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An Interview with Amartya Sen the Noble laureate by Vinod Mehta and Anjali Puri of Outlook News Weekly, New Delhi. Under the title: “I Prefer To Fight

Posted in Current Affairs, and Interviews / Blog Intro

Last updated on January 15, 2015

I posted a response to it in the “Have Your Say” Column.

Excerpts from the interview…

In the 63rd year of Independence, how many cheers would you give Indian democracy?
How peculiar that Gandhi should be on the side of Krishna, who made Arjuna fight and kill people.

Out of a total of three (laughs)? That was a scale invented by E.M. Forster in Two Cheers for Democracy. I think I will give it a bit more than two but somewhat less than three. If you take the view, is democracy functioning as well as it could, it may even be one. But given the adversities we have had—a very poor country, largely illiterate, border wars with China and Pakistan, with Pakistan going its peculiarly difficult way, the relationship problems that we have had with the United States and the global powers—have we done as well as expected? Yes. Except in one big respect, namely that I had expected that non-dramatic deprivations would receive more attention than they ended up getting. Famines did go away with democracy, as I had expected, but I thought other things like gender inequality and the huge undernourishment of children would get more attention, but they did not get enough. That’s the disappointment.

Of all the injustices that haunt India today, the deprivations you have just spoken of, what disappoints you the most?

They are all complementary. One of the reasons that child undernourishment is so hard to remove in India is that children are born much more deprived here than in much of the world, because women are very deprived when they are pregnant. One basic issue is gender inequality. But I don’t want to say it is the only important one. I would rather speak of a cluster of deprivations. And we should address all of them together.

Apart from development issues, you’ve been speaking on a range of national issues, including, of late, the Indo-US nuclear deal. Was it a good deal?

Now, I am on record as having said I don’t know whether the Indo-US nuclear deal was a good thing or a bad thing, I don’t have a strong view, unlike Manmohan who clearly thinks it is a good thing, and the Communist Party, which thinks it is the biggest disaster.

Your friends on the Left are repenting now. It’s clear they picked the wrong issue to bring down the government.

I gave a television interview on that subject a year ago, in August, just after the vote.

And what you said hurt them the most because the criticism was coming from a friend, not from the other side.

“When I met Rahul at Trinity, politics wasn’t part of his plan. But he was clearly committed to Indian development.”

Certainly not from the other side. I am a friend of the Left and my politics has been on the Left, but sometimes it’s difficult to recognize what is Left, what is Right. I am in favour of fighting today’s battles rather than yesterday’s battles. I think this gut anti-Americanism—don’t make it the headline (laughs)—is a problem. It is a minor problem, but one of the reasons why the Left cannot liberate itself from the Cold War. It made sense at some stage to oppose America for various reasons. But I think gut anti-Americanism is certainly pulling the Left back now.

Read the full text of the Interview at:

Aug 14, 2009

This interview revealed the other side of this great personality. Indeed this interview increased my respect towards this much learned Nobel laureate. There is no partiality in his opinions; though a communist minded personality he criticized the adamant nature of his own close friends in the communist bandwagon. Especially his opine about our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is praiseworthy.
philip verghese ariel
Secunderabad, India

Source: Outlook News Weekly, New Delhi.

A Freelance writer from Secunderabad India

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