ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Growth, Poverty and Reforms

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It is good to hear from my very oldfriend from the 1960s,K S Krishnaswamy (April 21) Krishnaswamy, however, does noteven remotely come to grips with thequestions that must be faced and whichI had raised (‘Growth, Poverty andReforms’, EPW, March 10, 2001):what caused us to lose a quarter of acentury to the 3.5 annual growth rate;did this not play a principal role in ourinability to reduce poverty; have notthe improved growth rates since the1980s been associated with, and been aprincipal cause of, reduction in povertyand even of illiteracy; and have theseenhanced growth rates not in turn hadto do with the economic reforms that Iand many others have argued for sincethe mid 1960s?I believe that the answers to all thesequestions underline the centralimportance of the ongoing economicreforms that began in earnest in 1991but have still ways to go. And thisbelief is not based, as Krishnaswamysuggests, on a disregard for contraryarguments and a desire to do a salespitch for economic reforms that reflectsabsence of reflection. In fact, if he hadonly reread my 1970 book with PadmaDesai, or the one later with T NSrinivasan, and then again my 1993Radhakrishnan Lectures, and much elseby me and indeed by many otherswithin India itself, he would have seenthat my answers reflect extensiveresearch, on India and indeed on othercountries with far more successfuldevelopmental policies. And it reflectsa huge consensus by now of informedopinion. What we need is not exchangeof barbs, but (as I told the students inChandigarh) a dialogue on the policiesthat would accelerate the pace at whichwe gain economic prosperity andpromote widely its incidence and alsosocial agendas.

As for “error and cant”, Krishnaswamyevidently forgets that our studentsneed to be reminded to challenge anddebate: they live in an ascriptivesociety. Where I see some Americanstudents put their feet on the tablein my lectures, I have seen some Indianstudents touch their teachers’ feetinstead.

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