Nobel laureate Amartya Sen was not in favour of Narendra Modi forming the government but having won in the recent elections and as a democratic Indian, he believes Modi has every right to govern and govern well.
Addressing a packed audience at Asia House in London on Monday, Sen dwelt on many lessons that India needed to learn from its Asian neighbours such as Japan and China. He particularly focussed on India’s challenges in education, healthcare and power.
Speaking to HT later, Sen said the landslide election results in favour of the BJP did not mean any fundamental changes had taken place in Indian society. The party had got only 31 per cent votes, and such results were not unusual in the present electoral system , he said.
Amartya Sen addressing a packed audience at Asia House, London, on Monday. HT photo
Stating that the Left in India had ‘imploded as of now’, Sen told the audience comprising diplomats, bankers and leading individuals from various fields that every new government had to function in a secular milieu watched by a largely secular media, courts and the opposition.
He said: “There is a new government, which has energy, which is a good thing, ability to deliver. What happened in Gujarat is certainly admirable in terms of physical infrastructure and roads, but central to that of course is healthcare and education which has so far not figured very much in the manifesto of the ruling party”.
Sen said that many were concerned about the “majoritarian tendency” in the Modi government, and whether minority rights would be respected. “We are a democratic country, we are a secular democratic country, people have a right to express their views and I hope we will express it”, he said.
Sen responded to several key issues, including corruption, which, he said, was not unique to India. It was not true that corruption had increased in recent years, he said, adding that “it was always (a) large” issue.
“What has happened is that the Congress government had one of their flagship programmes, the Right to Information. India has a more extensive right to information than any other country in the world. Corruption was easier to bring to public notice once the RTI act came into effect. That’s not just a negative story, it’s a positive story”, Sen said.
Responding to a query from Sri Lankan high commissioner Chris Nonis if he agreed that Modi had generated much optimism on the economic front, Sen said "I hope you are right but not much has happened so far".