Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Monday made history by delivering an important message to political leaders from the Central Hall of Parliament — that “terrible human deprivations” that are tolerated without much political protest can get drowned in the cacophony of immediate and vocal discontent.
Also, when social justice appears to be done because of existence of certain institutions, it may not be so and human suffering could go unchecked, he said.
Sen was invited by Lok Sabha Speaker Somnanth Chatterjee, who was expelled by the CPI(M) recently, to deliver the first memorial lecture in honour of a legendary comrade, Hiren Mukherjee, who was elected to the first Lok Sabha in 1952 and remained a member till 1977.
Sen chose to speak on “Demands of Social Justice” — a subject that was dear to Hiren Mukherjee — before the audience that included Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Leaders of Opposition L.K. Advani and Jaswant Singh.
“Realisation of justice is not just a matter of judging bodies and rules, but of judging the societies themselves and the actual condition of the people.”
Sen said the removal of long standing deprivations might, in effect, be hampered when “the bulk of the social agitation is dominated by new problems that generate immediate and vocal discontent, to the neglect of the gigantic older problems of persistent depravations of human lives, tolerated without much political unrest.”
Sen used his imitable narrative style to tell an influential gathering that justice demands that “we make a strong effort to identify the overwhelming priorities that have to be confronted with total urgency.”
In other words, he said, an overwhelming priority should be to prevent the kind of “justice in the world of fish where a big fish can freely devour a small fish.”