BY SHRI K.R. NARAYANAN, PRESIDENT OF INDIA, WHILE RECEIVING THE BOOK
"POVERTY OF NATIONS" BY DR. A.M. KHUSRO
NEW DELHI, MONDAY,
OCTOBER 4, 1999
and distinguished friends,
is a very important occasion on which I have been fortunate to get a copy
of this modern classic, I would say a classic which completes the great
classic of Adam Smith's 'Wealth of Nations'. This is a very concise classic.
I think Dr. Khusro has compressed into it so much of his encyclopedic
knowledge and his wide experience in life, academics, diplomacy and public
service as well as in the art of journalism. I want to congratulate him
today for his achievement. It is an achievement to have surveyed the entire
literature on economics of poverty and produce a slim volume. Though a
very precious volume, I hope this will not impoverish the reading public
question of poverty has exercised the minds of men for generations and
in the Bible it is said that: "The poor shall be always with us."
So far developmental economics has proved that this is a very true saying.
In spite of the spectacular achievements in economic progress of countries,
the poor are still with us. Whether we can abolish poverty altogether
is a moot question, but this has been a dream not only of great ideologues
and visionaries - the Marxists dream of the kingdom of freedom in which
everything is available to everyone etc.
now we thought that the development which has taken place in the world
would somehow filter down, trickle down to the average man. This trickling
down process has been rather slow or unsuccessful. I think it was Galbraith
who compared the trickling down process to feeding the horses very well
with oats so that the birds can get something of it on the roadside the
next day. In India specially, that process, the filtering down process
is even more impractical than in other societies because our society happens
to be fragmented and walled in so tightly that infiltration is very difficult
to take place from one layer to the other.
I think whatever economic developments take place, together with it considerable
social change has also to take place for the fruits of development to
go down to the people as a whole. Today, as mentioned by both Prof. Khusro
and Pantji, we in India, in spite of our immense problems, succeeded in
dealing with the question of poverty, and we have reduced poverty to some
see it not from statistics, but from my personal, visual experience. I
was born in a small, remote, highly backward, poor village and whenever
I go back to that village, I am struck by the progress made in that village.
Every time I go back I could visually see the change because I used to
know which families were perpetually poor and starving and who were perpetually
suffering from TB and other endemic diseases and how people were dressed
there and what amenities were available. But when I go today, it is impossible
to escape the visual image of everything having improved, except that
the consciousness of the people, has risen so much so that their discontentment
level is immensely greater. Thus poverty is a very relative concept. Everybody
compares themselves with the rest of the people and the rest of the world,
whatever they may have. It is by comparison that we feel, rich or contented
all the experiments and revolutions, ideological revolutions which took
place have not really succeeded in annihilating poverty, I think they
cannot be dismissed as absolute failures. They contain some seeds of progressive
thought and action. <
remember, while I was in the United States, President Reagan talking about
the magic of the market place. But even when he was talking about the
magic of the market place, behind the White House there was a soup kitchen
being run for poor people. I think that kitchen still exists. This is
the situation in many countries and therefore in India, of course the
problem is much more enormous. I do not know how we can deal with it.
But we have justify from the beginning considered development of resources
not in the technical sense but as a development of the human faculties
and the creation of institutions, which would enable people's aspirations
to be accommodated. That was stated in the first chapter of the First
Five-Year Plan itself - thus we had this large concept of development
and economic planning.
we resorted to direct attack on poverty itself with schemes specifically
designed for the poorer sections of the people and the poorer regions
of the country. If it has not succeeded, I think it is to some extent
at least due to the lack of imagination and sensitivity of the people
who are in charge of implementing these programmes. Here when we come
to the great question of implementation, I would like to go back to Gandhiji.
He used to say, "Everybody must have enough of the basic needs of
life but that these cannot be given to them. They will have to earn it.
They can earn it only by the sweat of their brow". People in India
sweat and toil, but the results do not go to them. So institutional changes
are necessary. I think that while technical methods are applied to increasing
production and increasing the basic and good things of life, at the same
time, we have to consider methods of giving these things to the people
think Gandhiji had said in another place that, he believed not in mass
production but production by the masses. Because ultimately it is in the
interstices of the productive processes that the distribution of wealth
is determined. Therefore in the method of production - who are all cooperating
in it is very important. That is why small production, small cooperatives,
village level enterprises etc., were considered to be most important by
we are in the era of liberalisation and the market economy where all national
and domestic barriers are being abolished by trade and technological innovations.
In this situation, the question is whether it would be possible for us
to maintain our self-reliant institutions. Ultimately, if people have
to be involved successfully in any production, then their self-reliant
work must have certain institutions and these institutions must be able
to survive and that is the problem in the era of market economy and liberalisation.
developing countries which succeeded in the liberalisation process had
somehow, attained self-reliance in certain important basic sectors. It
is based on such self-reliance that we can really adopt globalisation
in a manner in which it will not be self-destructive, where it will not
produce more poverty but help in elevating all the sections of the people.
think Dr. Khusro's book has thrown a wealth of ideas as well as facts
before us. Also, implicit in his analysis are ways of approaching the
question of poverty in our country. Human development is certainly one
of the most important things. Whether in the future the State can altogether
be eliminated from economic functioning is something which has to be examined
clearly. My own feeling is that in every stage of economic and technological
development, there are certain organisational structures which are most
applicable to that stage. Therefore, ultimately, we cannot produce a dogma
like free market suited for every period in world history. There may be
periods in future where State may have to play a role, or even may be
compelled to play a role for protecting the economic interests of the
has not ended and I do not think it will ever end, as long as human minds
remain creative and enterprising. We have already seen that in the realm
of human development, in education, health etc., it has been well recognised
by the advocates of liberalisation themselves that State has a role to
play. This is a slightly different position from what it was when liberalisation
started. State has to play a crucial role during the period of liberalisation
in education, social services and health etc. Therefore the pattern of
development whether it is marketisation or something else will be determined
by the conditions of life, by the state of technology and the organisational
structure most applicable to that state. I do not think we can dogmatically
accept any ideology as eternal for human kind. We will have to improvise
and change as time goes on.
would like to end by thanking Dr. Khusro most sincerely for a very valuable
work that he has produced. It is really a modern classic. I think it is
a classic which must be read as a complement to the 'Wealth of Nations'.