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   An India for Everyone
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
24 May 2013
sive development has been differently understood, some consider it as a 'process' while for others it is a 'goal'. On both the accounts, it has remained a puzzle that policymakers and development professionals have been trying to unravel on the assumption that the quality of life in any country improves when, and only when, gross domestic product per capita increases. The monetary surplus thus generated can be capitalised to design social development programs for the poor. Backed by experience of being part of such development programs, Amarjeet Sinha asserts that public distribution system can be reinvented to deliver entitlements to social development for the poor, thus providing opportunities for the poor to develop their fullest human potential.

Enamoured by limited success of some of the flagship social development programs, in the areas of nutrition, health care, education and livelihoods, the author pitches his hypothesis of paving a way for inclusive development on the strength of better 'service guarantee' for those who rely on it. Ironically, the strategy for reinventing the country assumes the conditions of the poor and the disadvantaed as 'given' and the onus of transforming their lives squarely resting on improving the performance of the 'system' only. Neither does it factor the legacy of failed institutions nor the unresolved challenges in scaling-up!

At this time when the idea of human development is shifting from the conventional 'social indicators' approach to the 'capability approach', An India For Everyone seems trapped in the hope of turning things around by fine-tuning the system that has thus far failed to deliver. The trouble with such an approach has been that it rarely captures the shape and texture of individual lives, what are people actually able to do and to be? Unless the complexities of human life and human striving are properly understood, social development programs may create an illusion of transformation without tweaking the lives of millions.

An India for Everyone seems first draft of a work-in-progress; its assumptions need to go through the rigour of analysis because development isn't about well-funded social programs - it is about whether people can live in a way 'worthy of human dignity'.

An India for Everyone
by Amarjeet Sinha
Harper Collins, New Delhi
182 pages, Rs 299

 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
Devinder Sharma
Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
Sudhirendar Sharma
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