Review of Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen’s An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions,


Sucharita Mukherjee in Logos:

India’s extraordinary heterogeneities have long attracted, dismayed and befuddled visitors and researchers alike but what is often obscured in discussions of the usual divides of religion, caste, gender, region and language is the burgeoning of income inequality. While India’s poor have been hard to ignore since the colonial era, the persistent deprivation of these masses of humanity seem all the starker in modern India when juxtaposed with the ever growing opulence of the rich.

Class and other inequalities combine to impose multiple vicious circles upon those scraping by at the most disadvantaged end of the social spectrum. Dreze and Sen identify this “resilient division” between the privileged and the rest in Indian society as India’s biggest challenge, yet one seldom highlighted in all the recent hype about Indian prosperity. Making a strong case for equality and social justice amid economic progress, An Uncertain Glory becomes an almost indispensable economic, social and political reader to understand India’s checkered development story.

The distinction between a narrow concept of economic growth, defined in terms of rising aggregate income levels, and a broad notion of economic development, defined as improvement in the average person’s standard of living. is often obscured in political and economic logics based on faith in the eventual trickle-down of growth from the top to propel a broader based development. Admittedly, many of India’s challenges such as poverty, economic and gender inequality or illiteracy are lasting vestiges of a colonial past which either aggravated them or left them unaddressed. Immediate post-independence policies also did little to address them adequately.

More here.