India and its Contradictions: A dialogue with Amartya Sen, Gurcharan Das, Meghnad Desai

India and its Contradictions: A dialogue with Amartya Sen, Gurcharan Das, Meghnad Desai
New Delhi: Noted economist Amartya Sen, author and commentator Gurcharan Das and India-born British politician Meghnad Desai express their views on the contradictions within the Indian society and polity on NDTV Dialogues.

Below is the full transcript of the discussion:


NDTV: Welcome to our first episode of the NDTV Dialogues. It's meant to be a conversation of ideas; no battles, no clashes, just different views, all of which we hope will provide different perspectives, a deeper insight into a larger idea of India. And as we mark the 66th year of our Independence, tonight's NDTV Dialogue will focus on 'India and Its Contradictions', also the title of a new book by Professor Amartya Sen and Professor Jean Dreze. Joining me tonight on our first dialogue are Professor Amartya Sen, Lord Meghnad Desai and Gurcharan Das, thank you all very much for coming in tonight. Professor Sen what to you is the deepest contradiction you would see in India today? I talked about us marking another year where we celebrate our Independence, what for you is the most unacceptable contradiction today?

Amartya Sen: Not all contradictions are unacceptable, but I think the contrast between India being a democracy, which gives us an opportunity to learn from experiences everywhere and sometimes even deafness in not learning from these experiences in the rest of the world; also deafness often in the context of within India. Are we getting the right lessons? I think democracy is an enormous opportunity to do that and in some areas we have done that well, famine prevention. AIDS epidemic was going to make India the worst country in the world. These things haven't happened. But the other areas, where ability to use the democratic means has been limited and I would say that is certainly, in my mind, a big contradiction.

NDTV: Gurcharan Das, if you could come in at that point. When we look at different aspects of India today, some of the contradictions have also been talked about. We look at India as a super power but a super power, where more than half don't have access to a toilet. Professor Sen and Jean Dreze have talked about islands of California amidst Sub-Saharan Africa. What do you think is the root of this issue and how do we address this going ahead?

Gurcharan Das: Well the root of this issue is governance. We should never mistake democracy for governance and we have to work hard every day, every day. Like for democracy we have to work hard every day, we have to work hard for governance every day. It's very attractive governance in Singapore, governance in China, but we are a democracy and that's a very prized thing for us after 65 years. I don't think anybody would abandon that even for two per cent higher growth. However you know my talking about Amartya's book, the direction, the contradiction. We are all aware of the fundamental problem of the breaking, the breakage of the delivery system. That we agree. I think Amartya's greatest contribution, and why we love him so much, is that you know, he pointed out to us that education and health were so central. Now I had frankly hoped in this book to see some answers as to how we were going to get there and that's why, you know, in my book, Amartya, I focused on state capacity, on the reform of the Institutions. Why should it take fifteen years to get justice in India in the courts, those kinds of questions; and I feel that to be a liberal democracy we need it has to have three pillars: you need an executive, which is capable of quick decisive action when needed; that action has to be bounded by the rule of law and that action has to be accounted, accountable to the people. Now we have been working on an accountability, but what we haven't been working on is state capacity and that's what keeps letting us down and that's where I would say is one difference between us.

Amartya Sen: We have to discuss that.

NDTV: But when you talk of the role of the state, because in a sense that's really at the heart of the book in many ways; we talk of the role of the state, whether its education, health, decent standard of life, food that's been so much controversy. Everybody seems to agree on what the diagnosis is, but sharp, sharp differences of prescription. Why is it so hard to find resolution in that?

Meghnad Desai: I think it is a mistake to talk about the State. You say State looks nice, neutral, beautiful, clean thing. Let's talk about governments in India. Governments implement things, State doesn't implement. And in my view the biggest failure has been the political parties. Because I have worked in another political system where my party, the Labour Party, had to rethink the fundamentals of its beliefs, to be able to appeal to people and survive. We had to give up lot of our dogmas about the state and all that. We had to learn how to deliver, learn delivery mechanism, so on. And in India the thinking was even wider in the '50s, now it has narrowed, everybody believes in the same thing. Nobody would disagree with Amartya that the state should play a bigger role and so on. But nobody is going to improve the politics to make it more effective, because ultimately it's a sort of populism, populist Statism, a kind of default line of all political parties. Everybody will vote for the same thing but nobody will address issues Amartya has raised, because nobody says if we have come to this by believing in this philosophy, you know, can we rethink; for example within our political parties introduce a bit of democracy? Can we actually consult the people who'd want to be Parliamentary candidates? Can we actually, can we improve for example no criminals in political parties, no corrupt people in political parties? No. Everybody says the,'Sarkar Mai Baap'. But the 'sarkar mai baap is actually the failure at the centre of India. I am not saying it is inevitable, but the fact that government and the political system can do better in India. We did this in the West and improved ourselves quite a lot, another thing that's not happening in India.

NDTV: So you are, there is an elephant in the room sort of a thing, in the sense, but Professor Sen you talked in your last chapter about the need for impatience. So why, while we may keep talking about improving governance, improving political parties, improving state systems, you are saying, and that statement which you made very controversial before the Food Security Ordinance came through. But one thousand children die a week as political parties, etc debate about other issues. Parliament is stalled.

Amartya Sen: If we really think government is affected we have to ask how could you approve the government? That's a question for me and similarly for the political party. What can you do about that? And if not the case, and I know I am speaking for a long time, but it's time to explain the book also. It's not the case that nothing has changed. When 30-40 years ago, I used to talk about Kerala being a good example, not a model. Gurucharan will bear me out. That is critical of Kerala's red-tapism, but the fact is that I have never seen that level of red tape anywhere else in India. But on the other hand, it got the basic message across, not a communist message only. And so we changed for good on education and so have we in Vietnam and Cuba and so and also in China. But learning from Japan and Korea, from Taiwan, from Hong Kong, from Singapore, the education, health care was very important. Now as I, by going there they will not only improve the living condition of the people, they will end up having a higher rate of growth. That was completely distant 30 or 40 years ago on ground that look, it cannot bear that. And you know the critique came not just from people on the right. A great Left-winger, Joan Robinson, told me that you are suggesting that you taste the fruit of the tree without growing the tree. Well it's one of those trees where the fruit helps you to make the tree grow. And after that no one raises that question. Kerala is one of the richest states in India, how did this happen? And gradually red-tapism has gone down too. I think the fact that education and health care creates human capability to be more productive in industry, in agriculture, to be more informed in political debate, more demanding about the accountability and healthcare makes a difference. And that still allows you to, as is the case in Kerala, that as you get richer, then you can rely much more on private healthcare rather than going for private healthcare, exploitative private healthcare, when you don't have the public healthcare as a system at all in many parts of the country.

NDTV: Well both Meghnad and Gurcharan Das want to come in at that point, but go ahead, why has it become about, why has this become almost two conflicting ideas, either growth or providing public support to education, health and food?

Meghnad Desai: For me the bigger elephant in the country is our failure to have attacked the social system. In Japan, China they don't have the caste system. And when India became independent our leaders decided to have democracy, a very revolutionary decision. To do something about economy, but the social structure was kept as it is. And this is where the North-South contrast comes in. In the south, you had an anti-Brahmin agitation, through the 20th century and Kerala and Tamil Nadu are more efficient at these things than UP and Bihar, because the bimaru states are deeply entrenched in the Hindu caste system. And in the caste system, the leadership in which the upper-caste doesn't want to educate the lower caste, they control the system and they will use the state money not to educate. They will do it to neglect the women, to neglect the health of the lower caste. Hospitals are built for the upper caste not for the lower caste, with public money. So we haven't actually looked at the central contradiction, that our leadership across all parties, including the Left, failed to address the biggest root of inequality in India, which I think Amartya and Jean mentioned, but I think, that to me, is a big obstacle in total. Meanwhile we can't be Japan, we can't be Korea; we can't be China. We have a big burden to carry and we have not tackled it.

NDTV: But the Indian version of growth, many critics have said that we are going backwards, we are returning to a socialist state in the sense

Gurcharan Das: Well, we are in a very serious economic crisis today. But let's step back, because what this book does is, it helps us to step back and where we all agree is that India's story today is a story of private success and public failure. India, well, has gone on to become the second fasting growing economy in the world, largely because of economic reforms. But there was a social contract that you'd allow public-private enterprise the freedom, but the State on the other hand had to return the favour, in terms of providing education in health, good regulators, etc. But that second part did not happen. And so what we have today is a situation where nobody in the political space in India today is any longer speaking about economic reform. You know the Congress Party has fled. They made that false trade-off between equity and growth. They assumed that growth was our God-given right and so we had to spend more time on welfare and therefore they made, as I said, it was a false choice because you need both, but our growth came down. And the ordinary person today believes that the economic reforms help the rich and they make the poor poorer. Nobody is out there telling people that there is a difference and the reformers are not doing it, but there's a difference between pro-market and pro-business. Pro market means you stand for a competitive order; you stand for an orderly capitalism. Whereas pro-business, you stand for crony capitalism. And pro-market means that you loosen the markets, help to, help the lowest in the society by lowering costs, by raising quality of products, etc. Anyway this sort of thing has gone off and I think we come back to the basic question of how will we make these reforms happen? Not only economic reforms but also governance reforms. In the UK it was very interesting. You had Margaret Thatcher who we associate with being a pro-market kind of person who, but her biggest impact actually was in bringing accountability to the State, Her governance reforms were rarely the more significant ones and today nobody talks about governance reforms. And you know, I, if you give me a minute, in my book, as Amartya knows, I talk about the notion. I mean he talks about behavioural change also, not just institutional reform. But you use that one, yes both, you use that wonderful quote from Adam Smith 's Theory of Moral Sentiments and the fact is that the last person who successfully did that was actually Mahatma Gandhi. When he fought during the freedom struggle, he fought for India's freedom on the principle of liberty and he fought against untouchability on the principle of equality. But he fought it with the language of dharma, of sadharan dharma. And today, after the Constitution was created, the Constitution makers knew they were creating a very moral project for them. In fact they were so immune to dharma they put the wheel of dharma, the Ashok Chakra in the middle of the flag to remind us every day about the importance of doing the right thing, that behaviour change that you speak about.

NDTV: But then as Professor Sen puts it, isn't with over 43% children undernourished, over 50% no access to a toilet, is it the right thing to do? Is it now about the ethical obligation to growth?  Prof Sen you wanted to respond.

Amartya Sen: Well it's a very good question. It's like the question, the reform. As far as the reforms are concerned, that democratically we are very strongly in favour. We don't see any contradiction in reform and doing equity as you can see in the form of social contract, we haven't quite done that. But I feel why, what you are saying that, well my suggestion would be that if there is skepticism about the reform, it's not because of the reforms themselves, in delivery of the goods. It is that the other thing, that you rightly pointed out for what was not done, for the reform to get equated with that. What I see now and even looking at the media criticism, of which I'm getting a lot, saying that continue reforms, perhaps intensify, but at the same time you have to recognize that an educated, healthy, labour force is the centre to economic development and not just the good human life. And if you did that then I think people would not make the mistake of saying just because the education, health is not happening we will reverse those reforms. That would be a ridiculous step to take. I think there are two contradictions. Why you asked me about contradiction and here I will give you two. One is that those who are pro reforms have the genuine interest in seeing good services the other parties are going through making the education for all, under-nourishment disappearing, the health care being guaranteed to people, because that would make a system viable, and not have the kind of hostility to reforms, that sometimes in ill-informed ways have come up, mainly because of blaming the reforms for what it is not to be blamed for, but not taking account of the fact that to make reform work you have to do the other things. So the pro reformists go on saying that I want the licence raj back again. You know I 'm absolutely amazed by many members of the media, their being able to write so beautifully without the ability to read at all, and it's quite remarkable because I'm saying exactly the opposite. In order to make them viable we have to do these other things and I don't disagree on this front.

NDTV: This is not just media, it is also being pitched as economic, Rahul Gandhi versus Narendra Modi and that's versus Professor Bhagwati and you, that's what you mean  

Amartya Sen: I would also say that Meghnad's point because we didn't come back to that. So what he says about the caste system is extremely important and I think his point to the South- North contrast. He is doing two things. He is doing East-West concept and pointing out many things the British Labour party has done, of which he is a Lord, and we haven't done, and I agree. And we have and the British Labour Party has learnt from Margaret Thatcher this thing. They accepted those positive things and there is lot to learn from that. But you see the North-South contrast, the fact that they did something with the caste system, had made the achievement among the states that we faced for having done more like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, many of them have done that. And even in the north, one of the high performers, in the same kind of model that we are discussing, combined education and health care along with making intelligent use of the market. Himachal Pradesh is a good example. But in all of them the caste issue has been taken. Here Meghnad is absolutely right to put that in the centre of it, but since they found success in India our point is, can we not learn from them rather than throwing up our hand and say that the tendency that, Meghnad is not doing, but lots of people do have, and what I am describing as the smugness of cynicism? It cannot happen. If it can happen in Kerala, one of the one of the poorest states could become top despite having many defects. It's not a model and has never been one. But on the other hand a good example, why can't Bihar do it? Now if there's some animation about Nitish attempting to do something of that kind, the skepticism comes partly from the fact that in the poorest country it is the hardest for them to do. But in some ways Bihar catches, in a microcosm, the most extreme case of India's general problem. The question is, whatever the question is, to get off of your feet and try to do something about them. And there are lessons here to be learnt even in Gurcharan's book about India, Meghnad's writing on India, to learn and throughout, and rather than taking a cynical position, we should be in a position to learn from what has been done, not just in China, Korea, you know, Hong Kong, Singapore and so on, but also within the country.

NDTV: In fact I wanted to bring that point up. I remember many of these policies that have been introduced in Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu were criticized by economists, by the Media, saying this is the worst, this is a suicidal policy, it's bad economics, it's just been done for votes. But these were actual policies, where just a decade on which we discussed as policies, which are being delivered. So in that sense there is what perhaps Professor Sen senses, smugness of cynicism. We tend to dismiss policies which benefit the poorest of the poor as saying these are for votes. In the sense of a democracy, what's wrong with votes?

Meghnad Desai: You see policies, which are effective get votes, but not all policies, which are designed to get votes are good policies. You see because one definition of Indian politics is if you can't solve the problem, spend money. You know, can't prevent midday meals poisoning off children then give everybody two lakhs of rupees. Now don't include everybody. You know we have to decide that spending money is a substitute for change. And I am very, very, concerned. You know for the first thirty years after Independence, we completely wasted the thirty years. Nothing very much happened. Growth was very elitist, did not generate employment. Even now, it's not the high growth or low growth but it is a growth-generating employment. But now we haven't got labour market reforms. So we can't, like Bangladesh and Malaysia, have large factories of people who can get employment. We can only have auto parts and pharmaceuticals. Why? Because our labour laws are such that we cannot actually generate a big manufacturing industry, which will create lots of jobs for people who are stuck in rural areas having a miserable life.

NDTV: Is it too much democracy, too many pressure groups?

Meghnad Desai: It's not democracy. There is nothing wrong with democracy. But people who run a democracy have to be aware there is a hard road ahead they should be able to take, in which they deliver to the people what the people want, and not what they think the people want. You see in the take, the example, in the untouchability. I don't agree with Gurcharan about Mahatma Gandhi doing great things over untouchability. He failed. People like Ambedkar, and the agitation with the Dalit Movement, did from below, the strong agitation, which actually has engineered change. Eventually we will have to face the fact that people from below will start demanding much more change and that's already happened in terms of women's position. People are now saying we cannot put up with this sort of society in which women are so badly treated universally across India. Well I think our politics has failed to respond in a positive way to what people want. And in fact that in a democracy yes, not the quality of the democracy, we have to question and to that extent, small states, particular states, Chhattisgarh, yes, good things have been done. But this has been done only since the whole Mandal revolution came and OBCs got the voice. After 40 years of Independence they did not have the voice. It's one of the poor, and got an effective way of establishing the voice that the system has slightly begun to improve. But there is a long way to go because there is too much centralization. Waste of too much money from the Centre. And we actually pay ten times interest rate on public debt than is spent on health. The largest item in the budget is interest on debt. Nobody talks about interest on debt, but I am worried about interest on debt, I am worried as much as I am in the UK as I am worried here. I don't have two different stories. There is no fiscal responsibility in the system because spending money is a solution to all problems. He can't go on like this. This system is in a crisis because it has not actually been fiscally responsible or economically responsible and we have got to change that.

NDTV: But do we choose the right things to agitate about? The issues are raised about, why do we never see this outcry over subsidies for say, petroleum products or when excise taxes are rolled back on gold or diamond jewellery, but we see the outcry on food?

Amartya Sen: I think we are full of subsidies. I think we need to really rein in the subsidized dramatically and one way of looking at it, who are the beneficiaries? What I really, sometimes, since I am really old now it's not easy for me to get angry. I have lost that energy, the ability to get angry. But if there is something that would get me angry is people sitting in an air-conditioned room with subsidized electricity, 2 per cent of GNP. The Food Security Bill would cost less than 1 per cent. Sitting in a room where the food has been cooked on a subsidized gas cylinder, wearing jewellery, within a family of the person themselves, where the jewellery has been imported without any import duty. And when the government was trying to do something on that it was turned down on the ground that it's anti-people. So sitting there and then saying Food Security Bill is unaffordable, that the double talk in that is really quite extraordinary and it need not be. It's not just a left-right division

Meghnad Desai: All subsidy should be...

Gurcharan Das: Well I think we differ is a little bit on emphasis, Amartya, that is and I think your position is more nuance than your children and grandchildren. I mean intellectual children and grandchildren in the Congress party and elsewhere. The position people take very often in answering, in fixing the problem, as Meghnad just said, is a question of expenditure. Now look at the Right To Education Act, a good act. But very flawed because there is not one thing in that Act about outcomes. Now today I think it's a happy thing that 97 per cent of our children are in school. But in that, you know by the time they reach the 5th grade they cannot read second grade books. In the very first year after schooling, half of the children cannot recognize the basic aksharas, the letters. When you know PISA results, PISA results are the most damning results where we scored out of 80 countries, in the 10th grade exam our children scored in, 79th. We were ranked just above Kirgistan in the PISA reports. And similarly in the Food Security Bill, the Food Security Bill, the basic problem I have with this Bill is that we have a PDS system today, which by surveys of the government showed that half the food doesn't reach the beneficiaries and is lost in corruption. And now we want to expand that. It was 40 per cent of the population and now we are expanding it to 70 per cent of the population, when it may not solve the problem, because the problem in India is malnutrition and not hunger. Hunger, in the '80s I remember the surveys used to show hunger at about 15 per cent. Then in 2004 surveys showed that hunger is down to 2 per cent. Now why are we giving food grains to 67 per cent of the people when only 2 per cent say they are hungry? And malnutrition has many causes, drinking water, sanitation, etc.

Amartya Sen: I need to respond to that. The Food Security Bill you know is not my bill. I don't now whether it was NDTV, somebody asked me, suppose it's better than the subsidies that we have had and indeed it's a good cause. Where we might disagree a bit, I think there is a lot of; I don't know how you define hunger. Hunger is a kind of state of mind in some way, but the characteristics of malnourished issues and undernourishment issues, there are gigantic amounts of undernourishment in India, judged by any criteria. Anaemia, women, so all these...

Meghnad Desai: Ubiquity of lizards and rats be allowed.

Amartya Sen: I think what India needs is; the fact that India has many problems doesn't mean that you can take one problem and say we have many other problems therefore overlook that. We have to deal with all of this together and that's what the book is about and actually you know at one stage promises two contradictions. Listen to one, I thought you might be dying of curiosity of what they have to say, sign of that. But you see the reforms are going to ahead, by having it effectively, as Gurcharan said in both, and have been and we both discuss the statistics have improved quite in the delivery system within the PDS and there is lot to learn from one state like Tamil Nadu, to others states, to introduce that. But it's a question of learning about that. In order to make the reforms more viable you have to see it as a package, which is the way Gurcharan also put it. Also question that in terms of rich versus poor. I agree with Gurcharan that being pro market, which I am, doesn't make me a full witness. On the other hand it is indeed the case, that the business community has an enormous amount to gain from having an educated labour force, healthy labour force. And which is why I say in America, they've got lots of the business community very anxious to take responsibility of providing health; healthcare otherwise it's a big healthcare thing. Now, when you see that business press is hounding me for wanting education and health care, I think it's what it is, of looking at what is, in the long run, the interest, even reason of the business. I don't think, you know there some issues that I will discuss broadly, Marxist issues, when class conflicts, there are some issues, which are Smithian complex, where the complementary is very large, this is one of them. And to give an example, when we discussed educational standards, we discussed quite extensively about how we need school change and all this in the interest of the people themselves. But even in the business we quote the fact that we, land of Jamshedji Tata, which is now called Jamshedpur, he first thought is that now, not only do I have to build the factory, but I also have to act as a municipality, providing free education and free health care for all. It isn't because he was abandoning business principles, but he was being intelligent about business principles. So when I see the business press getting very tough, my saying anything other than its not commercial policy, with wings in the money immediately in your pocket, and not think of the long run as Jamshedji was then doing, it seems to me that there is a real contradiction there.

NDTV: What's fascinating is and what I wanted to throw up, we discussed it also is how growth has become such a political hot potato in these elections and in this campaign in a sense. You've talked about the Kerala growth example, but many have said that you support Kerala, whereas there is a whole school of thought, led by Professor Bhagwati, that supports the Gujarat model. I made that point on how that's been pitted as a Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi battle; the clash between Professor Bhagwati and you as well. Where do you actually stand on that? Do you see Gujarat as an example that you would cite as well for India, like you cited Kerala?

Amartya Sen: Well, in terms of actual achievement of raising growth rate, becoming, from being a very broke state to becoming, to being very rich, Kerala has achieved more. Gujarat is very best in many ways. It has a strong business culture. It has a long tradition. Many of the Indian industrialists have been from Gujarat and Modi has done a lot for the business too, there's no question. In terms of business administration he provides a lot, a cleaner government for business, more physical infrastructure. Where the fault lies is in ignoring the social infrastructure, which has always been, and recently been a point where Gujarat is behind. And the education thing, gender equity and healthcare; I think many states, not only Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, even a number of other states, beat Gujarat there. I think, what does it mean? Is there nothing to learn from Gujarat? Of course there is something to learn. Because if there is clean administration for business, which is needed for economic growth and expansion, and growth is important, should we not have not learnt from that, because he is not doing the other thing? No, I don't see any reason why not to learn from it.

Similarly there is Kerala. They are doing things on education and healthcare, which have got in big results and is bringing more for the rest of India as well. Should we not learn from it because Kerala used to have, when I was first writing about it, enormous red tapes and still has quite a bit? No, it's a question of learning. You know we even quote right-wing angels, it is supposed to be Milton Friedman. We quote Milton Friedman in our book, saying that he said that India was neglecting education and healthcare, was saying too much emphasis on physical capital and too little on human capital. He said this forty-fifty years ago. I think the things to learn from Lee Kuan Yew, given though I don't, I would rather have a democratic Indian kind of system, but things to learn were to treat their minorities, to guarantee them some security, and Gujarat might learn something about that on that subject from Mr Lee Kuan Yew. But that doesn't mean that I have to support Mr Lee Kuan Yew on everything else. I think the great thing is one, as a free human being, free to think, not being attributed, but to think for yourself and hope that we want to attribute, not as you, I mean not you, first read before they write. I can learn from any place I do, to including Gujarat, and it doesn't prevent me from saying that that there are some of the bigger lessons in Kerala.

NDTV: Well Mr Modi echoed your view on China in the sense, how much China invested in education.

Amartya Sen: Yes, indeed, and that's good. But I think that since we began with the democracy issue, the great thing about democracy is that we can learn from these things.

Meghnad Desai: India has many models from which we can all learn, because I think of India as a multi-national country like European Union. Different people do different things well. And I think there is a lot to learn from each other and we ought not, sort of demonize. But I think what to me is again and again very important is how the North improved only because the voting pattern changed from below. People started demanding from government delivery of bijli, sadak paani, roti, kapda, makaan. It did not happen from on top. People started demanding performance from the chief ministers. Now, I think people are now going to be demanding from the Centre. This election is going to be about performance, and because reforms have not continued, and because reforms have not improved performances, the way people experienced it, but only wasted money. People are saying this is not we demanded. We had demanded. 

Gurcharan Das: There is a change and Meghnad is very right, reforms take place when there is a demand for reform. What we have today is a new India. 40% of the people did not exist before 1991. In other words we have new people and this new middle class has come up, by as the Americans say, by their own bootstraps, lifting themselves up by their bootstraps. Now these people have tasted some success. In addition, you have an aspiring middle class, which Narendra Modi calls neo-middle class. Who are these people who have come from the villages, with their cell phone and they have their first job usually in a class 4-tier town, and if you combine this, that's quite a significant number of people. In fact that's why the 2014 elections is going to surprise us. Now what is this? The cultural change that Deidre McCloksky in her book calls' bourgeoisie dignity'. Bourgeoisie dignity is the new idea, that's the idea that's going to fight against untouchability and casteism etc. We now have Dalit entrepreneurs, Dalit billionaires. So I believe the answer to the governance change is a huge demand from these people whose minds have got liberated. In my book I tried to describe the minds of the young. Their minds are de-colonised. To me that's where the answer to where the reforms in the future lies. Now they haven't found a political voice yet. We don't know whether Modi will be that voice, or who will be that voice. But they were the ones behind Anna Hazare movements etc. But they have realized protests can take you so far. They don't solve the problem. The question is whether we will learn the Tocquevillian solution, which is Tocqueville's look at American Democracy, which is 150 years ago, talked about how Americans engaged in their communities, not just in their private businesses, but they were joiners. And that's where you begin worrying about corruption in our neighborhood rather than corruption in Robert Vadra, Gadkari, Raja. I think we probably would do better.

NDTV: Prof Sen one final question as we are out of time. What do you think will be the central theme, which will come up in these elections, generational change as Gurcharan points out? Will it be governance, will it be secularism, will it be issues as you talked about public health, education? You talked about issues being neglected in this discourse. What do you think will be the focus? And we are moving towards a more presidential form, around personalities, Narendra Modi vesus Rahul Gandhi. Do you think issues of secularism and issues of whose more communalism or less communalism, issues of welfare state, economic or growth policies, what is going to be the central theme?

Amartya Sen: I am really very impressed when people assume that I know more than I actually do. I have no idea what will happen. I can tell you what I think I would be happiest with. If we want to become, one of the people that we quote quite a bit is Ambedkar, his maxim: educate, organize, agitate. Ambedkar was already cited by Meghnad.  Why do I spend my time in writing that book and I took a lot of time in writing that book and I hope that what we are; I believe in democracy. I believe that people should listen and will listen. And I hope that what we are offering, there is something to read and learn from in that. It's not that we have great wisdom. But look at the country, to see what state we are in. That we are having some success in some areas, growth is one of them; but when it comes down to it why don't we ask any questions? Why is Indonesia, the second fastest growing economy in the world? Is it that case that they have better education and healthcare? A lot better than us. Rather than this, we are saying, there is some cunning commercial policy in Indonesia that will make it different. I think that way it's just deflecting the question. One reason this discussion was very good from my point of view is, because none of us were saying that, because we were looking at the real problem that we have to address, and the ones that came from different emphasis. I hope that a kind of informed debate about that would be central. I hope that Democracy is not replaced by authoritarianism, and I don't think secularism will be, because secularism should be accepted. Are there differences in people who call themselves secularist in different political parties? Yes, if that's the case should they not have reason to look within the party, and not just keep the voters to re-examine. I do believe and always believe in enlightenment, by which I don't mean only European enlightenment, but that too. But this is the argument that I have presented in my The Argumentative Indian. There is a long tradition of listening to argument, looking at facts, and not just attributing it to people without reading some thoughts which they don't have and then criticizing those thoughts.

NDTV: Thanks a lot for coming.
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