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An Antidote To Poverty?

Noted Economist of Indian Origin Pranab Bardhan believes that the policy of a Universal Basic Income can be effective in a country, like India, to relieve economic insecurity to a large extent. He has constructed a thorough critique of the political direction India has been taking over the last few years, leading to considerable social stress. For him, the health of the political economy of a country depends on the capacity of its people to exercise their Democratic Rights, as well as their capacity to earn and spend. Hence, he has often stressed on empowerment of the people, claiming that it is linked organically with income of the people. Bardhan, a Professor of Graduate School at the Department of Economics, University of California, has expressed his view on Indian Politics and Economy in various editorials, interviews and research articles. He often criticises the Government of India for implementing wrong policies purely on the basis of data and statistics, and not political ideology.

Bardhan’s latest publication ‘Indian Polity and Economy: A Mirror to Difficult Times’ has brought together some of his articles written over the past five years on Universal Basic Income, the current political situation, and Political Economy and policy, culminating in the recent COVID-19 Pandemic period. Apart from criticising India’s current ruling party, he has also expressed his views on the future of Indian Democracy in those articles.

In an article written in May 2020, the author mentioned about the Narendra Modi Government‘s ultimate failure in dealing with the financial crisis triggered by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Professor Bardhan was not happy with the Modi Administration’s decision to impose a strict lockdown in the South Asian country, without discussing the issue with experts and considering the situation of daily wage earners. He also described the Government’s financial package as a cruel joke with the people of India, stressing that the move deepened the crisis. In 2022, one can easily agree with the view of Professor Bardhan.

Pranab Bardhan

As expected, he has discussed the issue of India’s economic growth in this publication. The seasoned economist has claimed that Prime Minister Modi’s Gujarat Model of development is a meaningless concept. In an interview compiled in the book, he said that the industrial sector had grown rapidly in Gujarat, but it failed to create many employment opportunities. It did not benefit social welfare schemes, either! When Politics seeks to market a Fantasy, it is the duty of a responsible intellectual to draw the mass attention to the inherent flaws and dangers of that fantasy. Professor Bardhan has reminded the readers that the then Government of western Indian Province of Gujarat wanted to trigger communal hatred through the Gujarat Model. In another interview, he stated that the Politics of Hindutva and the tendency of State Supremacy were trying to influence each and every sphere of Indian society.

When Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, one of his main promises was to eradicate Corruption. One should not forget that the habit of people to please their superiors is also a form of corruption, stated Professor Bardhan. He has further discussed how the Government of India has been manipulating the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI, the premier investigating agency of India) in recent times in order to force the Opposition parties to not criticise the Government. He has compared corruption at the local level in India with that of China, saying that local administrators are promoted on the basis of the economic development at the local level in the neighbouring country. The situation is quite the opposite in India, where local administrators often get promotion by encouraging corruption.

Readers can get a brief overview of the changing Political Economy of India over the last few years from this publication.

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