Washington, DC – West Bengal was a bastion of communism for years, where concern for the downtrodden and discussion of the line between the haves and have-nots was a favorite pastime, until the population became disillusioned with the empty talk and threw off the yoke of the communist party. Today we are reminded of the need for the redistribution of the benefits of Indian economic growth to its underprivileged in a new book.
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen from West Bengal joined hands with a naturalized Indian, Belgian born Jean Dreze, to argue in 434 pages titled, “An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions” that despite India’s rapid economic success, there is a lack of improvement in the condition of its social fabric, which is intricately embroiled in rampant corruption, widespread abuse of women, and discrimination on the basis of caste.
Noting that over the past three decades the nation has become the second fastest growing economy in the world behind its neighbor China, the book highlights the lack of infrastructure, which is needed to support education, medical facilities, potable water, around-the-clock power supply, transportation, and drainage and sanitary facilities for the country’s large population.
India has a caste system that runs deep in the Indian psyche and day to day life, but there is an emerging ruling elite that is defined not only by caste, but also by gender, education and income. This new class of rulers has evolved over the last several decades, but there has been no parallel emergence of concern at any level for the rest of the masses. The authors allege that most of the movers and shakers of society have little concern for the majority of the population and this attitude can decelerate long term growth and prosperity if the fruits of economic growth do not filter down to the have-nots.
The book overflows with statistical data, detailed scholarly notes and indicators in tabular form; however, in its conclusion, it offers a utopian path to a solution – to use democratic sustainable practices to break the restraints that are holding back the efforts to address India’s deprivations and inequalities.
Largely due to the presence of an army of well-trained bureaucrats, the authors feel if the country is led with a vision, there is the promise of beneficial change; otherwise, India is set to be doomed.
“The democratic politics of India do offer opportunities for the most deprived Indians ‘to reflect on their own strength’, and to demand that the critically important inequalities that ruin the lives of so many people in the country be rapidly remedied,” the authors conclude, but fail to remember that the book is in English and will never reach those to whom the call for reflection and demand is addressed.