What is RBI Reading?*

 The Book: An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions
Authors: Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen
Publisher: ALLEN LANE an imprint of Penguin Books
Price: Rs699/-
Pages: 434

Closely following its release, the latest book ‘An Uncertain Glory’ by Dreze and Sen has kicked off a debate on India Growth Story with some focus on the political handling of poverty in the country. Notwithstanding the fact that observations made by authors have been picked up at random, depending on the constituency interests of the individual participant in the debate, there is a bright possibility of the disparities in economic development within the country getting more attention, even from authorities like the Planning Commission, in the coming days.
The rich content of the book is not amenable to the kind of casual criticism that is pouring in. The book has chapters devoted to a wide range of development issues including those on Integrating Growth and Development, India in Comparative Perspective, Accountability and Corruption, The Centrality of Education, India’s Healthcare Crisis, Poverty and Social Support and The Grip of Inequality. The text is supported with a rich and exhaustive Statistical Appendix. Consistent with their earlier practice, the authors have avoided ‘off the cuff’ observations and every statement is made with responsibility and reasoning. Readers, including economists of a different school, have the freedom to disagree and criticize, but jealousy should not stop them from giving credit for the effort made by the authors to bring back the focus on the deprived class by recording the stark realities of the contradictions in the India Growth Story.
It is unfortunate that the economists and planners have chosen a defensive mode and started chasing Amartya Sen, picking and choosing certain observations in the book. ‘An Uncertain Glory’, hopefully, will find a place on the table of every individual who has some stake in, or something to contribute towards, a change of course in the country’s economic development, with a bias towards inclusive growth. Ignoring the warning signals in the book about the perils of neglecting education, healthcare and poverty alleviation and the intolerance of protests will be disastrous to India’s emergence as a developed nation in the near future.
(Contributed by: M G Warrier, Ex-GM, DGBA, Mumbai)

*Published in RBI Newsletter, August 31, 2013


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