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|December 22, 1998||
Make basic education a fundamental right, exhorts Amartya Sen
Arup Chanda in Calcutta
Nobel Laureate Prof Amartya Sen spoke more like a politician this morning at Bolpur, a town adjoining Shantiniketan, when he urged the common people to join in demanding basic education as a fundamental right.
Sen was felicitated by the citizens of Bolpur. The meeting was attended by Communist Party of India (Marxist) Member of Parliament Somnath Chatterjee and many Leftist leaders.
In his brief speech, Sen said: "Basic education should be a fundamental right and it should be demanded with a strong voice. Expenses on basic education are within our country's reach. If India cannot do it, it will not only reveal economic bankruptcy but political bankruptcy."
Naturally, this went down well with the Leftist leaders who applauded Sen loudly.
Noticing a large gathering of school students who showered flowers on him as he came to the venue, Sen stressed on education. He observed: "In India, there is more interest about higher education instead of basic education."
He deplored the fact that even after 50 years of independence, half the adult population and two-thirds of the women in our country are illiterate. Comparing India with China, he said: "In China, they have many things to be proud of. Every person gets basic education. The tendency to obtain higher education in India is five times more than in China, but none can find neglect of basic education in China. The time has come when in our country total emphasis should be laid on basic education."
After receiving the Nobel Prize, Sen has hardly had time to rest, what with hectic programmes, and looked visibly tired. In fact, he fell sick last night.
Sen will participate in the famous Poush utsav in Shantiniketan tomorrow and return to Calcutta.
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