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There's a lot to learn from Kerala in delivering quality life: Amartya Sen

Dilasha Seth  |  New Delhi 

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen today said there was a lot to learn from the state of Kerala about delivering quality of life.

“I have, of course, said there is a lot to learn from Kerala, but not about the ‘Kerala model’,” Sen said, while speaking at the launch of International Centre for Human Development, a collaboration of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Shimla-based Indian Institute of Advanced Studies in the national capital.

Sen was responding to the flak he received from Columbia University professors Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya for advocating the “Kerala model of growth” rather than its Gujarat counterpart.

Sen also rolled out data which suggested the southern state was far ahead of its western counterpart in terms of social indicators.

Subtly comparing social indicator figures of Gujarat and Kerala, Sen listed the quality of life indicators of various states.

The data revealed by him showed Gujarat was behind Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh in terms of larger social development.

“The median per capita income in Gujarat is Rs 6,300 a year, Rs 7,000 in Tamil Nadu, Rs 9,042 in Himachal and Rs 9,987 in Kerala. In terms of percentage of population below poverty line (2004-05 scale), Gujarat is 31.6, Tamil Nadu is 29.4 Himachal 22.9 and Kerala 19.6. The infant mortality rate under five years of age stands at 60.9 per 1,000 children in Gujarat, 39.5 in Tamil Nadu and 16.2 in Kerala,” said Sen.

“But you have to look at the positive constructive policies. The low income state is now on the top,” he added.

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh called the Gujarat model of development the ‘Gujarati model’ and the Kerala model a ‘public action model’.

On the Kerala vesus Gujarat debate, Ramesh said, “The Gujarat model has the nature of Gujarati society: entrepreneurial, commercial, business-oriented, growth-oriented, just getting things done. But the Kerala model is direct action -political action, civil society movement, women movement.”

Ramesh noted the Tamil Nadu model was oriented towards high growth and high welfare expenditure with superior outcomes.

On India growing slower than China, Sen said the bigger issue was to understand the role of growth. “It is important to see how growth is generated and what are the resources generated.”

India’s growth slowed down to 5.3 per cent in the second quarter ended September 2012, whereas China’s growth slowed down to 7.3 per cent in the same quarter.

Sen said India should try to catch up with China not just in terms of growth rate but also on quality of life .

“The idea to do that is not through cutting down on welfare payments, but focus on education, health care and expanding the productivity of human beings,” he said. He emphasised that China is growing faster than India not only in GDP terms, but its social indicators are much better.

“While India spends 1.2 per cent of the GDP on public health care, China spends 2.7 per cent. China’s life expectancy is at 73 years, while India’s is at 65. Child undernourishment in India is at 43.5 per cent of our children and of China at 4.5 per cent. Infant mortality in case of India is 63 per 1,000 children, it is 18 in China,” noted Sen.

Meanwhile, World Bank chief economist Kaushik Basu said direct benefits transfer would not lead to inflation compared to other welfare schemes like MNREGA. Even as direct benefits transfer is aimed at minimising slippages, Basu said slippages could not be ruled out entirely.

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First Published: Sat, January 05 2013. 00:52 IST