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Amartya Sen draws comparison with Bangladesh

Neighbour far higher in education for girls: Economist
Amartya Sen in Santiniketan on Saturday.

Snehamoy Chakraborty And Aditya Nag   |   Santiniketan   |   Published 29.02.20, 07:50 PM

Economist Amartya Sen on Saturday drew a comparison with Bangladesh while referring to the problems faced by girls in India and said that many of these issues occurred less frequently in the neighbouring country.

Sen, who delivered a lecture at Santiniketan a little while earlier, asked why India couldn’t do several things that the eastern neighbour had done.

“Why has Bangladesh been able to do so many things that we have not been able to. The spread of education among girls in Bangladesh is far higher than both in Bengal and India. They (girls in Bangladesh) have more access to health care. Their life expectancy is higher than girls in India. It is also true that they (in Bangladesh) have more educational opportunities in school. Why do these differences exist? We are both Bengali (people). We need to think about this,” Sen said.

He was interacting with the media after delivering a lecture on the problems faced by girls and women in the country, at the concluding ceremony of a two-day discussion on “Bharater Meyera: Ajker Chalchitra, Ajker Karanio”, which the organisers have translated as “The future of girl child in India, organised by Pratichi (India) Trust”.

Earlier during his address, Sen had dwelt at length on the condition of women and referred to their vulnerabilities during times of strife.

“When a country is burning all across, as is happening in Delhi now… in such situations, the minority community may get beaten. Alongside, members of the majority community, who are amongst this environment of hooliganism, may also get beaten. But in whichever families these incidents occur, in those families the worst affected are always the girls,” Sen said.

“So we can say that this is a kind of problem (for them), because amidst such a terrible environment, they (girls) may face more violence than usual…. Often, violence and oppression will be directed more frequently at them. And in several ways, their lives may be made to be unbearable,” he added.

According to Sen, the other problems for a girl child are daily discrimination like lower availability of health care and nutritious food in comparison with a boy child in the family and the chances of being kidnapped.

Expulsion poser

Sen wondered whether there was a “strong enough logic” to serve marching orders on Afsara Anika Meem, a first-year undergraduate student from Bangladesh at Visva-Bharati, for allegedly taking part in anti-government activities.

“From what I have read in the newspapers, her main fault is she had uploaded some protest rally images on the Internet. It is difficult to assess whether it is a strong enough logic to ask her to leave the country for this act,” Sen said in response to a question on what he felt about the incident.

“I don’t want to comment on this issue as I do not have the habit of passing judgement on issues about which I have at most got three-and-a-half minutes to read in newspapers. Had I known more about the incident, I would surely have had an opinion on it,” the Nobel laureate said

“From whatever I have come to know so far, I have not come across the reason for which she is being asked to leave. I am not saying there is no such reason; I am eager to know,” Sen added.

The Visva-Bharati campus has been on the boil since Wednesday after the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office of the ministry of home affairs asked Afsara to leave India for participating in “anti-government activities” after she posted on Facebook a few photographs of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act at the university.

Several teachers and students have supported the girl and pledged legal and other support to her. Afsara has been told to leave India in 15 days.

A teacher at Visva-Bharati told The Telegraph that their fight against the “unjust expulsion order” would be bolstered by Sen’s comments.

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