This United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is heading into the tenth and possibly last year of office, a tenure whose crowning achievement might well be the Food Security Bill. One may fault this government for incompetence, corruption, and delayed action but it cannot be faulted for lacking a vision. There has been an overarching idea that underlies many of its economic policies: namely, that the poor and underprivileged in society must be empowered by conferring them with new rights – to work, education, food, and presumably, all basic needs.
Call this the redistribution through rights and entitlements (RRE) approach, which is now associated with the articulate advocacy of Professor Amartya Sen, channelled effectively into policy through his co-author and long-time collaborator Professor Jean Dreze. Their latest book is a cogent exposition of the RRE approach. Nobody can question the moral urgency of helping the poor which is the key objective underlying this approach. But that should not exempt its methods and consequences from critical scrutiny. And this scrutiny reveals some serious failings. Read More