Summary: Radical Needs and Moderate Reforms (Ends, Means and Practical Reforms

Author: Amartya Sen is a Veteran Indian economist, philosopher and expert on welfare
studies. He was awarded with Nobel Prize in economics in 1998 for his contribution to
welfare economics. He is popularly known as „Mother Teresa of Economics'.
Keywords: India, quality of life, resources, human capacity, demographic indicators,
endemic deprivation, public action, development process, elementary education, health
care, social security, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, and West Bengal.
The summary of the chapter 1 from the book “Indian Development: Selected
Regional Perspective” is written into 11 subparts as per the flow of the topics in the original
literature. The chapter emphasizes on the prevalence of atrocities in the Indian Society, and
on the role of public participation in addressing the problem. It gives rationale on the need to
go beyond the narrow focus of current policy debates on the issue of market-oriented reforms
aimed at accelerating the rate of economic growth. These reforms can contribute to the
elimination of basic deprivations in India, but they need to be supported and supplemented by
a far more active involvement in the provision of basic education, health care, social security,
and related fields.
The chapter encompasses the Amartya Sen‟s eloquent synthesis of theoretical
concepts of India‟s economic development with empirical findings. Economic policies have
witnessed the radical change over the time in India with economic development reification as
a function of increase in per capita Gross Domestic Product ignoring expanding human
capabilities. The author assess India‟s performance in promoting basic education, health, and
well being through historical, cross-cutting, cross-regional, and cross-national comparisons.
He presents an empirical analysis of regional variations in mortality, fertility and gender bias
highlighting important connections between demographic outcomes, economic development
and women's agency. The literature uses the rich diversity of India‟s development experience
as a laboratory to compare the range of outcomes in various states and to generate the
proactive explanations for their relative success and failure.
The author elaborates the evolution of human capacities in Uttar Pradesh, West
Bengal, and Kerala. He employs historical, intrastate, and interstate comparisons to pose
interesting issues and elaborates proactive hypothesis. He investigates the factors causing
divergent outcomes in human capacity due to economic growth. State policy and public
action can develop human capacities even when the growth is limited taking Kerala as the
role model. Economic growth does not necessarily advances human capacities. Despite
modest growth in Uttar Pradesh, educational standards in government schools have dropped
as a result of declining per capita expenditure in public education, a decrease in number of
elementary school teachers per capita, and the deteriorating performance of teachers. Further
econometric study finds that urbanization, poverty alleviation, increased male literacy, and
the spread of medical facilities do nothing to reduce gender disparities in child mortality and
in some cases increase them by reducing rates for males more than that for females.
Sen emphasizes on India needs to broaden its base in the spheres of education,
healthcare and women's equality to foster economic growth. India does have many
achievements in the success of a relatively small group of privileged people well trained in
higher education and specialised expertise. Yet our educational system remains deeply unjust.
Among other bad consequences, the low coverage and low quality of school education in
India extracts a heavy price in the pattern of our economic development. The economy may
be doing much better than before in many different ways. India is still paying quite a heavy
price for having a far less educated general labour force than countries like China. India has
great difficulty in competing in a whole range of simple products, the making of which
requires basic elementary education.
Critical of the neglect that elementary education has been subjected to since early
Independence, Prof. Sen emphasizes the inclination of India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal
Nehru for technical education and his attitude towards primary education is “lamentable.”
Prof. Sen regretted that primary education has insufficient coverage in India. There were a
huge number of out-of-school children and the quality of education was low. “India needs to
widen its education base radically,” he said.
It would not be possible to achieve inclusive economic growth, which is central to the
government policies, if the commitment to ameliorate social opportunity is not adhered to.