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   Creating Capabilities
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
30 Aug 2013
p>Our world needs more critical thinking and more robust arguments because economic growth has not only been enhancing income inequality but is keeping a large segment of the population deprived of basic education, health care and livelihood opportunities. Conventional economists have been of the view that either growth will percolate to pull poor out of poverty or redistribution of wealth will extemd much-needed basic education and health care to the deprived.

Despite a growing consensus that neither of the two options has favoured the poor thus far, the widespread use of economic achievements as a measure of country's progress continues to persist. How have the world’s poor been surviving on a daily basis is least of its concerns! In recent memory, the Sarkozy Commission has attempted to question the economic growth paradigm. It found that the benefits of increased wealth do not reach the poor because these are first usurped by the elites. Redistribution at best remains a good intent!

Citing the case of Vasanti, who was physically and economically abused by her alcoholic husband, Martha Nussbaum argues that only by creating and strengthening the capabilities of the poor can their dignity and self-respect be restored. With support from the Self-Employed Women's Organisation (SEWA) in Ahmedabad, Vasanti not only realised her potential but could put the same to effective use in discovering a dignified existence. Ascertaining what is a person ‘able to do and to be’ holds the key to understanding the Capability Approach, the alternate model to assess human development that Nussbaum has been working for over two decades.

Capability as a means of progress has been central to all cultures. Development (growth) as a normative concept, on the other hand, undermines capabilities and hence human dignity. For Nussbaum, it is people who matter ultimately; profits are only instrumental means to human lives. Human development must do justice for both humans and nonhumans, enabling people to live full and creative lives. In an era of perpetual inequity, Nussbaum demonstrates, through narratives of individuals, that our idea of development ought to focus on the lives of the individuals and the way they actually live.

Creating Capabilities
by Martha C. Nussbaum
Harvard University Press, USA
Extent: 237, $22.95

 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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