Home / Politics / Policy /  Narendra Modi has not fulfilled hopes: Amartya Sen

New Delhi: Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has expressed disappointment with the performance of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, citing cuts in spending on education and healthcare.

Sen, 81, said in an interview that when Modi became Prime Minister in May last year, he had hoped that “in spite of my not being a cheerleader for Mr. Modi, he will become a leader who will lead the whole country and not try to replicate, in my judgment, (the) very partial and defective experience, of Gujarat".

“Now that one year has gone, I cannot say that (the) hope I had as a citizen of a democracy has, in fact, been fulfilled," Sen said in a wide-ranging interview.

“The budget in education, which was in any case low, has been cut. School meals are under threat; Sarva Sikhsha Abhiyan is under attack or certainly under reduced funding and similarly in healthcare, where the budget has been cut," Sen said.

The Harvard University professor said no country had achieved universal literacy and healthcare without the state playing a role.

“India is the first country in the world that is trying to become an industrial giant with an unhealthy and ill-educated labour force. It has not been done in the past and in my belief it cannot be done now, by India or any other country," the economist said.

He accused the government of intensifying the defects in the previous government instead of rectifying them. “So I am disappointed," Sen said.

With his term as chancellor of the Nalanda University ending next week, Sen warned of the dangers to academic freedom in India. The story of the NDA government’s intervention in the affairs of Nalanda University is detailed in his forthcoming book The Country of First Boys and Other Essays (Oxford University Press).

The economist, who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 1998 and the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, a year later when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was prime minister, also warned of a threat to secularism, saying the record of the previous NDA government led by Vajpayee was better than the Modi government’s in the matter.

“...the price of liberty is eternal vigilance and the price of secularism is also eternal vigilance," Sen said.

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