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Access to rural population to tangible assets and making farm and manufacturing sector workers equity partners are key factors in addressing "growing problems of inequality," noted Bangladeshi economist Rehman Sobhan today said. Also, establishment of a 21st century Agrarian Reforms Commission and the "need to address the sources of inequality" were important, said Sobhan, who is chairman of Centre for Policy Dialogue (Dhaka-Bangladesh). He was delivering the "UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Madanjeet Singh second memorial lecture on addressing the structural sources of inequality in South Asia" at Pondicherry University here. "Establishment of an agrarian reforms commission, providing access for rural population to tangible assets, ensuring better quality education in institutions run by the government and also electoral reforms" are key factors needed to address the growing problems of inequality, he said. "Even within the prevailing inequitable social dispensation across South Asia there is no reason why we can't explore agrarian reforms which are politically feasible as well as economically sustainable," he said. Economic intervention programmes by the governments across South Asia such as employment guarantee schemes, welfare programmes and subsidies had helped reduced poverty, "but inequality and social disparity have widened in the region," he said. Suggesting mandatory offering of equity stake in the value addition process, he said, "it is actually making a farmer a business partner of the corporate entity which finally sells his produce." The ultimate aim should be to move towards a "common school system which provides high quality public education." Chairman of Kasturi and Sons Limited and President of Madanjeet Singh Foundation N Ram outlined the need for South Asian countries to promote understanding. Chairperson of South Asia Foundation (India chapter) Mani Shankar Aiyar, Vice-Chancellor (officiating) of Pondicherry University Anisa Basheer Khan and Representative of the South Asia Foundation to UNESCO France Marquet were among those who spoke.
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