An Uncertain Glory – India and its Contradictions

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by Jean Drèze, Amartya Sen | Penguin Books India, 2013

Maintaining rapid as well as environmentally sustainable growth is an important and achievable goal for India. In An Uncertain Glory, two of India’s leading economists argue that the country’s main problems lie elsewhere, particularly in the lack of attention paid to the essential needs of the people, especially the poor.

The deep inequalities in Indian society tend to constrict public discussion in India’s vibrant media to the lives and concerns of the relatively affluent. One of the biggest failures has been the very inadequate use of the public resources generated by economic growth to expand India’s lagging physical and social infrastructure (in sharp contrast, for example, to what China has done): there is a continued inadequacy both of social services such as schooling, medical care and immunization, and of physical services such as the provision of safe water, electricity, drainage and sanitation. Even as India has overtaken a large number of other countries in the rate of economic growth, it has, because of these inadequacies, fallen behind many of the same countries – often very poor ones – in the progress of quality of life.

Because of the importance of democracy in India, addressing these failures will require not only significant policy rethinking by the government, but also a better public understanding of the abysmal extent of these social and economic deprivations. This book makes a powerful contribution to that understanding.