Amartya at his public lecture
AT a hugely attended public lecture by Amartya Sen, courtesy of Prothom Alo and CPD on Monday, the Nobel Laureate, made some path-shinning comments of practical relevance to contemporary affairs in the subcontinent. In precise terms, he advocated development with a strong human content and democracy with liberty and free discourse.
He simply says that economic growth and human development are intertwined. Economic progress makes resource available for human development based on quantum and qualitative leaps in education and health sectors. Governments will have to invest there in a seminal way. For he underscores the point that in no country, without the government having made critical investments in universal education and healthcare systems, has the private sector come forward in such spheres. By keeping a larger proportion of people in ill-health and uneducated can economic progress be sustained in the long run?
Amartya Sen has had words of praise for Bangladesh -- we are ahead of India in terms of education spread, healthcare, women's empowerment and gender equity. So far so good, but in one respect, to our mind, both countries have a similarity which is in their highly skewed income distribution patterns.
On democracy, his observations are equally convincing. He thinks that democracy in India or Bangladesh will take time to reach a state of relative perfection. In any political discourse, the quest for improvement is important. If we are looking to improve democracy, there is no alternative to seeking it through discussion. But Amartya laments that the space for discussion is shrinking day by day. None can disagree with him.