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|August 20, 1999||
Amartya roots for Manmohan as PM, wants next govt to focus on land reforms
Nobel laureate and economist Amartya Sen today expressed hope that former finance minister Manmohan Singh will one day be the prime minister of India.
"Dr Manmohan Singh is a very close and dear friend,'' Prof Sen said at a media conference in New Delhi today.
He was asked whether Singh becoming the prime minister will make a major impact on the future of economic development.
''He may one day very well become the prime minister. He has many years to go. He may well be the prime minister in his full bloom," Prof Sen added.
Singh, who is leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, is contesting the Lok Sabha election from South Delhi constituency.
Prof Sen said the new government should have basic education, health and land reforms high on its agenda as these areas have so far largely been ignored.
The economics Nobel winner said the new government should concentrate on greater social opportunities for people, this should be the central purpose of its policy.
Asked about the nature of land reforms he advocated and whether they were possible in the Indian system, Prof Sen said several countries have done so and thus he could not understand why India should not succeed. It was, however, a question of political will. His home state, West Bengal, had done this successfully, the economist said.
He said land reforms should aim at providing land to the landless. The primary intention should not be to take away land from those who possess it but giving plots to those who own no piece of land.
Earlier in the day, he also delivered a lecture on ''Democracy and Freedom''.
Prof Sen said it was regrettable that there was a large population without land. So land reforms were essential for growth and equity.
Prof Sen said while private education had a certain role to play, the bulk of the role will be that of public education to reach the masses. It is not possible for the private sector to play a dominant role as the central role in a developing economy is of providing basic and primary education to all. The private sector can at best be a healthy supplement. This is also the role of the private sector in the health sector.
He said several basic inequalities are created by the play of market forces. The state thus needs to intervene. A more educated populace will imply less inequities and preventing extreme inequities in a market economy.
The economist said that in his last two meetings with Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha he had discussed the general situation and highlighted lack of protection to important historical places including Nalanda which is the state from where the finance minister comes.
Prof Sen said when he and Sinha came out of the meeting, the finance minister was asked by a journalist whether he had a tutorial in economics from Prof Sen. Sinha had responded then: "In fact, it was a tutorial in history."
Prof Sen was asked to comment on organisations like the United Nations Development Programme. The UNDP had lauded the efforts of government of Madhya Pradesh when the latter launched the Human Development Reports. The same UNDP, however, did not criticise the Rajasthan government which scuttled a progressive movement called the Lok Jumbish project for basic education.
Prof Sen agreed it was much easier for the UNDP to praise governments than to criticise them.
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