By Jean Drèze

When India turned self sufficient in 1947 after centuries of colonial rule, it instantly followed a firmly democratic political method, with a number of events, freedom of speech, and large political rights. The famines of the British period disappeared, and regular fiscal development changed the commercial stagnation of the Raj. the expansion of the Indian economic climate quickened extra over the past 3 many years and have become the second one quickest between huge economies. regardless of a up to date dip, it's nonetheless one of many maximum within the world.

Maintaining swift in addition to environmentally sustainable development is still a huge and available aim for India. In An doubtful Glory, of India's major economists argue that the country's major difficulties lie within the loss of consciousness paid to the fundamental wishes of the folks, in particular of the bad, and sometimes of ladies. there were significant mess ups either to foster participatory development and to make strong use of the general public assets generated by way of financial progress to augment people's dwelling stipulations. there's additionally a persevered inadequacy of social providers reminiscent of education and remedy in addition to of actual providers reminiscent of secure water, electrical energy, drainage, transportation, and sanitation. ultimately, even the feasibility of excessive monetary development is threatened through the underdevelopment of social and actual infrastructure and the forget of human functions, against this with the Asian method of simultaneous pursuit of financial progress and human improvement, as pioneered by means of Japan, South Korea, and China.

In a democratic procedure, which India has nice cause to worth, addressing those disasters calls for not just major coverage rethinking via the govt., but in addition a clearer public figuring out of the abysmal quantity of social and monetary deprivations within the state. The deep inequalities in Indian society are likely to constrict public dialogue, confining it principally to the lives and issues of the quite prosperous. Drèze and Sen current a robust research of those deprivations and inequalities in addition to the potential for switch via democratic practice.

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What was not, however, much discussed at all was the fact that 200 million of those 600 million without electricity had never had any electricity at all, since these non-affluent people were not – and had never been – connected to power. Issues of economic development in India have to be seen in the larger context of the demands of democracy and social justice. During the last twenty years, the Indian economy has done very well in terms of the growth of GDP (about 6 per cent per year in real terms in the 1990s, rising to more than 7 per cent in the last decade).

The same can be said for the priority of basic education for all. In dealing with India’s multitude of problems, there may well be a temptation – but not a serious reason – for India to give up or reduce its long commitment to democracy, for which so many people have fought and out of which so much good has already come to the country. It is deeply disappointing that more use has not been made of the opportunities offered by a political democracy and a free society to solve the problems that so many Indians continue to face.

Indeed, as will be discussed in the next chapter, India’s real income per head is still lower than that of most countries outside sub-Saharan Africa. The picture is even worse if we focus on the quality of life of the underprivileged part of the Indian population, hundreds of millions of whom continue to lack the essential requirements of satisfactory living, from nutritious food to health care, decent work conditions, and warm clothes in the winter. Growth alone is unlikely to end these problems, at least not within a reasonable time frame, but it is certainly much easier to remedy such deficiencies in a growing economy.

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