Fifth Column: Another argument

It gives me another chance to reiterate that Dr Sen is to blame for keeping vast majority of Indians poor, hungry and illiterate for decades.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Updated: July 19, 2015 8:47 am
column, express column, sunday column, argumentative Indian, Dr Amartya Sen, leftist ideology, Nehruvian socialism, Soviet Union, Sonia-Manmohan government, Jean Dreze ,National Advisory Council, MNREGA,  Nobel prize winner, economist, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Indian Express So Dr Sen objects to my charge that he was a ‘virtual advisor’ to the Sonia-Manmohan government.

As a particularly ‘argumentative Indian’ I can never resist a good argument. So I was delighted that Dr Amartya Sen responded to my column last week. It gives me another chance to reiterate that Dr Sen and his fellow travellers and their leftist ideology are to blame for keeping the vast majority of Indians poor, hungry and illiterate for decades. Luckily for us the economic dictatorship imposed by Nehruvian socialism was inefficient and disorderly, or India may have collapsed like the Soviet Union did.

READ: Conversations with Tavleen Singh and Pratap Mehta

So Dr Sen objects to my charge that he was a ‘virtual advisor’ to the Sonia-Manmohan government. Then how is it that his comrade and co-writer Jean Dreze was such a powerful member of Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council? It was on account of Dreze that money that should have been spent on improving the abysmal quality of rural schools and hospitals was spent instead on the MNREGA. Is this not true? And, is it not true that instead of creating jobs in rural India, the MNREGA provided a form of dole?

Providing a hundred days of work annually to destitute people instead of creating real jobs is to ensure that they remain in poverty rather than escape it. But no government can rid us of this very bad scheme now because it has created a vast infrastructure of corruption that benefits officials hugely in the name of ‘alleviating’ poverty. Dr Sen as a Nobel prize winning economist could have advised his ‘very good friend’ Dr Manmohan Singh to spend India’s meagre resources more wisely.

READ: Questions for a Nobel laureate Amartya Sen

Dr Sen, as your ‘virtual friend’, may I humbly point out that you make a mistake by bemoaning cuts by the Modi government in the budgets for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the midday meal scheme. On my travels in rural India I always inspect the village school, so I can tell you that the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has not raised teaching standards at all. Enrolment has gone up but children forced by poverty to go to government schools get almost nothing by way of ‘shiksha’. This is the reason why even desperately poor Indian parents try to send their children to private ‘English-medium’ schools.

This shameful situation was made worse in the past decade because of the deceptive ‘right to education’ law that forces private schools to keep a quota for children whose parents cannot afford to pay full fees. The worst consequence of this ‘right’ has been that instead of government schools improving private schools, they now have more inspectors poking their noses into everything. The problem is not a shortage of funds; the problem is a corrupt licence raj that the new Prime Minister must dismantle urgently.

As for the midday meal scheme, may I recommend a visit to any Akshay Patra centre to see the difference between the school meals they provide and what government school kitchens provide. Let us never forget the children who died from eating a school meal in the village of Dharmashati Gandaman in Bihar’s Saran district.

Now let us talk of Dr Sen’s complaint that the Modi government has cut funds for public healthcare. Does he not know that government hospitals are so appalling that an estimated 80 per cent of Indians are forced to rely on private hospitals and quacks? It is not money that is the problem but a disdain for the people of this country that is embedded deep in the souls of those who run this country. As for Kerala having the ‘highest per capita income in India’, Dr Sen is wrong again. It is at number eleven, below Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and a long list of other states.

On Nalanda, may I say that the reason why I did not discuss the salaries of Dr Sen or the university’s faculty last week is because there are no details on the website.

If Dr Sen wants Nalanda to be ‘fully accountable’ then it is vital that these details be made available. Since they are not, there have been a series of speculative stories that suggest that Indian taxpayers are paying thousands of dollars to foreign professors.
One final question that I did not ask last week out of respect for so eminent a personage. Why did Dr Sen never consider coming back to India to teach? Could it be because the state of higher education in our ancient land has deteriorated so seriously that even the best of our universities count among the worst in the world?

Nalanda must raise the bar much, much higher. I happen to be among those who want it raised really high because every time I visit the ruins of this ancient university I weep for what it once must have been. But, if Dr Sen’s departure is all it takes for it to fail there has to be something very wrong with its reincarnation.

@ tavleen_singh

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  1. A
    Alkesh
    Jul 19, 2015 at 8:30 pm
    I suggest that the young of India launch a new political party called HTT (Hang The Traitors) party. This party would go to mes and make them aware how the congress, sic kulaks, Leftists, and Commies have looted and ruined India and seek public approval and consutional change to publicly hang all the Cogies, Commies, and Leftist traitors en me.
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      Gaurav
      Jul 19, 2015 at 11:56 pm
      An ic rant of journo with no facts n figures to show but an oft repeated hand me down opinion just for the sake of it! Amartya Sen responding to her earlier tripe gave her more credit than anyone else even in govt. gives her when it comes to anything economics !! Besides When anyone needs to rant against mnrega et al of Jean dreze n amartya Sen at the very least back up claims with hard data !! Rural consumption was the single biggest reason for the years of plenty between 2004-11!! Mnrega was single biggest reason of poverty alleviation! Which Even likes of World bank agree to that but here's a has been journo specialising in gossip that too past sell by date trying to stay relevant by sucking up to establishment thru vitriol!
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        Gurinder
        Jul 25, 2015 at 3:40 am
        Reduce the budget for education and health and vow the standard will go up! Wah wah Talveen Ji u r genius and fit for Nobel .
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          Sridhar
          Jul 19, 2015 at 11:40 am
          Tavleen showing up Amartya Sen. To raise INDIA From Poverty, Modi must have at least 2 terms unfettered by rogues like Congress and other Left leaning and dole giving parties
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          1. R
            Ramesh Pau
            Jul 19, 2015 at 10:22 pm
            Tavleen is again 100% right. Dr sen quit india.we don't need you or your advice.please ash soniaji to settle you in Europe .
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              Saradha Sankar
              Jul 19, 2015 at 9:10 am
              well done Tavleen.you have called spade a spade
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                TIHAEwale
                Jul 19, 2015 at 2:20 pm
                Tavleen when her know all PM can dismantle why is he not able to get rid of MNREGA is it because NaMo find it to keep his party leaders smiling because it has created a vast infrastructure of corruption that benefits party
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                  AP
                  Jul 19, 2015 at 8:03 pm
                  fake name and paid spammer
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                    Tom
                    Jul 19, 2015 at 11:04 am
                    A mediocre and modi bhakht journalist challenging the Nobel laureate on economics! She is high on arrogance and a perfect example of elitists mindset.
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                      Cdr Ajai
                      Jul 23, 2015 at 1:08 am
                      Does remove the "halo" around Mr Sen's head. Mr Sen has been very selective in his criticisms; mum about the abject failures of 6 decades of the Congress economy. All of a sudden Mr Sen finds everything wrong with the the present govts policies. I think he is a bad looser who is finding it difficult to accept that he has been practically "sacked" from Nalanda, and that the present govt has no time for his policies or his "big ego"; which has obviously been very hurt. A very good point made by the author is the great clout someone called Dreaze had in the NAC; the shadow group which decided how India was to be governed through the facade of Manmohan Singh. Dreaze and Sen are buddies, and Sen has certainly had a great say in the way the economy was managed (or mismanaged( by the NAC. Poor MMS was the silent fall guy.
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                        ak dev
                        Jul 19, 2015 at 4:52 am
                        Sen doesn't know abc of development. His theories are totally false and don't apply in today's real world. In India He receives attention disproportionate to the worth of his ideas.
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                          Akmal
                          Jul 21, 2015 at 5:26 pm
                          Tavleen a page 3 writer.. what she knows about economics (Sic)! It will more appropriate she writes about page-3 parties..
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                            Aliya Curmally
                            Jul 21, 2015 at 11:38 am
                            She is all over the place - there is nothing coherent in this piece - how is this lady still published? If MGNREGA is so terrible why did the NDA Govt. increase funding to it stating all the micro-infrastructure benefits from it? If as per Tavleen Singh's ridiculous naive entreaty the License Raj is a thing the BJP/NDA can or wants to dismantle why are they mum about the basics of their 'favoritism' like #LalitModi and #VyapamScam? This is a piece of regurgitated ill-informed hate.
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                              Amit
                              Jul 19, 2015 at 10:59 am
                              Hopefully it makes some sense for Sen. Challenge is instead of being sane, Sen will try to publicise his old and new books. A Nobel laureate should bring value for country despite challenges instead of being a crying baby.
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                                Anil
                                Jul 19, 2015 at 11:44 am
                                Very true. The arguments of the Congress/ dynasty and it's supporters (and Sen is as ardent as they come) no longer cut it. It speaks volumes of it's current leadership's (Rahul hi, more a perpetual learner parroting one liners standing in for a coherent vision, than a leader) intellectual inertia that they are trying to lead a revival of their party based on the same harmful, discredited and failed policies of the past. These are not fantasies but cold facts staring them in their faces and they can't get away by abusing or labelling critics as 'Bhakts'. Unless they too want to be called dynasty slaves in return.
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                                  GKaur
                                  Jul 19, 2015 at 12:35 pm
                                  How is Dr. Sen responsible for what Jean Dreze advised the government? What twisted logic is this?
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                                    Natarajan Arunachalam
                                    Sep 25, 2015 at 8:52 pm
                                    You may be correct. See the quality. Now our Govt schools are ineffective, inefficient. Quota raj of teachers .... Student suffers. Language issue. Which language you want to study is fixed by state. No uniform policy in education. One fellow will say Hindi and other fellow Mother tongue. Make education a central subject.
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                                      Ashok
                                      Jul 19, 2015 at 11:25 pm
                                      incorect to say dr sen responsibe..its ppl lik u who do nt do anythng but just thriv on columns...that to far frm reality of rural india...wages has gone up...just stick to politicl comments that too prety silly by .mrs singh
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                                        Aslam Khan
                                        Jul 19, 2015 at 7:48 am
                                        No country in the West will appoint him to even a junior office in its own decision making. They dumped him on India where he is worshipped by fools.
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                                          A S
                                          Jul 26, 2015 at 2:58 pm
                                          Blind allegiance to either Congress or BJP can be fatal. If Govt schools and hospitals are bad shape then fix the problems. No country can have ONLY private schools or hospitals. Govts have a major role to play.
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                                            A.Murali Krishna
                                            Jul 19, 2015 at 9:41 am
                                            India is an ancient country and Hinduism is SANATANA DHARMA. Sri Sri Sri ADI SHANKARA sent out tough message to Buddhists and to theories of Charvaka. Like wise, Narendra Modi is earnest in driving out socialist theories and the ills propgated by professors like Amartya Sen. Journalists like Madam Singh is doing a great service by repeatedly bringing out the ills of socialism. India has resources and most importantly human resources. Modi is keen to develop it. By giving doles as done by UPA, people become lazy. Vested interests sponsor schemes and scams. I request Mr. Sen to contribute to Modi's development agenda. Mr. Sen is a Bharat Rathna not UPA's rathna. Mr. Sen shall follow mandate and deliver his great ideas (if any), to present government. Otherwise, Mr. Sen is spoiling the mood of the nation. Negativity is bad.
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