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2009-05-06 17:20:45|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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PB: Democracy obviously has been afavorite cause of yours. Another favorite cause has been that of masseducation, basic health, and women's rights. When you combine these two sets ofcauses, one cannot help but notice that there could be a disjuncture, not inthe realm of your ideas but in the real world of politics. The conditions ofbasic health and sanitation and primary and secondary education are simplyappalling in India.Yet, the electorate does not penalize politicians when they fail to deliverthese services. And the conditions continue to be appalling, election afterelection.


AS: A very interestingquestion, Pranab. Let me say three things. First, democracy is basically apermissive system. Some of the issues of deprivation are very easy to seize interms of media and political opposition. Like famines. Hard to win electionsafter a famine. It's hard to prevent newspapers writing editorials, unless youcensor them, criticizing the government if famines occur. So these things getimmediately politicized. The rest require a lot of effort. In India, thegender issue - when I first started working on it, you were one of the first tobe involved in that. You wrote this great paper ... what was it called?


PB: - "Life and Death Questions in India."


I think you have had the same experience as Ihad, the people treating it as your and my amiable eccentricity that we areconcerned with the gender issue. But nobody thinks like that today. If theIndian Parliament is debating today as to how to ensure that a third of theparliamentarians are women, something has changed - and changed as a result ofpolitics, particularly the women's movement.


One of the things I discuss in The Argumentative Indian is thatdespite the fact that since the economic reforms in 1979 the Chinese have growneconomically much faster than India, life expectancy in India has increasedabout three times as fast as that in China over the last quarter century. Thereason for it is not so much that the Indians are getting things right, butthat the Chinese are getting things pretty bad. Earlier, because of theirleft-wing communist commitment to basic health care and basic education, theChinese did a lot of very good things in terms of spreading public educationand health care. Often, the health care was of a very low quality, butnevertheless, there was universal coverage. At the time of the economic reform,the Chinese did away with universal social insurance of health. One morning,simply abolished it. Rather than 100 percent of the people being covered, 70percent, minimally, are not covered by any kind of health insurance today. Youcan't imagine in a democratic country an established right of citizens couldhave been compromised so easily.


On top of that, people publicly grumble in India all thetime. Every now and then, that confronts politicians with the need to dosomething, which the Chinese government does not quite have to face. By notknowing that, for example, SARS had in fact surfaced in November of one yearbut would not be revealed until the April of the following year, China put things in a closet, which prevents akind of inescapable improvement that you see in India. So my second point is thatthe democratic critique is still, even in India, making a difference.


My third point is that democracy is primarily, as I see it,not just voting, but public reasoning, government by discussion. To initiatethe discussion is a contribution to democracy. You might not have thought thatyour - "Life and Death Questions" was a contribution to Indiandemocratic practice, but that's what it was because a lot of people read it andwere inspired by it and moved by it.


For years, people used to say every time I gave a lecture,- "You are going on and on about democracy, but if democracy is so good,how come Indiadoesn't grow at all?" My answer was that economic growth depends not onthe harshness of the political climate, but the friendliness of the economicclimate. People don't ask me that rhetorical question any more because India'seconomic growth is quite high now. But the country is no less democratic today- it is not democracy that had to be abandoned to grow fast.



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