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Note ban is an ‘unguided missile’, says Amartya Sen

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Mumbai : Nobel laureate Amartya Sen  termed note ban as an unguided ‘missile’ fired ‘unilaterally’ by the government without adhering to the democratic conventions. Professor Sen spoke at the three day conference on ‘Healthcare: A Commodity or Basic Human Need?’ organised by the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC).

Dr. Sen said, “The government every now and then fire missiles unilaterally. Demonetisation one fine morning is of course just such missiles where there are reports coming in of hardships and suffering though it is not quite clear where the missile has landed.”

“Our political decisions, however, in contrast have to involve the public,” he said, comparing our situation with China and going on to mention the demonetisation exercise as an aberration from such a convention.


Dr. Sen said that on the economic front India has made great progress but the progress in healthcare has so far been extremely limited.

He compared the decision-making in a democratic country like India and that in a communist regime like China. China spends around 3 percent of its GDP on healthcare while many developing countries like Zambia spend as much as around 11 percent of their total budget on healthcare.

There is a complete and total lack of public discussion on the subject and the issue has not been raised by any political party during the elections, he added.

“Our neighbouring countries Bangladesh, China and Nepal, with similar or even lower income levels than India, have better health and social indicators, including lower infant and maternal mortality rates, better percentage in girl education and improved sanitation facilities,” added Sen.

Dr. Sen, said, “India spends a little over 1 percent of its GDP on healthcare and there is wastage even while spending”. He even compared India’s healthcare indicators with the rest of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations and said, “While six decades back India was second only to Sri Lanka, now it is second last, ahead only of Pakistan.”

Drawing the attention to the critical challenges faced by the healthcare sector, Professor Sen said, “unilateral thoughts” like demonetisation cannot be of help. “Firing unilateral thoughts are not the way to reform healthcare in the kind of democracy that is India,” said Sen.

He described it as a ‘despotic action’ which was taken in a hurry. Sen also made a reference to the ideas of Buddha and made a specific mention of his work in reviving the well-known University at Nalanda.

It can be noted that Sen’s name was excluded after the Modi government reconstituted the board of the Nalanda University in November 2015.