Amartya Sen and the Modi government- An uneasy relationship

New Delhi(web team): Dr Sen writes that his decision to not continue as Chancellor of Nalanda University after July was because neither President Pranab Mukherjee, nor the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) replied to the Board’s decision.

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen declined a second term as the Chancellor of the Nalanda University. Citing the government’s disinterest as reason, Sen said he will be stepping down after his current term ends in July. The University’s Governing Body had unanimously voted to re-elect him on January 13 but Sen wrote a letter to the Governing Body announcing his decision to not stay on as Chancellor for a second term.

Dr Sen writes that his decision to not continue in the post after July was after neither the President, Pranab Mukherjee, nor the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) replied to the Board’s decision. Because the Board consists of representatives of several Asian countries, the rules required the decision to be routed through the MEA to Rashtrapati Bhawan. Since he received no reply for a month, Sen concluded that the government did not want him to continue as Chancellor.

Sen had a stinging critique for the government, calling it out for its interference. He wrote that “…sad, at a more general level that academic governance in India remains so deeply vulnerable to opinions of the ruling government…”

Sen is a long time critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and has been vocal about its treatment of the minorities.

Ahead of the Modi’s Lok Sabha campaign, Sen had said that he would not want the former Gujarat Chief Minister as the country’s PM. “As an Indian citizen I don’t want Modi as my PM… He has not done enough to make minorities feel safe,” he said. “He could have first of all been more secular and he could have made the minority community feel more secure.”

In an interview to a national news channel, Sen had opined, “I don’t think the record is very good. I think I don’t have to be a member of the minority in order to feel insecure… We Indians don’t want a situation where the minority feel insecure and could legitimately think that there was an organised violence against them in 2002. I think that is a terrible record.” He had further added in the interview that it would had been better if anyone else but Modi had led the BJP in the elections.

Sen has consistently spoken for individual and minority rights, “Protection of minority rights and individual liberty depends on support of the majority. It is the duty of the majority to make sure violations do not take place.”

Rajya Sabha member Chandan Mitra had responded to Sen’s comments with the demand that the economist be stripped off his Bharat Ratna when the NDA came to power at the Centre.

While being critical of Modi’s model of governance, which according to him lagged behind in health, education, gender equity and minority rights, the Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen, has said that there were lessons to be learnt from Gujarat which had good business performance and infrastructure.

In the recent past, Sen’s criticism of Modi has been tempered with acknowledgment of the headway Modi has made in certain areas. While talking about India’s governmental experience at the launch of his last book, An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions, the economist had said, “It has been a completely diverse experience. Some very good experience in business area like Gujarat on the other hand pretty bad record in education, health care, gender equity and any public policy related to that,”

Citing Gujarat’s track record in its treatment of minorities, “We can even learn from Gujarat even though it has a dismal record in treatment of minorities, giving them a sense of security and sticking to secularism.

But in things like market economic expansion, there are things to learn.”

Sen had spoken in favour of Modi’s ‘Swachh Bharat Campaign’ saying the PM had been advocating for a cleanliness drive for a very long time. He had particularly praised Modi’s Independence Day speech where he highlighted his views on cleanliness and the lack of security for women. Sen credited Modi for bringing back positivity and optimism.

He supported the Modi government’s move on deregularisation of diesel and also advocated for complete removal of subsidy on cooking gas. Sen has also talked about the need reforms in UPA’s flagship project MGNREGNA which the NDA government has been looking to redefine. While several economists were strongly opposed to this move, Sen said that the programme in its current format is “very bad and is strongly in need of reform”.

However, Sen continued to criticise the lack of initiative of the Modi government to recognise India’s multi-cultural and multi-religious identity.

After Modi became PM, Sen did praise PM for his initiatives. But the schism continued to exist. This latest round of fall-out again exposes the rift between Modi government and Amartya Sen.

Posted by on February 20, 2015. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.