India lagged behind Bangladesh, says Jean Dreze

Development economist Jean Dreze Tuesday expressed concern over India’s tardy economic growth, which lagged behind neighbours like Nepal and Bangladesh in vital sectors.

Dreze was delivering the ninth I.G. Khan Memorial Lecture on “Hunger and the Indian Enigma” at the Kennedy Auditorium of Aligarh Muslim University.

bd-indiaReferring to the economic growth in south Asia, he said India lagged behind its neighbours “in education, health and food and availability of medicine to the people despite the country’s economic viability in terms of GDP growth”.

Dreze, a development economist who has been influential in Indian economic policymaking, said India has not been able to overcome the constraints in reducing malnutrition and improving the quality of life of a large section of its population.

This, he said, was in stark contrast to the situation in Nepal and Bangladesh, which, although “poorer” than India, economically performed very well on these indicators.

Dreze, whose work in India includes issues like hunger, famine, gender inequality, child health and education, and the NREGA, expressed disappointment at rampant malnutrition in rural and under-developed suburbs, when it needs only a boiled egg or a banana and lemon to provide every child the required amount of nutrition.

He said privileged people in high positions and power were opposed to ambitious programmes like MGNREGA — which he had conceptualised and drafted the first version of — and the food security scheme because of lack of perspective and their inability to associate themselves with the conditions of the poor.