests is also proceeding at a dizzying pace: this isn’t just about politicians hoarding cash, but also about crony capitalists using access to government to make themselves (and politicians) rich — we can’t focus on only half the story. And then there’s the political angle: Sen/Dreze have one very clear prescription: growth by itself will not alleviate mass poverty, but growth is great because it gives you the potential means to do so — i.e. growth can fuel anti-poverty policies. BUT a policy/policies is/are needed. Seems obvious, except that many urban young Indians seem to make only half the connection, and a la Republicans, seem to believe that if growth continues at a great pace, the other problems will take care of themselves. Two decades of experience show that is not the case (many of the old, corruption compromised pre-1991 policies have withered away, but not much is replacing them — hence I support NREGA; all the data shows that despite loads of corruption and waste, it is achieving benefits (although it’s sad that it has to come to this, that something as anemic as NREGA has to be welcomed)). And the withering of public policy is part of the reason why (mere political corruption is not the answer: the politicians of Tamil Nadu are presumably as corrupt as those of _______. But clearly there seem to be some better/more sensible policies in place in the former rather than in ______).

      No argument with anti-corruption crusades — but I feel too many of those on the bandwagon give private corruption a free pass. It takes two to be corrupt, and in a sentence, it is the nexus (of power, business interests, and weak rule of law) that is toxic, rather than simply “politicians who are sitting on this pile of cash.”

      • PS — on Manmohan Singh, I take it you read this very fine piece in The Caravan on him?

      • Yes, I’m not denying the thrust of the piece — that socialism or socialist policies are essential in a developing country like India, where the inequality is very high. Put in another way, most people who are against socialist policies, are the biggest beneficiaries of capitalism and simply can’t see the other side of the equation.

        Yes, there’s a dangerous nexus between corporates and politicians, but that’s *still* a universal thing. In developed countries, however, the politicians are not as shamelessly corrupt as they are in India.

        And when there are so many problems facing the country, people have to ultimately priortize. Institutional corruption, that affects most people on a day-to-day basis needs to be wiped out first. Corporate corruption and malpractices can wait for a later day.

        The need of the hour is to work from the bottom up; Identify and eradicate one problem at a time. The authors of this piece cite many examples of RTI based data — data that has moved this research forward. And we have RTI thanks to Arvind Kejriwal.

        But leaving Anna and his campaign aside, the best strategy should be to first follow whatever is working in states like Kerala, TN & Himachal and make those policies universal. That’s the least that should be done. But the question is, how many politicians are even willing to listen?

        It shames me to read quotes from Digvijay Singh, Advani and even Manmohan Singh (!) every day! At least there’s some ray of hope offered by Anna and his supporters…I’m actually afraid for their lives. Twice, Kejriwal has been attacked; there are all sorts of personal accusations thrown about; their phones are being tapped…this is what you get when you confront the government of India in the 21st century!

      • iffrononfire Says:

        NREGA was good concept but one can see huge load of corruption and as of today its just a monopoly of one party to influence votes( sorry to say that) and also one see huge load of corruption in ground level

        growth is always be good and only argument one should have wheather it is inclusive or not

        you talked about private corruption but it gets patronage from public companies or government people and with the curbing of corruption in bureocracy automatically more scrutiny will be there in private sector

        who awards contracts to these private companies( again in case its the government people who awarded bids to these private people and the classic example is none other than 2 g )

      • iffrononfire Says:

        “People’s salaries in the private sector, on an average, are not rising at the rate of 12.5%, which is the rate of food inflation in the country!”

        exactly true and instead of merit government is hell bent on implementing sixth pay commision everwhere

        ya service industry provides the maximum employment and is creating niche jobs but still they are far more professional than most public set up and are contributing majore share of gdp … instead of pinpoing things why they are not concentrating on developing manufacturing industries which alone will provide mass scale jobs right from bottom level

        as for examples of kerala , or himachal is considered here are some facts …

        allmost 1 out of 3 keralities live in big cities in india and in abroad they contitute a major chunk of population in gulf thats where most of these moneys are coming from and hardly any socialism does the norm

        similarly himachal is a small smate and again tourism and apple production gives its major share

        • Yes, but do you realize why Keralites are easily able to find jobs in other places? Because they have a working educational system in place! That’s due to communist policies, not free market economy! The tribals in Chattisgarh do not have this luxury even though they were never ruled by Communists!

          I don’t even have much sympathy for Communism; taken as a whole, am a capitalist like everyone else, but let’s see the positives where they exist!

          Your point about manufacturing is a good one. There has been a deliberate attempt to discourage manufacturing at the cost of the service industry. I’m not sure what’s the reason behind it…

          • iffrononfire Says:

            again the counter argument is hw many of these jobs are education based (even i highly admire the literacy there )only

            you will be surprised to know a major chunk of them comes from service industry

            none of any communist system makes biharis adopt to most of low scale jobs in india and do mass migration in india and as for that matter punjabis in canada or gujjus in u.s or u.k(earlier)… it simply indicates lack of infrastructure or system in place

          • But with “basic” education in place, people can at least fend for themselves, no? The service industry also requires a modicum of education.

            The focus should be on what “works” in a wildly chaotic and corrupt system such as India’s! So basically, and simplifying things to the extreme, education works in Kerala; there are mandatory meals served for children in schools in TN and Himachal has seen a tremendous rise in literacy rates after rubbing shoulders with Bihar and UP.

            And, with that firmly said, there’s a further need to identify what works in other parts of the country as well. Based on social indices, research…whatever! And then finally, emulate those models and make them universal. That’s the least that should be done! More lofty goals can be taken up later.

            Doing this in no way jeopardises economic growth. There’s very good reason to believe it only increases it further — albeit in the long run!

  7. I am very skeptical about the data re social indices.
    Am not sure what is the source.
    Regardless, it is going to be poor and needs to be addressed.
    However , it cannot be used as an argument agaisnt economic growth.
    There is no perfect economic model, unfortunately.
    I am not sure who has the answer but if someone does it has to be Modi.

    • Don’t think this article argues against economic growth. But it fails to offer a solution, a crystal clear solution, to proper disbursement of public funds.

      On the other hand — and what I like most — is that the article points out areas within India (Kerala, Himachal & TN) where inspite of corruption and universal problems, there is a model that works.

      The thrust of the piece is to take this working model forward and make it universal; in fact build on it. And it obviously makes economic sense as well. With a healthier population, there’s a higher likelihood of higher production, which then leads to higher consumption and even higher economic growth. It’s actually in the interest of corporates to think in this direction; basically ditch short term thinking and adopt a long term planning.

    • iffrononfire Says:

      “And, with that firmly said, there’s a further need to identify what works in other parts of the country as well. Based on social indices, research…whatever! And then finally, emulate those models and make them universal. That’s the least that should be done! More lofty goals can be taken up later”

      for that there needs to be a genuine attempt and proper data to back it and india has history with census and how it work which itself questions the legitmacy of this

  8. iffrononfire Says:

    think its factually wrong with random examples

    instead of attacking growth it would have been better if sen would have looked at solutions for inclusive growth

    the classic example you mentioned is of modi and how growth alone has changed the face of gujrat and is creating ample job opportunities to others while the communist ideology only held back and put bengal backwards

    (Gujarat recorded the highest decadal agricultural growth of 10.97% during 2000-01 to 2009-10, a study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham) has concluded.

    As a part of the revolution, around 15 lakh hectares of additional land has been made cultivable in the semi-arid state, complementing a systematic and scientific development of the farm sector.

    Maharashtra followed closely Gujarat in agri-growth, registering 10.40% during the decade. At the third position, it is Chhattisgarh with a growth 6%. Kerala and Jharkhand recorded the lowest growth during the decade with 0.39% and 0.37%
    respectively.

    “Revolutionary steps like investment in agricultural infrastructure to improve irrigation system, employment of latest technologies and establishment of a dedicated power grid to ensure regular power supply for agriculture sector has contributed to agricultural growth in Gujarat,” said DS Rawat, secretary-general at Assocham.

    He said that the innovative and efficient management of groundwater has been a turning point for Gujarat. “Barren lands have been converted into fertile farms with higher productivity and reduced cultivation costs,” Rawat added.

    http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_at-10-97pct-gujarat-tops-decadal-agricultural-growth-in-country_1565321)

    in this ever increasing globalized world if we would not concentrate on building infrastructurre we as nation will be isolated

    • This article isn’t about a debate on Capitalism Vs Communism. That’s not the point. You, yourself talk about “inclusive” growth. The authors of the article have pointed out that while opening up the economy has worked wonders for a huge number of people in India, it has NOT resulted in “inclusive” growth.

      I’m not trying to challenge the notion that Gujarat has become quite a prosperous state; but the general point stands — we have two Indias, and people from the two nations are quite oblivious of each other.

      • iffrononfire Says:

        proper disbursement of public funds will only come with more transparency even the late rajeev gandhi once pointed out when i relese 1 rs out ot it only 1 paise reach to the people ( and the rest get lost in buerocracy only )

        why for that matter lokpal is pending for last 42 years simply because these people have the control on maximum resources of funds and thats when you will attack the big fish automatically small fish gets affected and as for private corruption is concerned it again gets the patronage from public sector or politicians who are framing the rules

  9. This has been a fascinating discussion all round. Without really getting into it at the moment I will make a larger point. Often in these discussions we find it hard to imagine other alternatives that are practical enough. In other words the response often seems to be that the only real possibility is that of the present. The alternatives are either not possible at all or not pragmatic, workable ones. Either way one is consigned to accept the present. One can certainly be a critic and pick on aspects of this ‘arrangement’ but one can never question the edifice itself or the essential premises. I am reminded of something Zizek often says with respect to all kinds of political and economic debates in the US. His very valid point is that on the one we all the time talk about crossing new frontiers in areas ranging from space explorations to genome research and so on. The stuff of ‘science fiction’ becomes very ‘possible’ in such a paradigm. On the other hand you talk about having health care for everyone and suddenly this is totally ‘impossible’. So on and so forth. In other words migrating to Mars is more ‘possible’ than having universal health care (even if the model for the latter exists in different countries).

    Once again these are ‘political’ arguments or ideological ones. Seemingly neutral terms about what is possible or not, pragmatic or not are really about much deeper ideological ‘pre-defined’ positions. And this is what I was trying to get at in the whole corruption debate that Dimps referenced just now. But this happens both at political and economic levels. The only possibilities we dare to imagine are the ones we already see in our world. These are then defined as pragmatic. So there’s a failure of imagination here but also a bit of a circular argument. The possible is defined by what exists.

    And once more I haven’t taken sides here one way or the other.

  10. I think the article has selectivley selected data.
    Here are some relevant links form UNICEF for India and Bangladesh. Very few indices show India lagging behind Bangladesh.
    Plus, I suspect Bangladeshi data is incomplete or somehow manipulated.
    http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/bangladesh_bangladesh_statistics.html
    http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/india_statistics.html

    • From more than one comment on this thread, it seems people find it very hard to accept that India could actually be behind Bangladesh on this or that index — but why not? I’m afraid we have our head in the sand if we think so — and by the way, given our rankings of 4 and 5 on this table in most things, it isn’t just Bangladesh; we’re evidently behind a lot of sub-continental countries on a lot of things (we’re ahead on many too). But we’re getting lost with the focus only on Bangladesh: in general, the sub-continent is hardly East Asia on many of these indices, and to not even be dominating those charts is troubling. Several of us seem to simply find this “bad data” — with no evidence that could counter this. But while we’re on bangladesh, I should point out that country is recognized the world over for the advancements it has made despite a lot of poverty — it is only we Indians who seem to be completely unaware of Bangladesh’s achievements (to the point where we assume that somehow the Bangladeshi data is much more unreliable than Indian data — where’s the evidence or the explanation?). Stated differently: in 1971 East pakistan was way behind West Pakistan in most areas; today Pakistan is almost at the bottom in of the sub-continental countries in many of these indices, and Bangladesh way ahead — they deserve credit for it.

      I think Dreze’s and Sen’s argument is pretty nuanced: rather than abuse politicians without more, they point to how democracy and pro-poor policies are the only thing that can “save” us — powered by high economic growth, because without growth there is no money to pay for anything! Nowhere is there a claim that India is not “better off” vis-a-vis 1990, but yes, the data does suggest that over the last 20 years, other countries in our neighborhood have done much better than us in improving the lives of the poorest in important ways (and, within India, some states have done much better than others at improving the lives of the poorest). What is so hard to accept about this? To focus only on corrupt politicians shouldn’t become an excuse to not come up with any new policies (I get the sense we sometimes use corruption in the political class to inculcate greater passivity — i.e. “no point in doing anything as the politicians will just steal the money”; oddly enough the same argument is not employed if someone says “why bother with a new law when the police are corrupt anyway?”).

      • It may be worse I don’t think there are surveys based on these indices. I think data must be relatively small and smaller the sample data the chances of error in India (or Pakistan or Bangladesh[I can not say same thing about China or Srilanka]) are too much.

      • “To focus only on corrupt politicians shouldn’t become an excuse to not come up with any new policies” – what can a common citizen really do???????????

        I genuinely dont think we lack the correct policies.

        Besides, the corrupt politicians make policies based on what they ca)n advertize for votes (where the poor people’s votes do count. )

        Even if we have proper policies which I am sure India has plenty, as the Rajiv’s famous theory goes the poor arent even going to get even the stick of popsicle!

        Corruption is 90% of the deal.

        Now, I am curious as to how Bangladesh battles corruption in this regard?

  11. While itis true that the article or authors are not arguing against growth but just by juxtaposing the two, they have managed to create an impression of either trying to argue against or to cast doubts about the importance/relevance/legitimacy of the growth.
    It indeed is a paradox where India inspiteof considerable economic strides remains somewhat backward in these social indices. I really dont think it is a paradox for several reasons.
    Regardles, this remains an issue that needs to be tackled.
    While India may not be behind BG as the article seems to suggest, it certainly is nowhere near where it needs to be.

    • I think they are mainly calling out the people who are happy to sing “India Shining.”

      • India is of course not shining, but it is better than pre1990. I think Govt should act as facilitator for good things and try to make the field equal for everyone. We lag behind on different indices but it not because of the people but because of the politcians who are at helm.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/09/world/asia/09gurgaon.html?pagewanted=all

        Even in US, we find lot of disparity in different regions. US poverty…
        http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2011/11/07/bloomberg_articlesLUAZ5R0D9L35.DTL

        • that is also the point that I’m arguing…but I believe there are steps that can be taken before overhauling the political system. This can be done by exerting public pressure…through people like Anna Hazare…

        • In the US we are living through one of the worst periods in terms of income disparity. The last such comparable period was in the 1920s (that too led to a financial crash!) but before this it was the 1890s. What is even more troubling is the fact that many upward mobility indices rank the US behind many European countries!

          Will say though that a lot of ‘reform’ in the free market sense of the word empowers certain dominant middle classes and truly makes their lot ‘better’. from hereon it is somewhat convenient for these newly ‘liberated’ classes to imagine that everyone will sooner or later get better off and if not the ‘system’ is to blame in terms of poor administrative machinery or corruption or what have you. But isn’t this a rather ‘easy’ response? For one it’s not that people are ‘poor’ as a neutral category. They are poor in specific ways. For example one could say that a poor farmer is living the same sort of impoverished existence that a poor laborer in a factory is getting through. But the ‘conditions’ are not the same even if the result is. There are very different political choices that have made the world of one possible as opposed to that of the other. If we define the lives of both as simply ‘poor’ with no other characteristic being particularly significant we can present both and many like them as an abstraction called poverty. But in our own lives we do not at all consider things the same just because we might equally earn the same income doing very different things. In other words I’d rather not be a plumber if I can be a corporate lawyer or a tech guru or what have you even if I can earn the very same from a plumbing business. But at the lower end we don’t define things this way — it’s all the same. Either someone is poor or not. The differentiation begins only when one has made it to a certain class.

          The more pragmatic problem connected with this is that as long as you perform this abstraction you can remain impervious to the ‘newer’ forms of poverty that a newer economic arrangement can introduce. So progress for some means economic problems for others. Just because many of these people were poor anyway doesn’t mean we should ignore the specific forms of poverty a newer arrangement introduces. So for examples a farmer lives hand to mouth in Madhya Pradesh, one day a dam is built and he has to move (forcibly) to another village where he has no experience in growing the different crops he now has to master and he’s also been completely uprooted from an environment he’s known for generations. How much more complicated this becomes in a country with enormous religious and caste sensitivities. But somehow this ‘progress’ is needed for the overall good’. ‘Whose’ good might that be? We console ourselves that this farmer was poor anyway. He shouldn’t mind that much being poor elsewhere! Again we take him out of the field of politics and simply register him as a biological being trying to get by. and this example is not that of the exception. In India it is still better than in China where forcibly millions of people are moved around all the time and what not.

          all of this comes about when a certain view of the free market is upheld. The question we do not like to confront is this: it is not that the poor remain stagnant while some of us get better. The poor have to be created anew to make ‘Shining India’ possible. I am not at all oblivious to the liberating and emancipatory potential of the free market. It has clearly made a huge difference in India, even at the rural level where for example business done entirely through cell phones has lifted people out of their old ‘deadlocks’ of social and economic arrangements. So I am not ignoring all of this. But it’s a question of how these things are counted. It is sometimes hard to really absorb the scale of just how ‘difficult’ life can be in India once one gets past the ‘miracle’ of major cities (problems as there are in these as well) and so on in the sense that there are very few avenues of upward mobility in any meaningful sense. and India is still a model system compared to what happens in very many parts of the globe. There is definitely that which is ‘good’ about the present but the ‘bad’ is simply not accepted as such. We know about the ills of socialism, let alone communism. But what of the ills of capitalism? On balance one might still prefer the latter but why not try and truly alter the assumptions of this system as opposed to simply accepting what is?

          • The ‘poor’ farmer, given the opportunity, given the basic facilities, is actually a ‘consumer’ in waiting! So by investing in basic amenities, one is actually sowing the seeds of capitalism. It’s like investing in a stock, where you run LONG and reap the benefits tenfold at a later date. It’s actually a win-win situation for everyone…

          • Well articulated but in real world nobody cares for displaced poor farmer though he has same voting power as others. May be because they are not voting in en bloc…I don’t see there is genuine concern in any form of establisment for such people. I think in any form of establisment we will always have people with varying degree of wealth. Some must be poor just by birth and some by actions. My point is Govt should give enough opportunities so that they can rise. So you are right in sense that globalism/capitalism is good but it doesn’t give same level of opportunity to poor than say middle class or rich people.

            As for happiness and what we want part I like to point to speech by Mr Bernanke..

            http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/speech/bernanke20100508a.htm

    • Didn’t have time to go over the entire table, but the first one, “basic indicators” shows a stark picture. Bangladesh was much worse than India in Under 5 mortality rate, infant mortality rate in 1990, but fares much better than India in 2009! This supports the above article. India also has a poorer life expectancy compared to Bangladesh!

      The only place where India is ahead of Bangladesh in the “basic indicators” list is adult literacy rate and GNI. But we do know that the GNI average is hardly indicative of the real picture in the rest of the country. It could be the same for literacy rate as well, where pockets inside the country disproportionally tilt the figures in its favor…

  12. iffrononfire Says:

    even i like what they are giving out these people who suddenly at the time of election remembers india shining or latest bharat nirman all over in ads

  13. Alex adams Says:

    Statistics hide more than they reveal
    There are umpteen ways of “data mining” wherein the desired “result” can be reached “prospectively ”
    India is unlike any other country (or even continent)
    Showing a semiclad no-good sleeping on a road can’t take away any credit for marked improvements.
    It’s a matter of time for many landmarks for India
    But it’s the deep seated attitudinal issues ingrained in the genetic makeup that pose bigger issues than the current “global financial crisis” which has woken up even the ultra lazy siesta-addicted Greeks for eg

    • I actually have a lot of sympathy for the Greeks. According to a study in Lancet, suicide rates have jumped upwards of 50% since the last 2 years and there are reports that people are injecting themselves with HIV virus…just so that they can lay claim to a 600 euro/month medical benefit for the terminally ill!

      It’s all easy to pounce and make fun of the “lazy” Greeks, but heaven forbid another nation ever face this situation. Having said that, I of course, completely forgot about the African countries…

  14. Alex adams Says:

    Hmmm so u r reading the lancet
    Impressive…
    Btw injecting HIV and suicide rates of 50% maybe an exaggeration.
    Crises differ in degree but more according to the tolerance of the sufferer

    Financial” suffering” is only one type of suffering
    And that’s where the “poor” gets compensated (mostly)……

    • It’s not just financial suffering…it’s the prospect of suffering that will last God knows how many years for Greece. Their economy has contracted heavily since the last 2 years; Unemployment rate is upto 16-17% with more job cuts on the line.

      Basically, it’s not part-time suffering; it’s the prospect of really long-term suffering that is driving people to take these ultra-extreme steps. Greece does not have a competitive labor market to compete with even the rest of Europe. With the ECB bailing Greece out, the conditions set the term for even higher taxes!

      Economy shrinks, jobs are lost, taxes are increased! What exactly is the ray of hope for these people?

  15. Alex adams Says:

    “Economy shrinks, jobs are lost, taxes are increased! What exactly is the ray of hope for these people?”—by LEARNING to live within their means
    Delusions of grandeur & flashbacks of ex-greatness count to nothing
    Working hard and competition does

  16. Alex adams Says:

    “Job creation” doesnt happen in vacuum
    It’s a vicous circle with many steps feeding into each other
    For eg
    Certain societies like Greece took their “developed status ” for granted and thought it was their “birth right” to be blessed with all the goodies
    The only thing permanent is change
    Those who don’t adjust –are left without “jobs” — & this “joblessness” manifests in numerous ways

    • You should probably read a bit more about the Greek debt problem. It’s not the overall feeling of laissez faire that contributed to the country’s downfall…the Government along with some key financial institutions (the bulwarks of economy?) created this problem. In Greece’s case, it became so huge that they no longer can service it with Taxes…and because they are part of the EU, they can’t even print money!

  17. Aside: Here’s an example of a “chain effect” in place

    I could argue that for every IPAD bought, there’s possibly a job being created in India…

    How? Whoever buys the Ipad, gives the money to Apple, who then invest in the manufacturing sector in China, bumping up their economy.

    China has a vested interest in pegging the Yuan to the dollar in such a way that there’s more stuff imported by the US. So China purposefully invests money into the US economy keeping the Yuan “artificially” lower.

    The US, apart from manufacturing (China) also requires a lot of services, for which it looks towards India. The same money is then pumped into India, into the Services sector, which then creates a job directly in the Service sector or ancillary industries that serve the service sector.

    Consumption isn’t all that bad; in some ways, it’s a form of charity!

  18. Alex adams Says:

    Have least inclination to bother about the Greeks
    From personal experience with Greeks, have noticed a certain laid-back tendencies .
    Also the rating and income of this country has long exceeded what it deserved

    Talking of iPads helping economy–reminds me of this

    Sent from my iPad

  19. Alex adams Says:

    And talking of the lancet
    Just reminded me of a psychiatrist callled salim jakhra? I uncovered here
    Wndering whether his profession got the better of him

    Hope he/she is ok

  20. Although i’m for liberalization as it increases our basket of choices but hand in hand we need vigorous state intervention in healthcare,education and infrastructure.Perhaps India’s largely stagnant HDI discredits the the much touted trickle down theory. 52% of population is still in the agricultural sector while services accounts for 2/3 rd of the national income but employment in services has not risen,but decreased marginally in last few years.Without expanding the manufacturing sector i don’t see how such a large unskilled/semi skilled labour force could be accomodated.
    On Hazare’s campaign,evenif a bit late,(as Q,satyam and saket has pointed here and elsewhere) although its largely urban middle class constituency could be accused of seeing corruption in a blinkered framework,but i don’t think castigating the movement wholesale is the right way to go.Needless to say middle class is the most vocal group and is worked up mostly on issues such as efficiency, corruption etc. as it directly undermines their newly acquired money and hubris.But in a society such as ours, such campaigns wouldn’t evolve as per a blueprint but we have to take necessarily piecemeal approach.The problem with the Movement’s critics on the ordhodox left(prominently Aijaz Ahmed and Prabhat Patnaik terming it as ‘pre-modern’ and a ‘veritable comedy in messianism’)is they want it to be fine at every nuts and bolts.I remember similar discourse on Mayawati’s self aggrandizing Park/statue campaign.The way it was simply dismissed as having mere symbolic value as oppossed to structural ones doesn’t get that these symbolic gestures are in a sense a way of assertion in Gramscian battle for hegemony.Yes,its the real democratization/empowerment which obviously matters but what i don’t agree with is the narrative which neatly counterposes the piecemeal/symbolic changes to structural ones

    • ABHISHEKR!!!! And I thought I had been absent from the blog for a while? Bhai kahaan hain aap? Drop me an email if you’re still in Delhi, as I do occasionally go there for work…

  21. Similarly on hazare’s campaign those taking legalistic position,ranging from sober invocation of Ambedkar’s ‘grammar of anarchy’ to undermining of parliament to its bombastic comparision with tea party doesn’t see that it has as such sharpened the discourse,from the position of standing committee to the theoretical framework in pre legislative inputs(some were harping on NAC in particular) are to be elicited from various interest groups and piblic at large.

  22. Thomos Friedman Interview with NDTV-
    finally someone else besides me equates Anna hazare movement with Occupy Wallstreet-
    P.S- I want to get rid of three bad habbits- 1. Corruption ……oops can’t remeber the other two………lol
    this is so another Bush in the making….

    http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/news/americans-can-learn-a-lot-from-the-anna-hazare-movement-thomas-friedman/215462

    • there is certainly something in the air in a global sense from the US to India to other parts of the world. But in each instance much as in India it’s a relatively inadequate response to more structural problems. It’s great to see people protest, great to see something come out of it but the larger ‘imbalance’ is often about something else and the ‘crowds’ can only hazily address this. Again this is welcome on its own. But when was the last time for example that anyone got that excited about poverty in India?!

    • how about getting rid of the EPA??? lol

      • Ha! You know for once I was even sorry for him. doesn’t get anymore humiliating than that! But what the freak show often obscures is just the overall horrifyingly bankrupt level of the discourse on the Republican side. And the one seemingly sane guy seems to give prostitution a bad name the way he changes positions (yes bad choice of words I know!) and sells out. This is not really an ideological argument on my part. The overall debate on that side seems to be at grade 2 level.

      • Man, that was some youtube clip. I think he could have handled it better by just saying “hey so much information is thrown at you sometimes you forget” instead of freezing as he did — with his personality, he could have lived it down (Romney or Obama cannot live that kind of thing down no matter what), but he handled it so poorly, as if he had stage-fright…

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