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Amartya’s 5 freedoms test for reforms

New Delhi, July 16: The entire ragbag of the so-called intelligentsia and a cabal of global institutions will get the opportunity later this month to review the pace of economic reforms in India and evaluate the achievements against the touchstones of Amartya Sen’s Five Freedoms — political freedom, economic facilities, social opportunities, transparency guarantees and protective security.

“Our attempt is not to be critical of economic reforms in India,” said Amit Mitra, secretary-general of Ficci which is co-hosting a seminar, Development as Freedom: An India Perspective. “We wish to correct the processes through a mid-course evaluation which will come about through discussions at the forthcoming seminar.”

The debate will take place under the overarching theme of development as freedom, the Nobel laureate’s masterpiece of the same name that seeks to find a way to bridge the yawning gap between what he calls “a world of unprecedented opulence” and “a world of remarkable deprivation, destitution and oppression”.

By initiating the debate, Ficci and co-host Shri Ram Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources are hoping that “freedom will translate into action”. The industry association proposes to submit its recommendations and suggestions emerging from this “first-of-its-kind seminar” to the government and to all political parties.

The debate will focus on poverty alleviation, effects of globalisation, integration with global markets (good or bad), and health and poverty issues.

The two-day seminar, which begins on July 31, will see deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and a wide spectrum of economists, academics, politicians and media personalities draw pearls of wisdom from the five different “instrumental freedoms” explained by Sen in his book.

“We are at a very important point of history where each day the government is undergoing policy changes impacting different social dimensions,” said Mitra. “Even if there are a few serious takers of our suggestions within the policy-makers, it would do substantial good to the country.”

The participants at the seminar include Sheila Dikshit and . Chandrababu Naidu, the chief ministers of Delhi and Andhra Pradesh, respectively. Among the others are Jairam Ramesh (member of the Congress’ economic affairs cell), Jagdish Shettigar (member, Prime Minister’s economic advisory council), Charan Wadhwa (director, Centre for Policy Research), and Ashok Lahiri (chief economic advisor in the finance ministry).

Other speakers and panellists include economic consultant Bibek Debroy, social activist Rajni Kothari, former Chief Justice M.. Venkatachaliah, Rajya Sabha MP Shabana Azmi, National Conference chief Omar Abdullah and Nationalist Congress Party leader P.A. Sangma.

The global institutions that will participate in the debate include the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program.

Sen will present an agenda of action on August 1 based on the discussions at the seminar.

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