In this Idea Exchange, economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen speaks about the controversy triggered by his remarks on Narendra Modi and why it is wrong to brand him anti-growth or pro-government. The session was moderated by Editor, Mumbai, P Vaidyanathan Iyer
P VAIDYANATHAN IYER: The launch of your book coincided with the new poverty numbers, which show that the poverty level sharply dropped in the seven years till 2010-11. Do you think increased spending on education, employment schemes and healthcare contributed to this?
My answer is yes. While I think we have largely neglected these sectors, some of the bump for poverty reduction reflects that at long last school education has been expanding, and we are getting some results because that makes it participatory. Here, I believe, even the much-maligned MNREGA makes a contribution. But the second point is it is not only a cash fault with education, there is also the problem of organisation. The term quality control has become a bad word in India now and people are increasingly asking for promotions without exam. While there may be a case for promotion, there is absolutely no case for not having monitoring mechanisms.
The issue of irresponsibility of teachers is (also) a very big problem. The need for private tuitions indicates that there is something not happening in schools... and private tuition is not affordable for poor people. Schools have to understand that many people coming into the educational ladder have no other educated family member to teach them...
We have to be very conscious of quality and I think that the latest moves are very negative. We are going in the exact opposite direction from what we need in quality control of school education.
The credit for poverty reduction as per the all-India figure goes to a great extent to the successful states and you have to see what they have been doing in education and healthcare etc, and you know quite a lot of the bump is connected with that and you know they are not just the very successful ones, Kerala, Tamil Nadu etc, but in a smaller way there are many other states that have done well too.
So while my short answer is yes, the long answer does not negate the yes. But there is no need for smugness at this time.
P VAIDYANATHAN IYER: Another discourse in India is one on growth versus inflation. Inflation is seen as a