– Pankil Goswami, Programme Officer
We are living in the times where an individual’s belief seems to be of prime importance. We are made to choose between different ideologies and once a choice is made, it has to be defended vehemently. There seems to be a crisis of an individual’s assertiveness to objectivity. Is life only about taking stands and should be spent proclaiming it to be the best? Like the way our society has become all about opinions leading to different paths and even more diverse discourses, the models of development by Amartya Sen and Jagdish Bhagwati are also two important varied attempts suggesting us to choose our path for progress. These models are unlike media and political propagandas, which uses every opportunity to put forward their agendas. These models are not fundamental and are never presented as necessary but they have their own beliefs and stems from the philosophy of their authors backed by their understanding of economics. I intend to use the Public Affairs Index to present a case against the choice between Sen and Bhagwati Model. I firmly believe that these both models are very useful and are a guiding force for the governance of our nation but the idea shouldn’t be to choose one. The Indian political economy has a lot of space to encompass both these models.
The two themes of Public affairs Index which best represents Bhagwati’s model are Essential Infrastructure and Economic Freedom. While the other two themes which inclines to Sen’s model are Support to Human development and Women and Children. Power, Water, Roads and communication formulate the essential infrastructure theme. The Support to Human Development theme includes different factors which constitutes Education and Health like Learning levels, No. of education colleges per 1 lakh population, Infant Mortality rate, Average Population served per hospital bed etc.
It’s important to analyze few results of different themes in the case of Kerala and Gujarat which supposedly follow Sen and Bhagwati’s model respectively. The state of Kerala tops the support to Human development theme as well as the overall PAI aggregated ranking. It also tops the list in PAI ranking under the theme of Women and Children. But the performance of Kerala has been fairly below average in essential infrastructure where it gets 10th rank out of 17 states in large states category. In fact some of the previously labelled BIMARU states like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan stand at 7th and 9th rank performing better. In case of the theme of economic freedom, the performance of Kerala deteriorates where it is ranked 15th just above Assam and Bihar. The impact of lack of essential infrastructure is seen in the economic freedom also.
On the other hand Gujarat which can be considered following Bhagwati model ranks 3rd in essential infrastructure, 1st in economic freedom. As soon as the attention shifts to Support to Human development, Gujarat is lagging behind at 10th rank, below states like Odisha and Rajasthan. In the theme of Women and children, the rank goes down till 13th which gives a clear message of paradox in the development initiatives taken or ignored in the state.
Development is often the most used and abused word in the Indian political scenario. The perception of a developed state can be propagated by the political class, media and few intellectuals. Their versions of development have always been presented as the ultimate one. Through such nexus public perception is formed. The same might have been the case with Kerala and Gujarat. Without doubt, both of these states have performed extremely in some areas but the reality is that a lot of work still needs to be accomplished. I believe we need to look at the larger picture of both the states.
The Economic growth and Human development intersects in States like Tamil Nadu and Punjab where a choice is not necessary between essential infrastructure and Human development. Both of these states are well paced in both the themes and their model of governance seems to be more feasible than Gujarat and Kerala. Because of this factor the overall ranking of Tamil Nadu and Punjab is also very good where they stand at 2nd and 6th rank respectively. We need to emphasise on the fact that in spite of Kerala performing better than Tamilnadu and Gujarat being placed better than Punjab in overall rankings, the governance is more balanced and the development initiatives have certainly touched more number of people in these states in comparison to Kerala and Gujarat.
The importance of basic infrastructure runs parallel in the social and the economic life of the citizens. It has its great political significance and is often considered as the best parameter for development in any state. With India, almost reaching seven decades of independence, the essential infrastructure seems to be most basic entitlement that citizens ought to receive. It is the backbone of any growing economy. With the force of liberalization, privatization and globalization creating a huge impact on developing Indian economy, states can no longer live in isolation and darkness .While on the other side, the Human development indicators are the most important one for an individuals and collectively a societies well being. Investing in people is one the best ways to invest for a progressive nation. These indicators also reflect the mindset of a society and provide an overall perspective of the cultural practices which are being nurtured by families.
The effort of the governments through governance should be that it touches upon the maximum number of lives and serves to all classes of the society. It seems that Kerala has congested itself with the common masses and Gujarat has only responded to the business and entrepreneur community. Governance should be more about giving weightage to varied facets of development and certainly Tamil Nadu and Punjab have shown the way to do so at least in respect to Essential Infrastructure and Support to Human to Human Development.
It seems very unrealistic to compare human development and Essential Infrastructure. The choice itself represents a case of undermining the importance of both. Therefore in our country, there is a need for governments to introspect their priorities and understand the fact that prioritizing can be harmful in a much disguised way and hence if prioritizing is done, it should also be done in a way where inclusiveness comes. But then, it’s not prioritizing, its going against its very basic nature. The question that we seek to ask here is prioritizing necessary the way Kerala and Gujarat have done? And if it is, then it would be interesting to know the Prioritizes of Tamil Nadu and Punjab.