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India at Crossroads | World Leaders Forum - Columbia University | April 2, 2019

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Akeel Bigrami: The World Leaders Forum Akeel Bigrami: was created by Lee Ballinger Akeel Bigrami: to bring to our university Akeel Bigrami: women and men, Akeel Bigrami: not just with political authority, Akeel Bigrami: but also intellectual authority, Akeel Bigrami: to present their thoughts to us Akeel Bigrami: without fear Akeel Bigrami: of anything except Akeel Bigrami: public engagement and discussion. Akeel Bigrami: It is in that spirit Akeel Bigrami: that Amartya Sen and Prabhat Patnaik Akeel Bigrami: have been invited Akeel Bigrami: to speak today at this event Akeel Bigrami: for which we've all been keenly waiting. Akeel Bigrami: The theme today is Akeel Bigrami: "India at Crossroads" Akeel Bigrami: -an apt topic, Akeel Bigrami: since one meaning of crossroads is, Akeel Bigrami: in my dictionary, Akeel Bigrami: a crucial point, Akeel Bigrami: especially when a decision is to be made Akeel Bigrami: And as we know, Akeel Bigrami: the General Elections in India Akeel Bigrami: will be underway this month Akeel Bigrami: -an election that will decide Akeel Bigrami: whether India will continue Akeel Bigrami: even more steeply down the path Akeel Bigrami: of right-wing religious nationalism Akeel Bigrami: or return to some of its past ideals Akeel Bigrami: of secularism and economic policies Akeel Bigrami: intended to uplift the lives Akeel Bigrami: of poor and working people. Akeel Bigrami: But, of course, Akeel Bigrami: a proper concern for the decisions Akeel Bigrami: we are about to make for the future Akeel Bigrami: depends, widely, Akeel Bigrami: on how we understand our past Akeel Bigrami: and our present. Akeel Bigrami: And so, it's really to provide Akeel Bigrami: that analysis in depth, Akeel Bigrami: that we've brought our two guests here. Akeel Bigrami: I'm going to introduce our speakers Akeel Bigrami: with much more brevity than they deserve and command. Akeel Bigrami: This gives them as much time to speak themselves. Akeel Bigrami: We really want to hear from them, Akeel Bigrami: not about them. Akeel Bigrami: They are both figures of international renown Akeel Bigrami: with a brace of awards and prizes Akeel Bigrami: and honorary degrees between them. Akeel Bigrami: Amartya Sen is the Lamont professor Akeel Bigrami: at Harvard where he teaches both Akeel Bigrami: economics and philosophy. Akeel Bigrami: He is a Nobel laureate in economics, Akeel Bigrami: has been the Master of Trinity College in Cambridge, Akeel Bigrami: as well as the Drummond Professor Akeel Bigrami: of Political Economy at Oxford. Akeel Bigrami: Before that, he taught at Akeel Bigrami: Jadavpur University, Akeel Bigrami: University of Calcutta, Akeel Bigrami: and the Delhi School of Economics. Akeel Bigrami: His books include Akeel Bigrami: Collective Choice and Social Welfare, Akeel Bigrami: Poverty and Famines, Akeel Bigrami: Development as Freedom, Akeel Bigrami: and, most recently, The Idea of Justice. Akeel Bigrami: Prabhat Patnaik, Akeel Bigrami: who went to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, Akeel Bigrami: taught economics at Cambridge University Akeel Bigrami: for some years before responding to a call Akeel Bigrami: to join and help set up Akeel Bigrami: the Center for Economic Studies Akeel Bigrami: at the newly-formed Akeel Bigrami: Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, Akeel Bigrami: nobly forsaking Akeel Bigrami: a most promising international Akeel Bigrami: academic career to serve his own country, Akeel Bigrami: where he has taught ever since Akeel Bigrami: until retiring last year. Akeel Bigrami: His books include Akeel Bigrami: Accumulation and Stability under Capitalism, Akeel Bigrami: The Value of Money, Akeel Bigrami: Retreat to Unfreedom Akeel Bigrami: and most recently, Akeel Bigrami: An Economic Theory of Imperialism. Akeel Bigrami: They are both here Akeel Bigrami: because they are, Akeel Bigrami: as this event's nomenclature has it, Akeel Bigrami: world leaders of human thought Akeel Bigrami: about public life. Akeel Bigrami: By which I mean that, Akeel Bigrami: what makes them stand out Akeel Bigrami: apart from the measurable Akeel Bigrami: productions and achievements that I have just mentioned, Akeel Bigrami: is that they believe something that most leaders Akeel Bigrami: increasingly have ceased to believe: Akeel Bigrami: that ideas make a difference Akeel Bigrami: to politics and public life, Akeel Bigrami: that it makes all the difference to politics and public life, Akeel Bigrami: whether you put truth in the first place Akeel Bigrami: or the second. Akeel Bigrami: I will hand over things now to Ruchira Gupta Akeel Bigrami: who has very kindly agreed to moderate and chair Akeel Bigrami: the proceedings this evening. Akeel Bigrami: Miss Gupta is a very important public figure herself, Akeel Bigrami: a journalist and activist Akeel Bigrami: of deep and consistent commitments Akeel Bigrami: to women's issues. Akeel Bigrami: She has worked over the years with the United Nations, Akeel Bigrami: the BBC and the wide range of international newspapers Akeel Bigrami: before she became the founder and chair Akeel Bigrami: of the remarkable NGO called up Apne Aap, Akeel Bigrami: whose work has been recognized with honors both Akeel Bigrami: by the House of Lords in Britain and Akeel Bigrami: the Clinton Foundation in this country. Akeel Bigrami: Her scholarly writing is focused Akeel Bigrami: mostly on human trafficking Akeel Bigrami: and the legal and moral resources Akeel Bigrami: with which it must be confronted. Akeel Bigrami: Columbia is very privileged Akeel Bigrami: to have the speakers tonight and Akeel Bigrami: I ask you to join me in welcoming them. [applause] Ruchira Gupta: Good evening everyone. Ruchira Gupta: I'm very honored to be chairing this discussion today Ruchira Gupta: at a very critical time in India. Ruchira Gupta: India is going to polls on the 11th of April Ruchira Gupta: and the election results will be declared on 23rd of May. Ruchira Gupta: In an extraordinary exercise of world momentum, there are more than 450 parties Ruchira Gupta: which will be fighting elections this time Ruchira Gupta: and more than 500 million people Ruchira Gupta: who will cast their votes. Ruchira Gupta: The unfortunate part of this great exercise Ruchira Gupta: is that we have found that 21 million women Ruchira Gupta: are missing from the electoral rolls this time Ruchira Gupta: and more than 12% Muslims and Dalits. Ruchira Gupta: These are challenges that the Election Commission Ruchira Gupta: should have and is trying to overcome Ruchira Gupta: but has not been able to in time for this election. Ruchira Gupta: The other challenge that India faces, Ruchira Gupta: as we go to polls this time, Ruchira Gupta: is a creeping fascism, Ruchira Gupta: which seems to have overtaken many of our institutions Ruchira Gupta: and has also challenged the very law and order, Ruchira Gupta: which has provided the stability and Ruchira Gupta: been the bedrock for the growth of India. Ruchira Gupta: It has been replaced by a vigilantism. Ruchira Gupta: This vigilantism is influenced by right-wing Ruchira Gupta: and outright fascist forces. Ruchira Gupta: Its founders initiated a dialogue with Hitler Ruchira Gupta: and then met with Mussolini in 1929. Ruchira Gupta: They formed a group called the RSS, Ruchira Gupta: which spawned a political party, Ruchira Gupta: first called the Jan Sangh and now the BJP. Ruchira Gupta: The BJP government has been in power for the last five years. Ruchira Gupta: Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ruchira Gupta: this government has not just eroded our institutions, Ruchira Gupta: but has also made the very life of individual citizens insecure, Ruchira Gupta: especially Muslims, Dalits and women. Ruchira Gupta: There has been rape with impunity. Ruchira Gupta: There has been attacks on Muslims and Dalits, Ruchira Gupta: in village after village, Ruchira Gupta: in the name of Love Jihad and Cow-Vigilantism (e.g.: people murdered on suspicion of eating or transporting beef). Ruchira Gupta: There has been an erosion of our monetary systems. Ruchira Gupta: There has been something called demonetization. Ruchira Gupta: And I have two of the world's greatest experts who will talk about it. Ruchira Gupta: There has been a deep agrarian crisis. Ruchira Gupta: There has been an attack on the university system, Ruchira Gupta: including a university where Prabhat taught-Jawaharlal Nehru University. Ruchira Gupta: Students have been on the run-arrested falsely. Ruchira Gupta: So, for India, there is a lot at stake in this election Ruchira Gupta: -to keep our democracy intact, Ruchira Gupta: to keep our institutions intact and Ruchira Gupta: to keep our democratic norms intact. Ruchira Gupta: This election is going to be very critical Ruchira Gupta: in defining what India does in the coming years and Ruchira Gupta: what India becomes in the coming years. Ruchira Gupta: With the wisdom of Prabhat and Amartya Sen Ruchira Gupta: who I have with us today, Ruchira Gupta: I don't have to say more. Ruchira Gupta: So, I would like to start by asking Professor Patnaik, Ruchira Gupta: Prabhat, as we all call him in India Ruchira Gupta: to speak about what his thoughts are Ruchira Gupta: at this critical moment in our history. Prabhat Patnaik: Thank you, Ruchira, professors and friends. Prabhat Patnaik: It's a real pleasure and privilege for me to be here, Prabhat Patnaik: to be part of this event and to be part of this panel, Prabhat Patnaik: which includes Professor Amartya Sen, Prabhat Patnaik: who apart from everything else, Prabhat Patnaik: also happens to be my teacher in the Delhi School of Economics. Prabhat Patnaik: He was my teacher of economics. Prabhat Patnaik: As Ruchira said, Prabhat Patnaik: India certainly is, currently at the crossroads, Prabhat Patnaik: in a very obvious way. Prabhat Patnaik: The elections, which are coming, Prabhat Patnaik: are going to be extremely crucial. Prabhat Patnaik: We know that, for the last five years, Prabhat Patnaik: we have had a government that has Prabhat Patnaik: used a combination of state terrorism and street terrorism Prabhat Patnaik: to suppress freedom of expression. Prabhat Patnaik: State tourism has been used through Prabhat Patnaik: Acts like the UAPA- Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, Prabhat Patnaik: the sedition laws, Prabhat Patnaik: which are a hangover from the colonial times, Prabhat Patnaik: under which Gandhi was incarcerated, Prabhat Patnaik: the National Security Act and so on. Prabhat Patnaik: Street terrorism has been inflicted through lynch mobs, Prabhat Patnaik: through street thugs who go around Prabhat Patnaik: interfering, terrorizing, intimidating people. Prabhat Patnaik: Muslims and religious minorities, in general, Prabhat Patnaik: have been made to feel that they are second-class citizens. Prabhat Patnaik: You find a concept of jingoistic nationalism, Prabhat Patnaik: which has nothing to do with the kind of inclusive Prabhat Patnaik: anti-colonial nationalism of the earlier period. Prabhat Patnaik: This jingoistic nationalism typically takes Prabhat Patnaik: nationalism to be synonymous, not just with Hindutva, Prabhat Patnaik: but with the leader of the current government. Prabhat Patnaik: In fact, the day before yesterday, on Sunday, Prabhat Patnaik: a speech was made by the Prime Minister Prabhat Patnaik: in which he said- “anyone who abuses me is actually working for Pakistan”. Prabhat Patnaik: So, you have a jingoistic notion of nationalism, Prabhat Patnaik: in which anybody, who is a critical of the government Prabhat Patnaik: is accused of being anti-national. Prabhat Patnaik: It means that people who are critical Prabhat Patnaik: are vilified and demonized. Prabhat Patnaik: We have had periods earlier, for instance, Prabhat Patnaik: during the Emergency of the 1970s Prabhat Patnaik: in which state repression was used against critics of the government, Prabhat Patnaik: but the owner of the critics of the government-media house owners- Prabhat Patnaik: were never questioned. Prabhat Patnaik: They were not portrayed as being Prabhat Patnaik: dishonorable, traitors to the country Prabhat Patnaik: and anti-national and such like. Prabhat Patnaik: The closeness between the government and the corporate sector Prabhat Patnaik: is quite unprecedented in the history of India. Prabhat Patnaik: The current Prime Minister came for his swearing-in, Prabhat Patnaik: on a plane owned by a rich corporate businessman. Prabhat Patnaik: I would just like to draw a contrast here. Prabhat Patnaik: When Jawahar Lal Nehru's wife, Kamala, Prabhat Patnaik: was dying of tuberculosis in the 1930s in a sanatorium in Switzerland, Prabhat Patnaik: he was short of money to visit her. Prabhat Patnaik: G.D. Birla, who was actually a big businessman, Prabhat Patnaik: and had helped and supported and financed the Congress in the past, Prabhat Patnaik: offered to buy him his ticket and to finance his trip. Prabhat Patnaik: Nehru said no. Prabhat Patnaik: That was the distance, Prabhat Patnaik: which the leadership tried to maintain with big business. Prabhat Patnaik: This distance has now been totally obliterated. Prabhat Patnaik: And it is in this context that you find, Prabhat Patnaik: as Ruchira said, the attack on institutions, Prabhat Patnaik: the attack on centers of learning-Jawaharlal Nehru University, Prabhat Patnaik: Hyderabad Central University, Prabhat Patnaik: the Pune Film Institute, Prabhat Patnaik: the MS University Fine Arts school. Prabhat Patnaik: In other words, the finest centers of learning Prabhat Patnaik: and thought in the country are being destroyed. Prabhat Patnaik: There is a general promotion of unreason, Prabhat Patnaik: because if you have to portray for instance, Prabhat Patnaik: past Muslim emperors as villains in some ways, Prabhat Patnaik: in that case you have to rewrite history Prabhat Patnaik: in a manner where evidence should not count against your position. Prabhat Patnaik: Therefore, a certain element of destruction of thought Prabhat Patnaik: is essential to this project. Prabhat Patnaik: All this is, of course, an affront to the Constitution. Prabhat Patnaik: It is a violation of the basic values of our Constitution. Prabhat Patnaik: Consequently, the elections we are going to have now, Prabhat Patnaik: are absolutely crucial. Prabhat Patnaik: You see, they are crucial, not only in the sense that all, that is happening, Prabhat Patnaik: is ethically repugnant, Prabhat Patnaik: I think they are crucial in a deeper sense. Prabhat Patnaik: The values of the Constitution are derived from a certain implicit social compact Prabhat Patnaik: which underlies modern India, and that itself is being undermined. Prabhat Patnaik: This social compact was articulated in the 1931 Karachi Congress Prabhat Patnaik: and gained currency during the anti-colonial struggle. Prabhat Patnaik: The Constitution is derived from it. Prabhat Patnaik: Now anything that challenges that implicit social compact, Prabhat Patnaik: on the basis of which modern India has been formed, Prabhat Patnaik: is something which actually undermines Prabhat Patnaik: the very foundations of the modern Indian nation. Prabhat Patnaik: And if that is the case, Prabhat Patnaik: then unless we get a different verdict in these elections, Prabhat Patnaik: India might as well join the ranks Prabhat Patnaik: of the so-called "failed states" Prabhat Patnaik: where you would continue to have internal strife in a way where, Prabhat Patnaik: the country just does not become an unpleasant place, Prabhat Patnaik: it actually becomes an unviable country altogether. Prabhat Patnaik: These elections are extremely crucial Prabhat Patnaik: and, as Ruchira has said, Prabhat Patnaik: we certainly are at the crossroads Prabhat Patnaik: in that very clear, definite sense. Prabhat Patnaik: But I have a feeling that Prabhat Patnaik: we are also at crossroads in a deeper sense, Prabhat Patnaik: and that is the following: Prabhat Patnaik: Suppose we ask ourselves the question, Prabhat Patnaik: if the current political regime is overthrown in the elections, Prabhat Patnaik: would we actually have overcome the threat of fascism? Prabhat Patnaik: And my fear is no, Prabhat Patnaik: because I think the conjuncture that gives rise Prabhat Patnaik: to the threat of fascism would not have disappeared. Prabhat Patnaik: Basically, during the neoliberal period, Prabhat Patnaik: you have had a situation where not only have Prabhat Patnaik: inequalities increased enormously Prabhat Patnaik: -- income and wealth inequalities -- Prabhat Patnaik: but actually hunger has increased. Prabhat Patnaik: Absolute poverty defined in terms of nutritional intake Prabhat Patnaik: has actually increased. Prabhat Patnaik: Now, if that is the case for quite some time, Prabhat Patnaik: the neoliberal economic regime continued Prabhat Patnaik: because it continued to infuse in people Prabhat Patnaik: the hope that all right, today you are bad, Prabhat Patnaik: today you are not in a good position, Prabhat Patnaik: but tomorrow you are going to get the benefits of this growth, Prabhat Patnaik: this very high rate of GDP growth, Prabhat Patnaik: sooner or later you're going to get the benefits of it. Prabhat Patnaik: What has happened more recently is Prabhat Patnaik: that the neoliberal regime, itself, Prabhat Patnaik: has run into a kind of economic cul de sac. Prabhat Patnaik: Now, to the extent that is the case, Prabhat Patnaik: this promise of good days to come is something Prabhat Patnaik: which no longer can actually persuade people. Prabhat Patnaik: And in a situation like this, Prabhat Patnaik: additional props are needed. Prabhat Patnaik: And what you have in India, in my view, Prabhat Patnaik: is a kind of prop in which there is an alliance Prabhat Patnaik: between big business on the one hand Prabhat Patnaik: and the Hindutva elements on the other hand. Prabhat Patnaik: In my perception, Prabhat Patnaik: Narendra Modi’s political role Prabhat Patnaik: has been to bring about this alliance between big business and the Hindutva elements. Prabhat Patnaik: Now this alliance is something which, Prabhat Patnaik: invariably, underlies all kinds of fascism Prabhat Patnaik: and this is the kind that we are witnessing at this moment. Prabhat Patnaik: Now, one of the things, however, Prabhat Patnaik: is that unless, therefore, we overcome this conjuncture, Prabhat Patnaik: unless, in some sense, we manage to extricate the country Prabhat Patnaik: from the kind of economic travails that it Prabhat Patnaik: currently faces, this kind of fascist threat would continue. Prabhat Patnaik: You may have a new government, Prabhat Patnaik: the new government will do pretty much the same thing Prabhat Patnaik: that previous governments have been doing. Prabhat Patnaik: It will become unpopular and then these people Prabhat Patnaik: will come back to power and, Prabhat Patnaik: through all these ups and downs, Prabhat Patnaik: they will be in and out of power. Prabhat Patnaik: This will lead to the progressive fascisification of society Prabhat Patnaik: and that is something which actually worries me greatly. Prabhat Patnaik: I think the idea, therefore, that something basic needs to be done, Prabhat Patnaik: that in some sense, Prabhat Patnaik: the hitherto drawn boundaries of the neoliberal economic regime, Prabhat Patnaik: have got to be transcended, Prabhat Patnaik: is an issue which many people are feeling. Prabhat Patnaik: And I suspect the Congress’ recent manifesto, Prabhat Patnaik: where they're talking about Nyuntam Yojana- Prabhat Patnaik: providing a basic minimum income to everybody- Prabhat Patnaik: is an appreciation of the fact. Prabhat Patnaik: But it's just not enough. Prabhat Patnaik: I believe this idea of handing out largesse Prabhat Patnaik: within a broadly neoliberal pattern of the economy Prabhat Patnaik: is utterly inadequate. Prabhat Patnaik: What is really required is a set of universal benefits, Prabhat Patnaik: which people must acquire, as a right. Prabhat Patnaik: A set of universal, justiciable, economic rights Prabhat Patnaik: is something, that can actually get us out, Prabhat Patnaik: of this particular conjuncture. Prabhat Patnaik: Now I have made some calculations. Prabhat Patnaik: According to which, Prabhat Patnaik: suppose you take a minimum of five rights: Prabhat Patnaik: right to food, right to employment, Prabhat Patnaik: failing which there are adequate employment and unemployment benefits, Prabhat Patnaik: right to free, quality and publicly-funded healthcare, Prabhat Patnaik: right to free quality and publicly-funded education Prabhat Patnaik: and the right to old age pension and disability benefits. Prabhat Patnaik: Just take these five minimal rights. Prabhat Patnaik: If you want to implement them, Prabhat Patnaik: it would immediately require about 9% of the GDP. Prabhat Patnaik: Professor Sen once said that, in India, Prabhat Patnaik: we can get rid of poverty if we can spend 5% of the GDP. Prabhat Patnaik: I would say that, even introducing these rights Prabhat Patnaik: would require 9% of GDP. Prabhat Patnaik: It is easy to finance, Prabhat Patnaik: because raising finance of that order in a country that Prabhat Patnaik: has no wealth tax, whatsoever, is extremely easy. Prabhat Patnaik: It is by no means difficult. Prabhat Patnaik: It would require is a reordering of the economy, Prabhat Patnaik: reorienting of the economy to produce a whole set of goods and services Prabhat Patnaik: to meet domestic requirements. Prabhat Patnaik: This is not really related to ideas of export-led growth, Prabhat Patnaik: which are so fashionable and current Prabhat Patnaik: under the neo-liberal regime. Prabhat Patnaik: I think underlying the immediate crossroads Prabhat Patnaik: that we face about the election, Prabhat Patnaik: who is going to come to power and so on, Prabhat Patnaik: there are deeper crossroads- Prabhat Patnaik: we either resuscitate the social compact on which modern India is founded Prabhat Patnaik: or we would join the ranks of failed states. Prabhat Patnaik: And I think that is a deeper crossroads Prabhat Patnaik: that we really have to negotiate. Prabhat Patnaik: Thank you. Ruchira Gupta: Thank you, Prabhat. Ruchira Gupta: He's put everything in a nutshell Ruchira Gupta: and now, I would like Professor Sen to speak a few words. Amartya Sen: Very difficult to speak about a subject Amartya Sen: when everything has been put in a nutshell. Amartya Sen: But I accept that. Amartya Sen: Prabhat has made a fantastic presentation. Amartya Sen: I think we have to distinguish between the different things that are going on Amartya Sen: and why the present moment, including the election, is so important. Amartya Sen: The country was not a very happy or just place before the Modi government came. Amartya Sen: There were great inequalities. Amartya Sen: What has happened is Amartya Sen: that these inequalities have been magnified Amartya Sen: and made into a standard part of living. Amartya Sen: There was a certain amount of shame around the inequalities, Amartya Sen: which seem to have somehow been eliminated Amartya Sen: and we have to ask: why has that been so? Amartya Sen: And it can get really dramatic, Amartya Sen: there's no question about that. Amartya Sen: I would take a slight, not an emendation Amartya Sen: but, addition to what Ruchira has said Amartya Sen: when you're talking about Dalits and Muslims. Amartya Sen: There is also a huge category of scheduled tribes. Amartya Sen: And in terms of the category of the deprivation, Amartya Sen: the studies that we have done in the Pratichi Trust, Amartya Sen: brings out that scheduled tribes, Amartya Sen: have the worst of the deal in India, Amartya Sen: in almost every effect, of all the marginalized groups. Amartya Sen: The main thing to recognize is that the underdogs of society Amartya Sen: are being treated in a terrible way. Amartya Sen: There have been agitations and the Dalits have been organizing. Amartya Sen: The impact of it is not very great and we have to ask why. Amartya Sen: This is also where such issues, Amartya Sen: which are not immediately connected with deprivation, Amartya Sen: like freedom of speech, Amartya Sen: use of the right to information, Amartya Sen: et cetera come in. Amartya Sen: It is very important to recognize that Amartya Sen: the redressing of inequalities comes, Amartya Sen: not only, from the actions of the underdogs, Amartya Sen: but it also comes from people, Amartya Sen: who belong to a different part of the society but, Amartya Sen: who are moved by it. Amartya Sen: And there's nothing extraordinary about that. Amartya Sen: This whole idea that people only look after Amartya Sen: their own interests and nothing else, Amartya Sen: which is sometimes attributed to Marxian materialist philosophy Amartya Sen: is neither Marx's idea, nor is it a particularly sustainable position. Amartya Sen: Eric Hobsbawm, wrote a very wonderful article which, Amartya Sen: alas, is not read much these days, Amartya Sen: which came out in Marxist Quarterly in 1955. Amartya Sen: I remember it came out, Amartya Sen: when I was taking my exams in Cambridge. Amartya Sen: This is about material conditions and ideas. Amartya Sen: And it somehow has been associated with Marx Amartya Sen: -the idea that he emphasized was the importance of material condition Amartya Sen: and, you know, dialectical materialism and all that. Amartya Sen: What Hobsbawm is arguing, is that, Amartya Sen: the position here has been in Marxism and, also earlier, interestingly, Amartya Sen: I think you can bring [Adam] Smith into it too, Amartya Sen: is that ideas have an influence on the material conditions Amartya Sen: and material conditions have an influence on ideas. Amartya Sen: Now, it so happened that, Hobsbawm was not in the 19th century Amartya Sen: when Marx was writing. Amartya Sen: The world was full of people who were saying Amartya Sen: that ideas influence material conditions -- Hegel, Amartya Sen: for example, lots of them. Amartya Sen: And, therefore, the workforce placed an importance Amartya Sen: on material conditions and ideas. Amartya Sen: They concentrated on that. Amartya Sen: But Hobsbawm said the world has changed. Amartya Sen: I have to sometimes deal with and even if I don't want to, Amartya Sen: students ask me the rational choice theory, Amartya Sen: that assumes that everyone pursues their own material advantage. Amartya Sen: Now that is a gross materialism- Amartya Sen: what Hobsbawm calls vulgar materialism. Amartya Sen: Given that, it's very important to emphasize Amartya Sen: the neglected part, namely, the ideas of Amartya Sen: dramatic incremental material conditions. Amartya Sen: In many ways, that's as important today, Amartya Sen: in the election time, as any other. Amartya Sen: And, which is why these things about the suppression of freedom of speech, Amartya Sen: the suppression of facts – Amartya Sen: I see from the New York Times that it's conceivable Amartya Sen: that some of the war photos that were distributed about the Indian Army Amartya Sen: driving the hell out of Pakistan, Amartya Sen: actually are pictures which had nothing to do with it. Amartya Sen: Sometimes, there are pictures of people dying Amartya Sen: during drought and of starvation or even, Amartya Sen: I'm amazed to be told, from war games. Amartya Sen: The Pakistani attack, that was shown, was, apparently, taking place, in a little room, Amartya Sen: where a family was playing a war game on a TV screen. Amartya Sen: Now are these important? Amartya Sen: They are important because the ideas that we form, Amartya Sen: those who argue for freedom of speech, Amartya Sen: or for not being restrained by beliefs in religion, and so on, Amartya Sen: are doing something which has a major impact on the way Amartya Sen: the peasants and workers and the disabled class live. Amartya Sen: And I think, that is, the very important thing, Amartya Sen: to recognize in this situation. Amartya Sen: Now what is happening is, Amartya Sen: if you look at Modi, Amartya Sen: there are two elements in the present state of affairs. Amartya Sen: The first one is what I will call bias and sectarianism. Amartya Sen: It can take a religious form, like being anti-Muslim. Amartya Sen: It can take a class form. Amartya Sen: It can also take a caste and gender form. Amartya Sen: Tribalism is a very big thing. Amartya Sen: We didn't have gender in Bengali. Amartya Sen: Not at all. We lost that. Amartya Sen: People who lecture constantly about ancient India, Amartya Sen: but don't like studying it should know that Sanskrit had three genders. Amartya Sen: Around about 2,000 years ago, Amartya Sen: there was a reversal of gender in India, Amartya Sen: particularly the part of the inheritant, Amartya Sen: so that "his" wife, as in English- Amartya Sen: "his" is masculine, not "her" wife. Amartya Sen: But the corresponding term will be "her" wife is dominated. Amartya Sen: What happened is Hindi moved from "his" wife Amartya Sen: to "her" wife in that period. Amartya Sen: A lot of Bengali culture has come from the Bihar region Amartya Sen: even though the Bengalis don't like admitting it. Amartya Sen: Magadhi which is from the Bihar region, Amartya Sen: started dropping gender and Amartya Sen: Ardhamagadhi, which was the next stage, dropped it altogether. Amartya Sen: Oriya Bengali and Assamese came out of Ardhamagadhi Amartya Sen: and you don't have gender there either. Amartya Sen: However, we do have this big difference between effect and diseffect. Amartya Sen: So, you have Aap, Tum and, in Bengali, Tui. Amartya Sen: Now if you talk with Santhals, Amartya Sen: and I grew up with Santhals in Shantiniketan, Amartya Sen: they always referred to you as Tui. Amartya Sen: I wonder how? Amartya Sen: Well, the reason is, that the only way that others talk to them is Tui Amartya Sen: and that's the Bengali they have learned. Amartya Sen: The reflection in their speech is very Chomskyian. Amartya Sen: The reflect in their speech, you can guess, is how they have been addressed. Amartya Sen: So, the complete lack of respect from them, in this, is not worrying. Amartya Sen: Shantiniketan is a great place, where I was born and grew up. Amartya Sen: It's difficult to make people take an interest in them, Amartya Sen: despite the fact, that leaders like Rabindranath [Tagore] Amartya Sen: have talked again and again on that subject. Amartya Sen: So there is always this bias, deep bias. Amartya Sen: And the second is what I will call magic. Amartya Sen: And magic is very important in Modi. Amartya Sen: Demonetization is part of the magic. Amartya Sen: I think anyone with any kind of training in economics Amartya Sen: would find it difficult to believe why Amartya Sen: making it illegal to hold notes of certain kinds Amartya Sen: would improve the performance of the people. Amartya Sen: I mean, there was some idea that, you would catch thieves, Amartya Sen: people who have fake money. Amartya Sen: But if you really look through it, Amartya Sen: you will recognize that people Amartya Sen: don't hold black money in trade notes- Amartya Sen: they convert it into properties like land and housing – Amartya Sen: housing, very much. Amartya Sen: The world we live in believes in magic. Amartya Sen: The magic is also extended in the pictures of war toys Amartya Sen: and the attack on Pakistan. Amartya Sen: We are in this odd position-the country of Gandhi Amartya Sen: is now going around claiming we actually killed many more people, Amartya Sen: as if that would have been a tremendously good thing. Amartya Sen: I have to say, that returning the pilot, Amartya Sen: who fell down, was not a victory of the Indian side. Amartya Sen: It shows, somewhat surprisingly, generosity on the part of the government defendant because, Amartya Sen: usually, it is done at the end of the war. Amartya Sen: That's what happened in the 1971 war between Pakistan and India, Amartya Sen: where India did have a decisive victory Amartya Sen: and people and prisoners were repatriated after the war ended. Amartya Sen: This happened in the middle. Amartya Sen: But to convert that into a victory of India… Amartya Sen: We got a pilot who was shot down. Amartya Sen: We were afraid that he would be tortured and possibly executed, Amartya Sen: instead, he was generously released. Amartya Sen: I dare say there is a kind of magic in saying Amartya Sen: this is to the glory of the present government. Amartya Sen: I'm told that the support of the government Amartya Sen: dramatically increased after that. Amartya Sen: Now that is magic. Amartya Sen: You know, I remember in my college days, Amartya Sen: my school days, really, people would ask who are the great figures? Amartya Sen: Some people said Gandhi ji and Amartya Sen: some would say Tagore. Amartya Sen: And one chap said P.C. Sircar, who was a magician. Amartya Sen: Now, the idea of that, you see here, Amartya Sen: is not Gandhi or Tagore, Amartya Sen: that is P.C. Sircar. Amartya Sen: By the way, I was a great devotee of P.C. Sircar. Amartya Sen: I don't want to blame him, Amartya Sen: but there is magic. Amartya Sen: The love of magic is quite important in the election. Amartya Sen: I think resisting magic is as important as almost anything else that's going on. Amartya Sen: “Look at the form in which inequality takes place”, Amartya Sen: I would say quoting Marx again in his last book written in 1875, Amartya Sen: The Critique of the Gotha Program. Amartya Sen: It's a very interesting book -- I really recommend people read it. Amartya Sen: There were two ideas, Amartya Sen: which are not what I am talking about here (separate from magic and bias), Amartya Sen: but I will mention. Amartya Sen: One of them is, Amartya Sen: he is criticizing the German Workers Party for their Gotha program- Amartya Sen: for which he is writing a critique. Amartya Sen: The German Workers Party said all value is reduced by labor Amartya Sen: and Marx says, what nonsense, there is labor, Amartya Sen: but there is land and natural resources. Amartya Sen: This is almost the first discussion of the importance Amartya Sen: of environmental concerns in human society. Amartya Sen: There's also a subject in which I got very involved later. Amartya Sen: It is about identity. Amartya Sen: And he [Marx], when he is criticizing the Workers Party, Amartya Sen: said that they treat human beings, Amartya Sen: only who are workers, only as workers, Amartya Sen: but the worker is not only a worker, Amartya Sen: he's also a human being with many, many other characteristics. Amartya Sen: And this whole idea of forgetting everything else about the worker, Amartya Sen: excepting the fact that he is a worker or she is a worker, Amartya Sen: is a huge mistake. Amartya Sen: Now that's all from a very big discussion, Amartya Sen: in my judgment, on identity. Amartya Sen: But, the main thrust of the work is Amartya Sen: to make sure that people are not exploited. Amartya Sen: Very important thing. Amartya Sen: And, whatever they produce, Amartya Sen: they should get it in a way that it doesn't go away to others. Amartya Sen: And, it's not defined in the neoclassical way about factor or production, Amartya Sen: but more like as (William) Morris does, who said Marc Bloch's way. Amartya Sen: Marc Bloch says feudal lords lived on the labor of serfs. Amartya Sen: That doesn't mean their feudal lord's land was unproductive. Amartya Sen: But, somehow, labor is not comparable with owning land. Amartya Sen: Working is not the same kind of thing as possessing land. Amartya Sen: That goes back in Marx's writing a lot. Amartya Sen: The Worker's Party is emphasizing that it must stop. Amartya Sen: Now Marx actually says that is not enough. Amartya Sen: It's his idea, or not only his idea, Amartya Sen: but among other people, his idea. Amartya Sen: Because, and this [is when] identities come in-the workers have needs also. Amartya Sen: Say, for somebody who is not very productive, but he has lots of needs. Amartya Sen: Doesn't society owe something to that person? Amartya Sen: So, I think there are two concerns here, work and needs. Amartya Sen: I've been very interested in Marx from my young days. Amartya Sen: What a dedicated, detached intellectual Marx was. Amartya Sen: The book ends with Marx saying, "So what? Amartya Sen: They made a mistake because work is only one thing we looked at, needs is another. Amartya Sen: Can we provide satisfaction on needs?" Amartya Sen: And he said, "We would be able to, Amartya Sen: but that would need a reorientation of mental attitude and, Amartya Sen: also, much greater affluence. Amartya Sen: Can we do it now? No, it can't be done." Amartya Sen: So, what are we talking about, then? Amartya Sen: Since, ultimately, you agree with the German Worker's Party. Amartya Sen: What he is saying is that you mustn't forget that there are needs. Amartya Sen: That's the point, which is a very important point to make. Amartya Sen: It certainly has been used by activists Amartya Sen: when they have this Marxist discussion of freedom. Amartya Sen: It is wonderful discussing that we should be free Amartya Sen: to do what we like. Amartya Sen: We can produce. We can do industrial action Amartya Sen: industrial action in the morning and cultivation in the afternoon. Amartya Sen: Yeah, it is quite wonderful. Amartya Sen: “What we need is to make it possible for me to do one thing today, another tomorrow. Amartya Sen: To hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, Amartya Sen: rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner” said Marx. Amartya Sen: Now, I think rearing cattle in the evening brings out what a superb urban creature Marx was. Amartya Sen: I don't think anyone who rears cattle would choose evening as the moment to do it. Amartya Sen: He was in very good shape when it came to criticize after dinner, Amartya Sen: he know that very well. Amartya Sen: What's happening? This is actually part of my memoir. Amartya Sen: I wrote this chapter called, "What to Make of Marx." Amartya Sen: The fact is that in the process of thinking and, Amartya Sen: sometimes, we have exactly the idea of the way things should be solved, Amartya Sen: he was opening up areas which are really important today. Amartya Sen: Now today, if you look at it, it may not be that we can satisfy everyone's needs. Amartya Sen: But we can go somewhat in that direction. Amartya Sen: The deprivation that comes from work Amartya Sen: and deprivation of work-either unemployment or low wages Amartya Sen: or deprivation of needs Amartya Sen: -- not being able to have any healthcare, Amartya Sen: having enough food, going hungry, extraordinary how important this needs picture is. Amartya Sen: I started the Pratichi Trust the year after I got the Nobel. Amartya Sen: It was amazing that I got the opportunity of doing it. Amartya Sen: It was amazing going to the schools [and seeing] how many of the children Amartya Sen: came to the school without having eaten anything. Amartya Sen: It is hard for them to do multiplication tables on a hungry stomach. Amartya Sen: So, we have to look at is both needs and work. Amartya Sen: And if there is any way in which we can say that China has done something dramatically better than India Amartya Sen: not in democracy I'm afraid, Amartya Sen: but when it comes to nature of poverty. Amartya Sen: If the poor in India do not know where to go when their child is ill, Amartya Sen: Ayushman (BJP government’s health insurance for the elderly) Amartya Sen: is not going to help them. Amartya Sen: Ayushman would help you if you have lived a long, long time, Amartya Sen: and then you have an extensive operation, Amartya Sen: which a private hospital will provide for you, Amartya Sen: and then you take the bill and ask the government to pay. Amartya Sen: That does nothing for the girl with the empty stomach. Amartya Sen: So, I think the basic needs issue- Amartya Sen: that the poor in India doesn't know where to go, Amartya Sen: what a decent school is, where you take your child to hospital, Amartya Sen: when you are deprived of basic social security-what to do with it. Amartya Sen: Now, in China with all of its problems, Amartya Sen: and there are many problems indeed, poverty does not take that form. Amartya Sen: So, when people say that China has done better in terms of income, Amartya Sen: yes it has, but that's not the main problem. Amartya Sen: The main issue, and it has not always been like that, Amartya Sen: the main issue has been to deal with the fundamental needs that human beings have, Amartya Sen: in the way that the poor in China do not tend to suffer, except in very rare cases, Amartya Sen: that in India, quite standardly the poor do suffer. Amartya Sen: So, I think we have to turn our fixture to needs and work Amartya Sen: and to the freedom of speech. Amartya Sen: As I was trying to say, freedom of speech is central to all these things. Amartya Sen: We (the BJP government in India) won't talk about works and needs, Amartya Sen: we (the BJP government in India) will only talk about Ayushman Bharat Amartya Sen: and not about what's happening to basic health care and so on. Amartya Sen: If freedom of speech is interrupted and harshly dealt with, Amartya Sen: I repeat again by saying it's not the case that these problems didn't exist earlier, Amartya Sen: but these problems have become dramatically more important recently. Amartya Sen: And I think the freedom of speech and, Amartya Sen: I mean, earlier on there were bans on freedom of speech of various kinds. Amartya Sen: After all, India was the first country to ban Satanic Verses. Amartya Sen: And there are all kinds of ways freedom of speech was affected, Amartya Sen: but it did not have the form, as it does now. Amartya Sen: All universities are now run by RSS people who know exactly what to do. Amartya Sen: Universities of which you will think India had reason to be proud of [that]. Amartya Sen: We also had the oldest university in the world in Nalanda. Amartya Sen: I had the good fortune of being Chancellor Amartya Sen: for a few years of a new university set up there, Amartya Sen: until it became clear that no help from the government would come until I was removed. Amartya Sen: I encouraged George Yeo from Singapore to take it on Amartya Sen: and George Yeo was very reluctant, but I told him, you have to take it on, Amartya Sen: because that's the only way we will get the money. Amartya Sen: I was mistaken. George Yeo was right, Amartya Sen: because the moment I moved away, and George Yeo came in, everything he asked for didn't happen either. Amartya Sen: They have no respect for existing universities or for the oldest university in the world, Amartya Sen: but they glorify the invented airplanes in the Vedas-Pushpakraj and so on. Amartya Sen: Not Garuda-the mythological bird-flying you up and down, Amartya Sen: because that's happened in Indonesia in the form of an airline. Amartya Sen: The universities have been sacrificed and so have been many other things in India. Amartya Sen: I am one of the few persons that has read all the Vedas, Vaidya Vidya and so on... Amartya Sen: The song of creation, Mantra 10, asks the question: Amartya Sen: Does God exist? Amartya Sen: How do we know? Amartya Sen: And if God existed, Amartya Sen: and if he is still alive, Amartya Sen: would he remember all that? Amartya Sen: How does he remember? Amartya Sen: And so on. Amartya Sen: That's in the Vedas. Amartya Sen: There's also the first discussion in Rig Vedas Amartya Sen: about gambling and the dilemma of the gambler, Amartya Sen: who is irresistibly drawn to it, Amartya Sen: what the Greeks would call weakness of the will. Amartya Sen: They discuss a lot of it Amartya Sen: and discuss it in the Vedas quite brilliantly. Amartya Sen: But instead of that, the RSS will say mathematics Amartya Sen: happened dramatically in India from Aryabhatt onward. Amartya Sen: We have to accept, that the impulse that came from Amartya Sen: the influence of Babylon and Greece, made a big difference. Amartya Sen: A dramatic difference. Amartya Sen: And then, of course, the Arabs were the great exponent of Indian mathematics. Amartya Sen: All this was going on. Amartya Sen: To not understand that Amartya Sen: and to think of India as a kind of self-made creature Amartya Sen: germinating like a gram on the ground alone. Amartya Sen: That is magic. Amartya Sen: We have to get rid of, Amartya Sen: not only of the bias, Amartya Sen: but also the magic. Amartya Sen: Thank you. [audience clapping] Ruchira Gupta: Thank you Doctor Sen. Ruchira Gupta: So, what it at stake here? Ruchira Gupta: Both of you have talked about the immediate Ruchira Gupta: and also taken us on a journey through time. Ruchira Gupta: What are we looking forward to and what can happen? Ruchira Gupta: Both professors have spoken about basic needs as human rights Ruchira Gupta: and how we need to concentrate on that. Ruchira Gupta: If India moves more towards fascism, Ruchira Gupta: can a government which is not inclusive essentially, in its thought, can it deliver these basic needs? Ruchira Gupta: Especially based on the track record of the last five years Ruchira Gupta: in which the welfare state was being dismantled very fast. Ruchira Gupta: Professor Sen, you spoke about freedom of speech. Ruchira Gupta: That is based on freedom of thought. Ruchira Gupta: Can a fascist mindset, which is closing down universities Ruchira Gupta: and changing history, rewriting textbooks that we study- Ruchira Gupta: geography, history, everything- Ruchira Gupta: can that change the way we think or stop us from thinking all together? Ruchira Gupta: What does this mean? What does it imply? Ruchira Gupta: What's coming up in this election? Prabhat? Prabhat Patnaik: You know, one of the things I think Professor Sen said Prabhat Patnaik: that, you know, that inequality, of course, existed before. Prabhat Patnaik: Now, the inequality has been increasing. Prabhat Patnaik: As a matter of fact, I think, poverty and hunger, Prabhat Patnaik: poverty defined in terms of hunger and nutritional norms has been increasing. Prabhat Patnaik: But one of the things which has happened in the more recent period is, Prabhat Patnaik: if you make a calculation, you know, I mean, that is an enormous peasant protest at this moment, Prabhat Patnaik: all over the country. Prabhat Patnaik: The peasantry has been a neglected sector, Prabhat Patnaik: a neglected group in the last several years. Prabhat Patnaik: Ever since the neo-liberal policies came, Prabhat Patnaik: the kind of state support the peasantry used to get, has dwindled. Prabhat Patnaik: But if you look particularly at the last few years, Prabhat Patnaik: then I made a calculation, that suppose you take 2013-14 as your starting point, Prabhat Patnaik: and you look at the incomes generated in the entire agricultural sector, Prabhat Patnaik: the total incomes of everybody engaged in it, then, Prabhat Patnaik: in real terms, per capita income in the agricultural sector has not increased at all. Prabhat Patnaik: It has actually marginally decreased. Prabhat Patnaik: If we take the latest year for which we have figures, 2016-17, Prabhat Patnaik: we will see half the country's population is still agriculture dependent. Prabhat Patnaik: So you have a situation where, of course, Prabhat Patnaik: the last few years have been particularly bad and I think, Prabhat Patnaik: which is the reason why we haven't peasantry sides and so on earlier, Prabhat Patnaik: but now you are beginning to have the kind of peasant assertion Prabhat Patnaik: in which I see a lot of hope. Prabhat Patnaik: I mean, I think the more the discourse shifts away Prabhat Patnaik: from Hindutva and Pakistan and so on, Prabhat Patnaik: towards issues of peasant conditions of life towards issues of unemployment and so on, Prabhat Patnaik: the more, in fact, people will begin to assert themselves in the election, Prabhat Patnaik: and thereafter, as citizens. Prabhat Patnaik: But the more they actually start talking about Hindutva and Pakistan, Prabhat Patnaik: the more they become victims of the magic that Professor Sen was talking about. Prabhat Patnaik: On this magic. I want to recollect Prabhat Patnaik: an occasion after demonetization, Prabhat Patnaik: everybody had great difficulties because you had absolutely no cash Prabhat Patnaik: and so you went and queued up at four o'clock in the morning Prabhat Patnaik: to go and queue up outside the banks and so on. Prabhat Patnaik: And it was extremely inconvenient Prabhat Patnaik: and people simply could not believe Prabhat Patnaik: that anything as distressing as this could be inflicted upon them Prabhat Patnaik: without very good reasons. Prabhat Patnaik: As a result, the more you faced hardships, the more you thought, Prabhat Patnaik: what a wonderful government we have, Prabhat Patnaik: they don't actually show any fear in inflicting this hardship on me. Prabhat Patnaik: And that just shows how committed they are to the good of the country. Prabhat Patnaik: So that's the kind of magic, you know, Prabhat Patnaik: that you, you do something, you do something pretty ruthlessly- Prabhat Patnaik: shock and awe. Prabhat Patnaik: And as a result, the more, you know, put shock and awe into people Prabhat Patnaik: for a while obviously because, now, that has worn off, but for a while, Prabhat Patnaik: it actually can have this kind of magical impact Prabhat Patnaik: that Professor Sen and was talking about. Prabhat Patnaik: But I think I see a great deal of hope in the emergence of if you like, secular, Prabhat Patnaik: these worldly protests, you know, on material issues and issues of peasant life. Ruchira Gupta: Professor Sen, you know, also, you spoke about magic Ruchira Gupta: and magic is so essential to fascism. Amartya Sen: Magic is essential to? Ruchira Gupta: Fascism. Ruchira Gupta: Hitler also used notions of mysticism. Ruchira Gupta: The Nazis spoke about the great Nordic person, Ruchira Gupta: who was of a superior race that would rule the world. Ruchira Gupta: He spoke about a past which did not exist Ruchira Gupta: and promised a future which could never be. Ruchira Gupta: He incited people to create the ‘other’ and towards violence. Ruchira Gupta: It was all about exclusion. Ruchira Gupta: So, what's at stake here, really in this election, Ruchira Gupta: is that, what approach do we choose in India? Ruchira Gupta: The politics of inclusion or the politics of exclusion? Ruchira Gupta: What do you feel? Ruchira Gupta: Can this magic that is associated with the present ruling party- Ruchira Gupta: from the kind of clothes the prime minister wears with the turbans and all of that, Ruchira Gupta: the kind of slogans he uses, the kind of campaigns he runs Ruchira Gupta: that are full of the symbolic aesthetics of blood and orange, Ruchira Gupta: how is it going to play out? And what really is at stake then? Ruchira Gupta: And what should India be doing now? Ruchira Gupta: I've asked you four questions in one. Amartya Sen: We have to articulate these concerns. Amartya Sen: There's a kind of old wisdom saying that just speaking about something Amartya Sen: does not make a difference. Amartya Sen: The fact is it does make a difference, Amartya Sen: because you have to appreciate what is going on, Amartya Sen: and not be shy about mentioning it. Amartya Sen: You mentioned about magic being important for fascism. Amartya Sen: You're doing something on fascism, aren't you? Amartya Sen: But you see, when the Fascist party was originally Amartya Sen: expanding in Italy in 1921-22, Amartya Sen: there's a nice story, which my late wife Emma's family told me. Amartya Sen: Her father was in the resistance and he was killed by Mussolini Amartya Sen: two days before the Americans came to Rome. Amartya Sen: So, there was a lot of stories about fascists. Amartya Sen: One of my favorites is about a fascist recruiter Amartya Sen: who tried to recruit a villager to fascism Amartya Sen: and he said, "you know, you should be a fascist, Amartya Sen: because we are doing lots of things. Amartya Sen: This area used to be full of malaria. That's all gone. Amartya Sen: The trains are running on time, the municipality is working beautifully. Amartya Sen: Why shouldn't you want to join?" Amartya Sen: And he says, "Really I can't join the fascists." Amartya Sen: "Why not?" Amartya Sen: He gives this lame reply, Amartya Sen: "Well it is not only that I am a socialist, Amartya Sen: but my father was a socialist. My grandfather was a socialist. Amartya Sen: How could I possibly join the fascist party?" Amartya Sen: To which the fascist recruiter says, Amartya Sen: "What kind of a nonsensical argument is this? Amartya Sen: If your father had been a mother and grandfather had been a mother, Amartya Sen: what would you have done then?" Amartya Sen: To which the villager replies, Amartya Sen: "Well then, of course, I would have joined the fascist party." [audience laughs] Amartya Sen: So that thought was in his mind, but he was not articulating it. Amartya Sen: I think we have to articulate it a bit more. Amartya Sen: I think the suppression of the media is a very important reason. Amartya Sen: The media situation isn't as bad in India as it is in some other countries, Amartya Sen: but it is bad in the sense that there's a lot more that can be done. Amartya Sen: A lot more, fake news comes out with stories which are just not true. Amartya Sen: And I think we have to capture it in the, Amartya Sen: you know, we talk about material conditions and ideas Amartya Sen: in the realm of ideas and speech and exchanges as to what has gone wrong. Amartya Sen: And I think there's a lot of scope they go for that Amartya Sen: even now we have it within two days of election. Amartya Sen: But, well-articulated story could make a big difference Amartya Sen: and we know that controlling the media is not a guarantee. Amartya Sen: I mean, I think Erdogan is learning about it Amartya Sen: in a hard way in Turkey today and we could learn too. Amartya Sen: The fact is that the BJP has 20 times the wealth that Congress has. Amartya Sen: So it can't, not to mention the communist party has, Amartya Sen: but the fact is that's where we are and the issue is what can we do despite that. Amartya Sen: And this has happened again and again, Amartya Sen: whether it's in Vietnam in a big way or in Greece at the loss of all of the military. Amartya Sen: That had happened when they, when people weigh or place importance Amartya Sen: in material possession and have succeeded in winning their way. Amartya Sen: So we have to think of that. Amartya Sen: And, magic is very important. Amartya Sen: You're right. Amartya Sen: And that's why I brought it in. Amartya Sen: And one of the ways to challenge is to challenge the magic that is being presented. Amartya Sen: I think the Ayushman, healthcare being a universal health care Amartya Sen: is an attempt at a rather, extraordinary kind of magical thought Amartya Sen: because it doesn't even touch these people. Amartya Sen: It has got nothing to offer to people who don't have a primary health care. Amartya Sen: If there's something to offer, Amartya Sen: it will need an expensive operation and go to a private hospital and get paid. Amartya Sen: Yeah, I said that in a speech rather like this I think Amartya Sen: and then I think they had the Ayushman say that much of them doesn't understand it. Amartya Sen: He doesn't understand because I'll find is not only to do this, but also to do the other. Amartya Sen: Now here we run into a major thought and I'm afraid it applies even Amartya Sen: to my concern about spending so much money Amartya Sen: on cash rather than healthcare and education. Amartya Sen: The idea that we will do both, Amartya Sen: I mean it's a thought that a non-economist can easily have, Amartya Sen: but for an economist, you have to recognize that you will spend more on something, Amartya Sen: [meaning] you have less to spend on other things. Amartya Sen: So that to say is they're not contradicted. Amartya Sen: We can do both. Amartya Sen: Everything is contradicted with a fixed budget Amartya Sen: and everything is considered, even if it's not a fixed budget, Amartya Sen: but not a very easily relaxable budget. Amartya Sen: So I think we have to argue for the right thing. Amartya Sen: The previous government didn't, has to be said, Amartya Sen: that the Congress government could have spent much more on basic health care than it did, Amartya Sen: on basic education than it did. Amartya Sen: India has become, India has a greater reliance on private health care Amartya Sen: at the lowest level than any other country in the world Amartya Sen: with the exception of Pakistan, not even Bangladesh, by the way, Amartya Sen: but the fact is that they are dependent on private healthcare Amartya Sen: because there isn't public health care Amartya Sen: and you have to depend on private health care [when] you don't have anything else to go by. Amartya Sen: So I think, agitation, I still think that in this election Amartya Sen: we have had far less on the lack of health care and education and social security Amartya Sen: and some of this is a very good thing to spend your time on Amartya Sen: because the one thing that you got the Modi Government in India in your grip Amartya Sen: and that may or may not be the case, Amartya Sen: but they could have been a lot more on other things in the election. Ruchira Gupta: That part is the magic part. Amartya Sen: It is the magic part. Prabhat Patnaik: You know, one of the things which actually surprises me Prabhat Patnaik: is that the kind of support that this kind of magic or this kind of fascism Prabhat Patnaik: commands among the educated middle classes in India. Prabhat Patnaik: That's, that's quite remarkable because, many of them, Prabhat Patnaik: I'm not talking about universities like mine and so on Prabhat Patnaik: where there is a lot of protests, Prabhat Patnaik: but I think large numbers of people are actually taken in by this Prabhat Patnaik: and were great supporters of Modi, particularly the education people, Prabhat Patnaik: you know, it is quite surprising. Ruchira Gupta: Yeah. It's the desire for the strong man, Ruchira Gupta: you know, which is promoting this toxic masculinity. Prabhat Patnaik: Additionally, I suppose it may also derive from the basic caste-based mindset Prabhat Patnaik: where you are a kind of privileged person unless it's very clear that the, Prabhat Patnaik: that the middle class has done remarkably well Prabhat Patnaik: in the recent period of neoliberalism. Prabhat Patnaik: I'll give you an example. Prabhat Patnaik: When I joined Jawaharlal Nehru University ages ago in 1973, Prabhat Patnaik: the income I had, the basic income I had was 700 rupees a month. Prabhat Patnaik: Today if somebody joins at the same level that I had, Prabhat Patnaik: that person would get 50,000 rupees a month, many believe. rabhat Patnaik: So it has increased 70 times. Amartya Sen: At that time I was your teacher, I got 1,200 rupees. Prabhat Patnaik: And then you went to full professor and I joined as reader associate. Prabhat Patnaik: But you look at the peasant, for instance, that time 1973, Prabhat Patnaik: the procurement price of wheat was around 75 rupees per quintile and raise 1500 rupees per quintile. Prabhat Patnaik: So [increased] to 20 [times]. Amartya Sen: Yes. That is adjusted. Amartya Sen: Basically, I think we are a privileged class. Prabhat Patnaik: But not most privileged in India among the middle classes. Prabhat Patnaik: They are at the lower end. Amartya Sen: I agree, but I think I've always saw some grain of truth in that statement Amartya Sen: that they're basically two classes in India: the rich and the poor. Amartya Sen: And I think we fall, as you know, rather lowly rich. Ruchira Gupta: I'd like to open up the floor to questions. Ruchira Gupta: So if anyone has, there are two mics on both sides Ruchira Gupta: and there's somebody standing there already. Ruchira Gupta: So why don't you start? Q&A #1: I would actually like to make a comment and a) I have a question after that. Q&A #1: I'm someone from the educated middle class from India, from Mumbai. Q&A #1: 2014 was largely a reaction to the recurrent corruption of scams in the Congress government Q&A #1: and was not about caste-based superiority or the desire for a strong man. Q&A #1: It was largely because people were fed up with the corrupt regime. Q&A #1: My question is how big a role does this rapid increase Q&A #1: in Indian population play in the overall poverty? Q&A #1: Because in the end the resources are limited and the population keeps on growing, Q&A #1: so there is going to be someone who is left out. Amartya Sen: So, this is a problem of the population growing part. Q&A #1: Pardon? Amartya Sen: It is a population problem. Q&A #1: I mean, how big of a problem is it? Q&A #1: Like I recognize that there is a problem, but how big of a problem is it? Ruchira Gupta: Should we take two or three questions together and then we can ask? Amartya Sen: Actually I don't like that because as I go old, my memory... Amartya Sen: Let's have a brief discussion of each. Ruchira Gupta: There's six people, seven people who want to ask questions. Amartya Sen: Prabhat, do you want to take a shot? Prabhat Patnaik: Well just two comments on each of your remarks. Prabhat Patnaik: Corruption, corrupt regime. Yes, I, I agree with you, Prabhat Patnaik: but the point is in 2014 there were all kinds of issues. Prabhat Patnaik: Certainly one of the issues was that the government was throwing money at the Dalits Prabhat Patnaik: through the NREGS and so on. Prabhat Patnaik: That was a clear factor. Prabhat Patnaik: This business about appealing to kind of upper caste prejudice Prabhat Patnaik: against what is in India, sometimes referred to as populism, Prabhat Patnaik: was certainly one factor. Prabhat Patnaik: I'm not saying it's the only one. Prabhat Patnaik: Resource and population. Prabhat Patnaik: Population growth in India is, let's say, one and a half percent per annum now it has come down Prabhat Patnaik: and the GDP growth that the government has been talking about ad nauseam is 7%, Prabhat Patnaik: so how can population growth be the cause of poverty when Prabhat Patnaik: per capita income is rising at 5.5% percent per annum. Prabhat Patnaik: So obviously it is to do with factors of distribution and so on. Which are social problems. Amartya Sen: I would add, that the studies that we did, including (Catherine) Guio, Mamta Murthi, etc Amartya Sen: brings out that the biggest factor in reducing birth rate Amartya Sen: is women's education and women's health care. Amartya Sen: There isn't a real conflict between these. Amartya Sen: I agree with Prabhat that population isn't the main problem. Amartya Sen: On the other hand, to the extent it is, Amartya Sen: You can deal with it in ways that makes the lives of women much easier and better. Q&A #1: Thank you. Q&A #2: I'm also part of this educated middle class that is deeply supportive Q&A #2: of the current government and I'm happy to go into why Q&A #2: at another point and time. Q&A #2: It's definitely not toxic masculinity. Q&A #2: You talked a lot about these basic economic rights Q&A #2: and drew some parallels to China. Q&A #2: So I'm curious, would you be on board with a government similar to the one in China, Q&A #2: if it were able to provide these basic economic rights? Amartya Sen: Yeah. It's like saying that if you admire the national health service Amartya Sen: which came in Britain in 1948, would you like to be in a state, like a war-devastated economy? Amartya Sen: And trade unions, not yet in a position to emerge at all? Amartya Sen: You know, you have to ask, has China been able to do this Amartya Sen: because of the lack of democratic amendment? Is that your view? Q&A #2: Is that my view? Partially, yes. Amartya Sen: As a member of an educated middle-class family, how would you say that has come about? Q&A #2: So I would say they've been allowed to take decisions based on purely rationality Q&A #2: and not based on, like you spoke about, you know, popular opinion and so. Amartya Sen: Not a popular opinion against education and health care. Q&A #2: Definitely not. Education and healthcare are part of the basic rights that you mentioned. Amartya Sen: But then, why should the absence of popular opinion and democracy help? Q&A #2: Because, as you mentioned, a lot of people seem, most people seem to be motivated by self-interest. Q&A #2: So, if everyone is going to vote based on yes.. Amartya Sen: I said, what a huge mistake that is, that is committed. Amartya Sen: That is a real reversal. Amartya Sen: If I say that, in the part of the literature on nationality, Amartya Sen: the mistake is often cultivated that people are motivated by self-interest. Amartya Sen: And then you say, well you said Amartya Sen: people are motivated by self-interest? Q&A #2: No, I must've misheard you. Q&A #2: I personally believe that there is a large proportion of people who are motivated by self-interest. Q&A #2: And if that is the case, if you were to buy that argument. Amartya Sen: And they are motivated only by self-interest? Q&A #2: Only by self-interest is different from being motivated largely by self-interest. Amartya Sen: That's what I'm asking. Q&A #2: And I do believe that people make a lot of decisions based off the self-interest Q&A #2: part of their thinking, which is not to claim that everybody only acts in self-interest, Q&A #2: but that there is a large part of your decision making Q&A #2: that is influenced by self-interest. Q&A #2: And when you're not as a member of an educated middle-class, Q&A #2: you are not personally experiencing a lot of the downsides Q&A #2: that a large majority of the population in India does. Q&A #2: You tend to start taking more decisions based on self-interest. Q&A #2: And that's where I feel and again, Q&A #2: I'm not trying to draw causality between fascism and a developing economy that's not in any.... Amartya Sen: But there's some link between this and the China argument, right? Q&A #2: So there, I again, difference between causality and correlation. I'm curious. Amartya Sen: No, no. This has nothing to do with causality and correlation. Amartya Sen: This is definitely reflective of the problem. But you are not addressing that. Q&A #2: I'm sorry, can you repeat? Amartya Sen: Causality and correlation is a very big distinction, Amartya Sen: which anyone who is doing either statistics or the social sciences should be aware of. Amartya Sen: I didn't detect anything in your argument where that has turned out to be a critical factor. Q&A #2: Okay. Amartya Sen: Well it's a criticism for you, don't say okay. Q&A #2: No, I understand. Ruchira Gupta: Ok. can we go to another question because I think you've taken up a lot of time, so Ruchira Gupta: we can just go to the next question. Yes. Q&A #3: Hi. Good evening. My question is directed towards Doctor Sen. Q&A #3: Firstly, congratulations on being awarded the Bodley Medal by Oxford recently. Amartya Sen: Thank you. Q&A #3: So one of the big news in India, currently, is about the minimum income guarantee Q&A #3: by the Congress party in the manifesto which it claims is based upon your theory of the poverty index. Q&A #3: My obvious thought towards it goes in the direction that it's more of a populist sop. Q&A #3: It might be a way to sway the lower income people towards voting for the Congress party, Q&A #3: but what do you think, how big an impact will it have in generating Q&A #3: public opinion in favor of the party? Q&A #3: And how is it actually able to facilitate this considering Q&A #3: the current scenario in India? Amartya Sen: I think that's an excellent question. Amartya Sen: Indeed we have to ask again, obviously, Amartya Sen: it will have a positive impact in that, Amartya Sen: for the reason that the earlier gentleman was talking about self-interest and so on. Amartya Sen: You get some money, in a way, the easy way. Amartya Sen: You maybe in favor it for this. Amartya Sen: But its total impact has to be examined. Amartya Sen: Now, I think this is very important. Amartya Sen: I think they either, as I understand your position, Amartya Sen: there are two things. Amartya Sen: One is to ask these critical questions which you are doing excellently. Amartya Sen: And the other is that, by and large, Amartya Sen: I would like Congress, better than BJP in this election. Amartya Sen: But that doesn't mean I have nothing, Amartya Sen: no criticism to offer to the Congress' position. Amartya Sen: So, that's all and we agree. Ruchira Gupta: Thank you. Thank you. All right. Q&A #4: I'm a member of the middle class who is definitely not a supporter of Narendra Modi government. Q&A #4: And there are definitely some of us. Q&A #4: As someone who did his undergraduate in Delhi University, Q&A #4: I witnessed firsthand what happened at Jawaharlal Nehru University and what happened at Ramjas (University) Q&A #4: I can speak a lot about what that did happen at those universities, Q&A #4: but my question is more on the new political power we're seeing Q&A #4: among the peasant class and among the Dalit class, Q&A #4: among the long marches we are seeing as well as the recent incidents Q&A #4: at Bhima Koregaon and the reassertion of Dalit identity. Q&A #4: I just want to see your views on whether you think that the governments, Q&A #4: not just the BJP goverments, [that] fundamentally underestimate Q&A #4: the perception of the rule of order and the idea that they (Peasants and Dalits) Q&A #4: do not have an idea of what's going on or can they (Dalits and marginalized) Q&A #4: actually ever be a legitimate political force? Q&A #4: Do you think that this particular underestimation of Dalit and peasant power Q&A #4: can pay a large part in influencing at least the results of the Q&A #4: rural parts of the country during this particular election? Ruchira Gupta: Do you want to answer first? Prabhat Patnaik: Well, I hope it would have a major impact on the elections. Prabhat Patnaik: But the point is we must realize that the last time Prabhat Patnaik: you had such big peasant mobilizations was when a man called Mahendra Singh Tikait Prabhat Patnaik: used to organize big peasant rallies. Prabhat Patnaik: That was in the '70s, a very long time ago. Prabhat Patnaik: You hear of peasant suicides, but you don't hear of peasant protests. Prabhat Patnaik: The revival of peasant resistance is a very new thing, Prabhat Patnaik: and in a sense, feeds into the kind of revival of politics that you are seeing now. Prabhat Patnaik: I think throughout the last several decades, Prabhat Patnaik: there really was much more of identity politics of various kinds, Prabhat Patnaik: but not really this kind of mass revival of mass protests, Prabhat Patnaik: irrespective of identities. Prabhat Patnaik: I hope it has an impact. Prabhat Patnaik: This is the kind of thing which actually worries the government. Prabhat Patnaik: The moment there is a terrorist action of some kind, they heave a sigh of relief, Prabhat Patnaik: because the discourse shifts to Pakistan etc. Prabhat Patnaik: But the moment you have, once more, talking of these kinds of issues Prabhat Patnaik: they begin to get worried. Prabhat Patnaik: I think peasant protests are a very important issue in this election Prabhat Patnaik: and were a very important reason for the loss, by the BJP, Prabhat Patnaik: of the central Indian states in the last Assembly elections. Prabhat Patnaik: I think if that carries over to the Parliament elections, Prabhat Patnaik: then, of course, there will be a very substantial loss for them. Ruchira Gupta: Thanks. Q&A #5: Good evening panel. My question is more on the tactical side. Q&A #5: Given the talks that we just had, how should a voter decide what to choose? Q&A #5: What decisions should be made when they go to the voting panel? Q&A #5: And, lastly, does it merely boil down to the lesser of the two evils? Amartya Sen: Merely boil down to what? Ruchira Gupta: Choosing the lesser of the two evils. Q&A #5: I mean, both the parties have been accused of various things and that's it. Thank you. Amartya Sen: I think quite often it is, actually, the lesser of the two evils. Amartya Sen: In the sense that, you know, it's really Amartya Sen: how we see these things because, Amartya Sen: when, someone is doing some good, but a lot of bad, Amartya Sen: you could say that evil is too strong a word, Amartya Sen: I think, and it's too deep in religiosity for me to be able to use to easily. Amartya Sen: But lesser of two bad things. Amartya Sen: That's what it is. Amartya Sen: That's what choice is about. Amartya Sen: More of good things, less of bad things. Amartya Sen: So, nothing surprising ends up being lesser of bad things. Amartya Sen: And you won't get a person who is exactly, [what you vote for]. Amartya Sen: You may find someone who you like voting for. Amartya Sen: I mean, for many years, my favorite candidate, Amartya Sen: my representative in Shantiketan was someone Amartya Sen: who was elected as Speaker of the Lok Sabha by the Congress and the Communist party. Amartya Sen: For very different reasons. Amartya Sen: That was the former Speaker of the Indian Assembly. Amartya Sen: He was a communist and stood for the communist party. Ruchira Gupta: Somnath Chatterjee. Amartya Sen: Somnath Chatterjee. Sorry, I didn't mention his name. Amartya Sen: Somnath Chatterjee. Amartya Sen: And that was, of course, disliked from my Congress friends. Amartya Sen: But then the communist expelled Somnath Amartya Sen: on grounds of not being partisan: I have to say, Amartya Sen: I have got somebody here who is more involved in the Communist party than I am- Amartya Sen: its a complete misunderstanding of the role of a speaker. Amartya Sen: Once you are a speaker, you cannot pursue the interests Amartya Sen: and take the (whip) of one of the parties which got you elected. Amartya Sen: On that ground, to chastise him is a mistake. Amartya Sen: You know, there's always scope of misunderstanding. Amartya Sen: I was very pleased that my candidate was attacked by everyone. Amartya Sen: But, I think you're right. I think we have to recognize that good and bad don't mix. Amartya Sen: When this gentleman said he is against Modi, Amartya Sen: I would like him to also count, Amartya Sen: I think the count brings out quite clearly, Amartya Sen: that at this time, Modi's bad influences are much stronger than his good influences. Amartya Sen: Is that as bad as North Korea? Amartya Sen: No, I don't think it is. All right. Ruchira Gupta: I think I would vote along the lines of choosing an approach Ruchira Gupta: and thinking of whose approach is going to help me more. Ruchira Gupta: Do I want freedom of speech? Ruchira Gupta: Do I want freedom of association? Ruchira Gupta: Do I want to be able to go to a university and study freely of all the textbooks, Ruchira Gupta: which are full of facts and not full of mythology? Ruchira Gupta: Do I want to have a love marriage across caste or religion? Ruchira Gupta: Do I want people who are poorer than me to have at least basic food, Ruchira Gupta: a free education and healthcare? Ruchira Gupta: I would choose, whoever, supports this approach Ruchira Gupta: rather than thinking about the lesser of two evils. Ruchira Gupta: I would not think about the leaders that, you know, Ruchira Gupta: is it this leader versus that leader? Ruchira Gupta: Because, ultimately, it's going to be through consensus Ruchira Gupta: and hopefully a parliamentary democracy will prevail. Ruchira Gupta: And, so, people will come to some consensus together. Ruchira Gupta: I would look for the approach and vote for the right approach. [audience clapping] Prabhat Patnaik: I think, of course, one should choose the lesson of the two evils, Prabhat Patnaik: but I think looking at it as simply greater or lesser of two evils, Prabhat Patnaik: underestimates, understates the seriousness that currently the Indian polity is facing. Prabhat Patnaik: Because as Ruchira said, we actually are having a threat of fascism. Prabhat Patnaik: We are having a situation where students in JNUniversity Prabhat Patnaik: are charged with sedition. Prabhat Patnaik: We have people who are civil rights activists who are in jail, Prabhat Patnaik: in solitary confinement at this moment. Prabhat Patnaik: All kinds of trumped up charges. Prabhat Patnaik: This is very serious. Prabhat Patnaik: That being the case, my approach would be to vote for the person Prabhat Patnaik: who you think is the strongest to defeat the BJP. Q&A #5: That was really crystal clear. Thank you. Q&A #6: Professors, thank you so much for your talk. That was very insightful. Q&A #6: I just have a question. When the elections are around the corner, Q&A #6: there's the general sentiment in the government to shy away from Q&A #6: quantitative argumentation and head towards a lot of emotional debate and rhetoric. Q&A #6: Sometimes, honestly, its a pain to watch. Q&A #6: What kind of impact does that have on education for the youth of India? Q&A #6: After all, education is not only what happens in the schools, Q&A #6: but it's also this kind of exposure they have to argumentation in the government. Q&A #6: That has a knock on impact on the country generally. Q&A #6: So what do you think is your message to the youth, first of all. Q&A #6: And do you think that this significantly impacts their education? Amartya Sen: I think this is Prabhat’s question. Prabhat Patnaik: Have you ever heard the Indian Parliament debates or read any of their reports? Prabhat Patnaik: They're pretty good, you know. Q&A #6: The debates, yes. Certainly, I'm not criticizing the debate at all. I'm just saying... Prabhat Patnaik: You see what actually happens. Prabhat Patnaik: If suppose we want to raise an issue, Prabhat Patnaik: unless you stage a walk out or walk into the well, and so on, Prabhat Patnaik: the media doesn't take it seriously. Prabhat Patnaik: As a result, they often do this kind of thing, which is more drama. Prabhat Patnaik: But when you have serious discussions, you have some excellent presentation. Amartya Sen: I agree with that. Prabhat Patnaik: And, likewise, the Parliament reports are wonderful, you know, Prabhat Patnaik: on all kinds of issues, intellectual property rights and so on. Prabhat Patnaik: Very good. You know, genetically modified crops. Prabhat Patnaik: The parliamentary committee reports are absolutely first rate. Prabhat Patnaik: So, I think we must kind of, you know, cherish that. Prabhat Patnaik: I mean, I think I'm not in favor of debunking the Parliament. Prabhat Patnaik: Then, the other thing about the youth of India, Prabhat Patnaik: I mean I think, I think the youth has to be really concerned Prabhat Patnaik: about what is happening to the ordinary people. Prabhat Patnaik: I think the conditions of life of the ordinary people, Prabhat Patnaik: is something which, is not really sufficiently appreciated by the youth, Prabhat Patnaik: particularly in universities and so on. Prabhat Patnaik: I think that should be. Prabhat Patnaik: I mean, for instance, there is an emphasis on career. Prabhat Patnaik: Okay. And if that is the case, then you simply have no time. Prabhat Patnaik: I mean, you know, if you're a student, you simply have no time to look around, Prabhat Patnaik: to know what's happening starting from school days. Prabhat Patnaik: I know people in Delhi who shed tears because their child, Prabhat Patnaik: son or daughter in the school of final exam has got only 99%. Prabhat Patnaik: Now you see that being the case, there is this enormous push towards career Prabhat Patnaik: and I think that doesn't leave the youth enough breathing space Prabhat Patnaik: to look at society and what's happening around you that must be overcome. Ruchira Gupta: One last question. Q&A #7: Hi, good evening. Thank you for being here. Q&A #7: So I'm from West Bengal, I'm still scarred by the way we shooed Tata away. Q&A #7: My question is, the whole lack of emphasis on manufacturing sector overall in the country Q&A #7: is really disappointing and, honestly, scary. Q&A #7: We've been promised labor reforms for years Q&A #7: by the Congresses and the BJP. Q&A #7: We haven't seen the sight of it. Q&A #7: We've been promised privatization of loss-making units for years now. Q&A #7: Again, there is no mention of this in the manifesto as well. Q&A #7: Is it possible to achieve equal economic growth Q&A #7: leaving out manufacturing sector and ignoring it altogether? Ruchira Gupta: Two experts. Amartya Sen: I think the extraordinarily disappointing performance of the manufacturing sector Amartya Sen: is a major drawback for India. Amartya Sen: It is a drawback that is not recognized very clearly Amartya Sen: when you are just going by the money amount generated. Amartya Sen: The financial sector can generate easily huge amounts of money Amartya Sen: in a way that manufacturing cannot. Amartya Sen: And I think there used to be a mistake at an earlier stage in 18-19th century, Amartya Sen: where we will describe the non-manufacturing, nonagricultural sector as unproductive labor. Amartya Sen: That was a mistake because productive work is done Amartya Sen: through services and education and healthcare Amartya Sen: that I was stating come out of the service sector. Amartya Sen: On the other hand, and I'm not going to give any ground Amartya Sen: for switching focus, especially on education and health care Amartya Sen: as a major neglected field in India. Amartya Sen: But along with that, what has happened to the Indian manufacturing Amartya Sen: is a question that has not been, I think adequately addressed at all. Amartya Sen: And this is where I think without us calling magic Amartya Sen: had a part because the numbers look so magically good Amartya Sen: that this generates that much income and so on. Amartya Sen: As one of my colleagues told me that, you know, Amartya Sen: he was filling up his income tax form, which people do in this the season Amartya Sen: and he said he had calculated and it come to the conclusion Amartya Sen: that any time spent on filing your income tax report generates Amartya Sen: much more income than any other way of spending your labor. Amartya Sen: And that may well be correct. Amartya Sen: On the other hand, you're right, Amartya Sen: manufacturing is neglected and very importantly, Amartya Sen: [it is] very important that we change that. Prabhat Patnaik: You know, I mean I agree with that you're absolutely right about manufacturing Prabhat Patnaik: being one of the weak sectors in the (rules) performance. Prabhat Patnaik: Just two comments I want to make. Prabhat Patnaik: There is not an iota of evidence that manufacturing sectors growth Prabhat Patnaik: is held up because of the absence of labor market flexibility. Prabhat Patnaik: Not an iota of evidence. Prabhat Patnaik: That is something which is drummed up Prabhat Patnaik: by all kinds of neoliberal economist, Prabhat Patnaik: but they're really not an iota of evidence. Prabhat Patnaik: The second thing I'd like to see is that when we talk about manufacturing, Prabhat Patnaik: you're talking only about large scale manufacturing. Prabhat Patnaik: As a matter of fact, in India, there is [a] substantial small scale manufacturing sector, Prabhat Patnaik: which is actually getting demolished because of demonetization Prabhat Patnaik: and GST and so on, which is happening. Prabhat Patnaik: So the government [is] actually killing that sector and that needs to be protected. Amartya Sen: I agree with that. Amartya Sen: If I may come back to the China [versus] India contrast, Amartya Sen: the reason China can produce anything, I haven't looked at it. Amartya Sen: I (vetted), made in China- almost anything. Amartya Sen: And Indians can make pharmaceuticals, information technology. Amartya Sen: And for some reason, this was true, about four years ago, it may have changed now, motor parts. Amartya Sen: As opposed to 20,000 things that the Chinese can do. Amartya Sen: Why? Because of literacy, because of the able to read instructions, Amartya Sen: because of being able to follow, to have quality control by following instructions. Amartya Sen: So there is a reason why the manufacturing sector, Amartya Sen: which demands much greater use of school education than, Amartya Sen: say, agriculture does is not getting the attention and the success that they deserve. Amartya Sen: So it's not a mystery and there is a connection between Amartya Sen: these services education, healthcare and manufacturing fallout. Amartya Sen: There is a connection. Amartya Sen: But I also agree with Prabhat that small scale production and also a lot to comment and Amartya Sen: in Bangladesh's success for example, has been made on cotton textile and so on. Amartya Sen: So I think, these are complex pictures to look at. Amartya Sen: But you're drawing attention to something very important. Ruchira Gupta: Thanks. Ruchira Gupta: Do we have time for more questions? Ruchira Gupta: No, we don't have time for one more questions. I'm sorry. Amartya Sen: But this gentlemen had been standing there for a long time. Q&A #8: I have a question, you know. The topic is called "India at crossroads" Q&A #8: The democracy is at crossroads all over the world. Q&A #8: All over the world. U.S. or India. Q&A #8: But this elections will decide because Q&A #8: Baba Ambedkar graduated from Columbia. The constitution is in a crisis in India and second question is... Amartya Sen: Sorry, I didn't get the first question. Ruchira Gupta: Is the constitution in a crisis? Q&A #8: Indian constitution in a crisis. Q&A #8: Second question is: Doctor Manmohan Singh versus Modi. Q&A #8: Manmohan Singh is an economist, he knew the negative impact of demonetization and GST. Q&A #8: This demonetization hurt small business people and small farmers, small households, wives. Q&A #8: This is a worrying situation. All our economists, you should address this. Ruchira Gupta: The demonetization affects small scale industry... Amartya Sen: Demonetization effects negatively small scale industry... Q&A #8: Is it good for India or bad for India? Prabhat Patnaik: Of course, bad for India. Prabhat Patnaik: I mean, by now, everybody says that even the Reserve Bank's own data that, Prabhat Patnaik: you know, the whole idea behind demonetization is that if the currency notes get killed, Prabhat Patnaik: as it were, then you can thereby reduce the liability of the central bank Prabhat Patnaik: And that being the case, that much money is what is available to the government Prabhat Patnaik: and the government can distribute it among the poor. Prabhat Patnaik: But it turns out that 99.3% of the demonetized currency came back to the banking system. Prabhat Patnaik: So it has no impact as far as the black economies concern Prabhat Patnaik: as far as raising the resources for the government is concerned. Prabhat Patnaik: But it simply created massive disruption Prabhat Patnaik: as well as the people were concerned, including small business, as you see Q&A #8: Most of the Indian educators, people are thinking of that Q&A #8: demonetization is good for the country, Q&A #8: but as intellectuals, you should give a good message. Q&A #8: Demonetization has messed up peasants, the common man. Amartya Sen: Where are you reading that demonization is good? Amartya Sen: You're reading it somewhere? You're not or you are? Amartya Sen: I thought there was a lot of jubilant war crimes at one stage, but they have died down. Q&A #8: Because, you know, people in the village. My mom, she lost 5,000 rupees or 10,000 rupees. Prabhat Patnaik: I'm so sorry. Q&A #8: She couldn't even cash it. Q&A #8: My mom is 80 years old. She said, my money is paper. Ruchira Gupta: We have to wrap up. I'm really sorry. Ruchira Gupta: Thank you so much. [audience clapping] Ruchira Gupta: All the questions from the audience. Ruchira Gupta: Professor Bilgrami, Professor Patnaik, and Professor Sen, Ruchira Gupta: for taking out the time at this critical moment in India's history to have this discussion. Ruchira Gupta: There's a lot at stake and I believe, Ruchira Gupta: as someone of my generation, Ruchira Gupta: that literally what is at stake Ruchira Gupta: is the choice between fascism and no fascism.

Video Details

Duration: 1 hour, 40 minutes and 23 seconds
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Language: English
License: Dotsub - Standard License
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Posted by: develop_apneaap on Apr 12, 2019

This World Leaders program features an address by two of India’s most eminent economists and public intellectuals, Amartya Sen and Prabhat Patnaik, with a moderated discussion by Ruchira Gupta, CEO and Founder of the anti-trafficking organization Apne Aap Women Worldwide. Professors Sen and Patnaik will discuss contemporary issues central to India’s political crossroads and seek to explore the moral, political, economic, and philosophical perspectives relating to India’s current political climate and upcoming election, and the global rise of populist nationalism. The audience will have the opportunity to participate in a question and answer session following the panel discussion.

Participants:
Amartya Sen, Professor of Economics and Philosophy, Harvard University

Prabhat Patnaik, Professor Emeritus, Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Moderated by:
Ruchira Gupta, CEO and Founder of the anti-trafficking organization Apne Aap Women Worldwide and Visiting Professor at New York University

Co-sponsored by:
South Asia Institute, Committee on Global Thought, and Heyman Center for the Humanities

Transcript: To be uploaded soon.

Event Link: https://worldleaders.columbia.edu/events/india-crossroads

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