Amartya Sen

Print edition : November 07, 1998

Kudos to you for having run a Cover Story on Amartya Sen not only after he won the Nobel Prize ("Nobel for a great economist,") but also 12 years earlier ("The economics of Amartya Sen," November 29-December 12, 1986). You seem to have realised his greatness far ahead of the Swedish Academy.

It is a pity that the Indian Government does not quite subscribe to the views of our own Nobel laureate. The Government should appoint him its Economic Adviser and confer on him the Bharat Ratna.

S. Raghunatha Prabhu Alappuzha, Kerala

The Cover Story made excellent reading. It is heartening that the Nobel Committee has recognised Sen's humaneness and concern for the poor. But then, will this 'conscience of economics' go unheeded in India?

R. Ramasami Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu

Amartya Sen has done India proud. He has indeed restored the faith of the world in the intellectual abilities of Indians. But it is a pity that a country where a sixth of the world's population lives has won only a few such honours. India can produce winners like Sen only if the Government revolutionises the system of education so that it meets the needs of modern times. The Government should allocate more funds for education, provide better infrastructure for schools and colleges, create a congenial social environment and encourage research. Compulsory free education might be a great step ahead.

Rahul Jain Cardiff, Wales

The award of the Nobel Prize to Amartya Sen has touched off an interesting debate, with IMF-World Bank-oriented "capitalist economists" on the one side and welfare economists on the other. What really counts is what the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences considered significant while making its choice. The citation says, among other things, that the prize is given to Sen "...for his contribution to welfare economics and, among other things, for restoring an ethical dimension to the discussion of vital economic problems". Sen has his heart in the right place.

That economic theories advocating capitalism failed to solve many problems is evident from the world-wide recession and the crisis in Russia. Nearer home, the "Asian economic tigers" have become "endangered species". Maybe, this has opened the eyes of the Nobel Committee. Sen's human welfare index has proved to be of greater value to people than other indices like the Dow Jones Index.

Subbiah Venkataraman Thiruvananthapuram Semmangudi

I read with interest the exhaustive interview given by the nonagenarian singer Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer ("Semmangudi looks back - at 90", November 6). The Pitamaha of Carnatic music has not minced words, and the interview gives us an insight into the life and achievements of this peerless musician. Nurtured by his aunt's son, the famous violinist Semmangudi Narayanaswamy Iyer, and trained religiously by veterans like Sakharama Rao and Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer, Semmangudi received a good grounding in vocal music, which stood him in good stead in the years to come.

The veteran, who gave his first concert at 19, held sway over the Carnatic music world for over five decades. His two decades as the Principal of the Swati Tirunal Music College, Thiruvananthapuram, will never be forgotten by those who studied there during that period.

Semmangudi's advice to the present crop of young musicians that they should sing only after their voice matures should be well taken.

Mani Natarajan Chennai China

This refers to the article "Vajpayee's China fiasco" (November 6) by Subramanian Swamy. Subramanian Swamy's argument is interesting and convincing. However, I disagree with him on his conclusion that "relying on the Vajpayee government to undo the damage, or untie the knot, is futile." I admit that our Prime Minister committed a blunder in trusting the President of the United States and explaining to him the rationale behind Pokhran-II. But then, nobody knew about Clinton's many weaknesses.

K.S. Rama Iyer Chennai Unit Trust of India

Since the second week of October, newspapers and magazines have been carrying articles and letters on the 'crisis' with regard to UTI's US-64 scheme. But the Frontline article on the issue ("Coping with the markets," November 6) stands out for two reasons: a clear analysis and the absence of any hasty advice to investors.

Some of the newspaper articles were alarmist. One columnist suggested a moratorium on UTI dividends for one or two years and stoppage of the sale of units. Panic on the part of investors would have had a catastrophic effect, leading to the collapse of markets.

The dividend declared in July 1998 was fully covered by the income during the previous year. The dip in the assets is only temporary and will get corrected when the market revives as a result of the measures initiated since the crisis erupted. As rightly suggested in the article, UTI should take steps to reduce the proportion of equity investment by increasing the debt component. The fundamentals of the US-64 scheme are sound.

J.N. Iyer Chennai Uttar Pradesh

Politics is getting murkier in Uttar Pradesh ("A reprieve in Uttar Pradesh," November 6). The power struggle in the BJP Legislature Party is an open secret. The Chief Minister has to reconcile so many differences that he has hardly any time to attend to the urgent developmental needs of the most populous State in the country. Even the unprecedented floods and landslides in the State have not woken up the rulers. Considering the Kalyan Singh Ministry's internal contradictions, mid-term elections seem to be the only way out.

D.B.N. Murthy Bangalore Clinton and a witch-hunt

Arthur Miller has lost none of his craftsmanship ("Parallels with a witch-hunt," November 6). His article demolishes the conservative Congress with one blow.

T.N. Ramachandran Chennai Constituent Assembly debate

In "The BJP's Bihar Fiasco" (October 23), the authors have at the outset quoted from Constituent Assembly Debates (of August 4, 1949) a clarification sought by Pandit H.N. Kunzru and the response from Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. The clarification sought was whether Articles 356 and 357 were provided "to enable the Central Government to intervene in provincial affairs for the sake of good government in the province" or "only when there is such misgovernment in the province as to endanger the public peace?" Dr. Ambedkar's reply was that while the Central Government was "not given" the authority to intervene in provincial affairs "for the sake of good government of the provinces," it had the authority to determine "whether there is good government or not in the provinces". This authority was not denied to it. Dr. Ambedkar wished to emphasise this point of the existence of authority, and added in continuation of the clarification: "I am quite clear on this point." The authors of the article, on the other hand, hold, quoting of course Dr. Ambedkar, that this authority was denied to the Centre. To emphasise their contention that Ambedkar said so, they have chosen to state this part of Dr. Ambedkar's clarification in italics. "Whether there is good government or not in the provinces is not for the Centre to determine."

Lay readers as well as experts may take these quotations as factual and hence reliable owing to difficulties in accessing the Constituent Assembly Debates. This being so, it is not proper to take advantage of such shortcomings.

Dr. K.C. Markandan Delhi

Praveen Swami replies: The reader's suggestion that Sudha Mahalingam and I misquoted the exchange between Pandit H.N. Kunzru and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar is perhaps the result of his having been misled by a typographical error in the work he has cited.

Volume IX of Constituent Assembly Debates, on page 176, does indeed quote Dr. Ambedkar as saying: "Whether there is good government or not in the provinces is for the Centre to determine." That the omission of the word "not" in this text is a typographical error is evident. It renders the entire thrust of Dr. Ambedkar's argument absurd.

Evidence for the fact that the edition of Constituent Assembly Debates that the reader has relied on is inaccurate is present in the fourth and latest edition of H.M. Seervai's authoritative work on the Constitution. Page 3089 in Volume III cites Dr. Ambedkar as having used the crucial "not", exactly as Frontline stated it. Seervai discusses Article 356 exhaustively from page 3089 onwards. Moreover, the Sarkaria Commission passage cited in the Bommai judgment makes it clear that good governance is not a matter that the Centre may sit in judgment over.

The Telengana struggle

This is with reference to the article on the "Liberation Day" celebrations in places that were part of the former princely state of Hyderabad ("Falsifying history," October 23). The statement of Advani that Communists and Razakars collaborated only shows the extent to which the BJP leaders have perfected the art of political lying and also their blatant attempts to falsify history. Does Advani and his party have at least an inkling of what happened in Telengana and the sacrifices made by the people of Telengana in the struggle against the Nizam and the feudal system? If not, let them go to the villages in Nalgonda, Khammam or Warangal districts and ascertain the facts from the people. I do not know whether Vidyasagar Rao, the BJP MP from Karimnagar, was around when Advani levelled wild charges against Communists. If yes, does he subscribe to Advani's statement and say that his brothers Rajeswara Rao and Hanumantha Rao collaborated with the Razakars?

I belong to the Telengana region. Communist leaders of the armed struggle from the Telengana region - Ravi Narayana Reddy, Arutla Ramachandra Reddy, Devulapalli Vekateswara Rao, Baddam Yella Reddy, Rajeswara Rao and so on - and from coastal Andhra - Puchalapalli Sundarayya and Chandra Rajeswara Rao - are held in high esteem by people who have experienced the struggle.

By no stretch of imagination can Sardar Patel be given credit for the liberation of Hyderabad. By the time the Indian Army entered Hyderabad, the Nizam's regime was already tottering. Patel was more concerned about the growing influence of Communists than about the actions of the Nizam or the Razakars. When the army reached Hyderabad its main targets were Communists, and not Razakars! Even without Patel's intervention the Nizam would have gone; the Communists would have ensured that.

The real heroes and heroines of the liberation of Hyderabad are the thousands of common people in the towns and villages of Telengana, especially the 4,000-odd martyrs who laid down their lives in the struggle led by the Andhra Mahasabha and the Communist Party.

Another issue here is the communal colour being given to the struggle. No one can forget the role of leaders like Makhdoom Mohiuddin, Alam Khundmiri and Jawad Rizvi in the anti-Nizam struggle.

P. Satish Department of Economics, University of Illinois, U.S.

Cochlear implants

Your article on cochlear implants (October 9) was very informative and should give the Indian people comfort in knowing that modern technology is around the corner and will be available to them.

With regard to your reference about International Cochlear Implants (ICI), I wish to clarify that ICI is a programme which provides service to hearing impaired adults and children. We are not the manufacturers, Cochlear Ltd. We would not like that company to assume that we were trying to represent them in India. Our Webpage explains a little more about ICI: https://www.iciaustralia.com and www.users.bigpond.com/GibsonWP.

Judy Wimble International Cochlear Implants Naremburn, Australia

Nuclear issues

Apropos of "Getting off the tiger" (October 9). U.S. media reports suggest that the Indian economy is relatively robust and has not been affected by the sanctions. Furthermore, a reputed defence institution in England suggests that India has enough material to make more than 400 nuclear weapons.

All relevant parties did become nervous after the tests by India. The political message was heard. Economically speaking, 1998 was a bad year for Pakistan to conduct tests. The geopolitical, technological and economic situation could not have been better for India to conduct the nuclear tests. India indeed is a nuclear power now. I do not see any reason why India should not sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty now.

Pramod Sharma psharma@bnl.gov

A letter from the Editor


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