The Nobel laureate released the expanded edition of his book yesterday and spoke of liberty and fraternity facing a difficult time in India.
The 83-year-old economist was at the Indian Habitat Centre yesterday for the launch of the expanded edition of his 1970 book, Collective Choice and Social Welfare and spoke of government intolerance and interference at Universities. “The government shouldn’t execute autocratic power on the universities as freedom and autonomy of institutions is vital for the country,” he said. He also stated that the government dispenses money to universities, but it doesn’t own the money. “The government promises to make world-class universities but this is not the way to do it.”
Sen addressed the rapidly growing atmosphere of intolerance stating that “some people live in the constant fear of being labelled anti-national.” He also said that the quality of public debate has shrunk and there is a greater tendency to ban things as compared to before. Although he did cite that this was a problem world over and not just an Indian thing, he did make it clear that India was “definitely in it,” and said that democracy deserves loyalty as there are few things as important as it today.
Sen has had a long standing beef with the way government handles universities in India. In 2015, he quit as the Vice Chancellor of Nalanda University and has been vocal in his criticism of the NDA government, “Teachers are being targeted and even the organisations that are inviting them are being targeted. These cannot be seen as cultivation of fraternity but are dangers posed to liberty and fraternity of India.”
His critique comes at a time when JNU and AMU are at loggerheads concerning the remarks made by Shehla Rashid, while Delhi University too has witnessed violence in the last two days.
Without being overt, Sen also touched upon the subject of JNU administration issuing notices to teachers. “While the pursuit of equality has taken a backseat in policy making here, protests against teachers for giving lectures critical of the priorities of the ruling government and even against those who arrange those lectures have far reaching implications on the values of liberty in contemporary India.”
The book, Collective Choice and Social Preference, explains the relationship between the objectives of social action and preferences and aspirations of society’s members. In its expanded version, some more chapters have been added and explain some points in detail from Sen’s, The Idea of Justice. In the new chapters added, there is of course one on democracy, which says, given the mixed bag of results that we can actually get from majoritarian democracy, its defence, important as it is, needs to be seriously supplemented by probing scrutiny of its limits and conditionality.
One of Sen’s seminal works, the book is recognised for its ground breaking role in integrating economics and ethics and is a must read for anybody trying to understand welfare economics.