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Amartya Sen lists areas for boosting farm growth

By Our Special Correspondent


KOLKATA, FEB. 24. Nobel Laureate, economist and Professor Amartya Sen said that India's agriculture requires greater priority as the quality of rural labour casts its shadow on agricultural productivity.

Outlining four basic areas, which needed to be addressed, Professor Sen said that the main areas of concern were delivery of the health care system, land reforms and its completion, basic education and availability of micro credit. He said that States like West Bengal and Kerala had done well on land reforms, while Tamil Nadu and Kerala had progressed on the literacy front. Addressing a meet-the-press programme at the Calcutta Press Club here today, he said that although India's growth rate at 6.5 per cent was next only to China, stagnating agricultural production was linked with lack of expansion of social opportunities and the relative neglect of basic education and health."Backwardness of the rural economy was not unrelated to the lack of progress on the agricultural front," he remarked.

To a question as to whether in the name of globalisation, India has compromised on its sovereignty, the Nobel laureate economist said that it was perhaps not proper to raise issues on sovereignty every time an international settlement was discussed.

However, he wondered if the Indian Government had conceded too easily on the drug patent issue. "Exemption from the patent law had served the public as well as the companies well — we don't want to lose that advantage," he said.

On the issue of subsidies, he said that any blanket statement on subsidies would be a mistake as it would have to be scrutinized whether it was reaching the targeted people.

On foreign direct investment, he felt that while it was only an instrument, there was need for pragmatism in learning from China on issues like these."Treat it as a mere institution and not as a value in itself," he said adding that it has to be examined as to whether FDI in a particular sector was harmful or beneficial.

To a question on whether disagreements within coalition partners thwarted economic progress, he said that if it was indeed the case that policies failed to be effective, then it might be harmful.

However there must be ample scope for discussion and co ordination, he felt.

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