Call for “opportunities for development available to all individuals”, not remaining silent on the predicaments of the poorest: Amartya Sen

Prof. Amartya Sen
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The smart boy or clever girl who is deprived of the opportunity of schooling, or who goes to a school with dismal facilities (not to mention the high incidence of absentee teachers), not only loses the opportunities he or she could have had, but also adds to the massive waste of talent that is a characteristic of the life of our country.

Nobel Awardee Amartya Sen in The Argumentative Indian (Penguin Books, 2005), p. 344 | Find this and other books published in India | Tribal Children’s Right to Education | Video documentary on the Lifeworld of an Enlightened Villager | Related posts about childhood >>

The German Publishers’ and Booksellers’ Association will award the 2020 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade to economist and philosopher Amartya Sen. The Board of Trustees of the ‘Foundation for the Peace prize of the German Book Trade’ has recently chosen Sen for this prestigious recognition. The award ceremony will take place on October 18, 2020, in Frankfurt.

A statement by the foundation’s jury reads: “The association and its members have chosen to pay tribute to a pioneering scholar, who has addressed issues of global justice for decades and whose work to combat social inequality in education and healthcare is as relevant today as ever. Among Sen’s most important contributions is the idea of evaluating a society’s wealth not solely based on economic growth indices, but also on the opportunities for development available to all individuals who comprise that society, in particular its weakest members.”

Source: “German honour for Amartya Sen” by Someswar Boral, Times of India 19 June 2020
URL: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/german-honour-for-amartya-sen/articleshow/76452956.cms
Date visited: 19 June 2020

“I would like the media to be more responsive to the needs of the poorest people, and less single-minded in their coverage of the world of glitzy entertainment and shining business opportunities. The most vibrant media in the world is so silent on the needs and predicaments of the poorest.” Only Amartya Sen could have carried off so many complaints and grouses with such grace.

Source: Jaipur Diary – Vaiju Naravane, The Hindu, February 1, 2014
Address : https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/jaipur-diary/article5643002.ece
Date Visited: 19 June 2020

What Stops India and What Moves India? Amartya Sen discussed this and more in conversation with Sharmila Tagore on Sunday at the Kolkata Literary Meet, held at the Book Fair in association with The Telegraph. Excerpts from the session marked by the 79-year-old Nobel laureate’s trademark incisiveness and wit

[…] I was very lucky that with my Nobel money I could create two trusts, one in India, one in Bangladesh. And with the Pratichi Trust we studied the educational situation and found it quite inadequate. The hospital system was also extremely inadequate. Health care is probably the biggest failure of India. […]

There’s a wonderful book called The Moral Obligation to be Intelligent. It’s a kind of slightly odd title but I think the moral obligation is to be informed.  […]

A part of the country is moving ahead, including wanting a high-salary job… and I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong about that. I don’t feel resentful that the youth is doing that but the question is how much understanding for the need for change and how much opportunity for change are present in this system today.

The Buddha had appealed to me from my childhood. I’d tried to get away in Santiniketan by saying I had no religion but when I had to I put down my religion as Buddhism. And I was told by the headmaster that there was no other Buddhist within 600 miles of here. I said, ‘As Buddha would have put it, that makes it extremely important for me to start the pursuit of enlightenment at this moment (laughs)!” […]

Forty-eight per cent of households in India do not have toilets. That’s larger than any other country. Chad comes slightly close but no other country. The percentage of homes without toilets is 1 per cent in China, it’s only 9 or 10 per cent even in Bangladesh.

It’s a denial of personal liberty. And the country seems much more engrossed in space travel and missiles than in toilets! I think this has remained an oddly backward country in a way that we don’t recognise. […]

Source: ‘Stupidity overemphasised, ignorance underemphasised’, The Telegraph 4 February 2013
Address: https://www.telegraphindia.com/1130204/jsp/nation/story_16519548.jsp#.Uu0ywPakAfl
Date Visited: 19 June 2020

[T]here exists a major gap in India between these encouraging judicial pronouncements and how the right plays out in reality […]

According to the latest 2010 data from the Indian government […] a disproportionate percentage of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and other backward classes (OBCs) made-up the undertrial-population, with nearly two-thirds of the total number of undertrials coming from one of these three communities. These three groups, whose classifications are officially denoted and recognized in India, have long been formally identified by the government as deserving constitutional and statutory protection as well as affirmative public benefits, due to the historic, socio-economic, political, and religious discrimination they have faced. […]

Moreover, from a state-by-state perspective (excluding the union territories), in all but five states (Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, and West Bengal) at least 50% of the 2007 undertrial totals, respectively, are from scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, or OBCs.

Source: Jayanth K . Krishnan & C. Raj Kumar in “Delay in Process, Denial of Justice: The Jurisprudence and Empirics of Speedy Trials in Comparative Perspective” (Maurer Faculty Paper, 2011), pp. 747-8 & 762-3
URL: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/facpub/155
Date visited: 9 January 2021

At present, India has 1,350 prisons with a rated full capacity of 4,03,739 prisoners. All jails are bursting with overcrowding and degrading inhuman conditions, so much for standards of human rights of prisoners in terms of the Constitution of India. The Constitution envisioned prisons as centres of reforms, which is not happening.

“Time to tame torturers” in tehelka.com >>
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70 >>

How does the above situation affect tribal communities on a daily basis?

In Santhali villages in Godda, along Jharkhand’s border with Bihar, many slanting stone megaliths that mark the community graves are those of young women who died in childbirth in recent years. Tribal families in the hamlets scattered in Sundarpahari and Poreyhat – many of whom speak only Santahli – recount desperate struggles for medical help when young women in their families in advanced stages of pregnancy experienced complications. […]

“The enquiry team interrogated the family – which spoke only Santhali – as if they had done a crime. In April, another five member team came on a one day-visit after a PIL by All India Progressive Women’s Association but they did not meet all the families or hold any officer accountable,” said Soumik Banerjee, a researcher who documented 23 maternal deaths of women 18-23 years of age in the two blocks between April 2011 and March 2012 – an average of nearly two deaths a month. Nine families had reported spending Rs 4917 on an average on transport, bribes, and on buying medicines.

“Only 46 percent of all deliveries occur at sub-centers in villages and that puts women at risk,” said Director National Rural Health Mission in Ranchi Dr Praveen Chandra. NRHM has a budget of Rs 716 crore this year. “We need to have 7,044 health sub centres but have only 3,958 and of these, only 940 are ‘Level 1’ i.e. more than three deliveries occur there every month. We have the funds but lack infrastructure, ambulances, and staff,” he said.

Source: Santhali women caught between birth and death — sans medical help, The Hindu 7 September 2013
Address : https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/santhali-women-caught-between-birth-and-death-sans-medical-help/article5104188.ece
Date Visited: 19 June 2020

Source: “Tagore, Gitanjali and the Nobel Prize” by Nilanjan Banerjee in
India Perspectives (24 No. 2/2010) | More about Tagore and rural education >>
Freedom: Accountability, Democracy, Education & Rights of Indigenous Peoples >>

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