Announcing the publication of ‘An Uncertain Glory’ by Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen

Jul 2013

Penguin Books India is delighted to announce the publication of
An Uncertain Glory
India and its Contradictions
Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen
(Releasing in July 2013/ Allen Lane/ Rs 699)
This important new book, by two of India’s leading economists, presents a far-reaching analysis of the condition of contemporary India, together with a wealth of illuminating data. The authors take note of India’s great achievements since independence, including the successful maintenance of the world’s largest democracy, and yet argue that the country’s development strategy remains fundamentally flawed. In particular, it overlooks the central role of human capabilities - both as an end in themselves and as a means of further progress.
  • Underlying this lop-sidedness is the blinkered nature of mainstream public discourse in India, which tends to focus on the lives of the privileged, and produces a distorted picture of how the country is doing. The authors discuss many examples of these biases and contradictions, including:
  • During the last twenty years or so, the Indian economy has been one of the fastest-growing in the world, yet real wages have virtually stagnated. But this has not attracted serious attention in policy circles. In contrast, real wages have been rising at about 7 per cent per year in China.
  • After twenty years of fast economic growth, India’s per-capita GDP is twice as high as that of Bangladesh, but Bangladesh has forged ahead in terms of a wide range of social indicators. For example, India’s life expectancy is at least three years lower and its rate of child mortality nearly 25% higher.
  • The country rightly takes pride in its scientific and literary achievements. But nearly half of India’s classrooms are idle on an average day, and less than half of Indian pupils can divide 20 by 5 after four years of schooling.
  • India is the largest producer of generic drugs in the world, and is able to produce them very cheaply, but the bulk of the population suffers under a primitive, unregulated health care system with woefully underdeveloped public health provision.
  • Massively biased subsidy structures are perpetuated by powerful lobbies. For instance, as much as 2% of India’s total GDP is spent on power subsidies for the relatively privileged, even as one third of Indian households have no electricity connection at all. 
  • Indians buy more newspapers than any other nation in the world, and India has a thriving media sector, with greater transparency of information than most other countries. Yet huge social problems remain hidden or unaddressed. For instance, sanitation has never been a live policy issue in India even though approximately half of the population are forced to practise open defecation (because their homes lack toilets), compared with about 10 per cent in Bangladesh and one per cent in China.
The book concludes with a strong case for the possibility of change through democratic practice. The reorientation of democratic dialogue, however, requires a clearer understanding of the vast deprivations and inequalities that blight Indian society today. This book is a strong attempt to close this gap.
JEAN DRÈZE has lived in India since 1979 and became an Indian citizen in 2002. He has taught at the London School of Economics and the Delhi School of Economics, and is now Visiting Professor at Allahabad University. He is co-author (with Amartya Sen) of Hunger and Public Action and India: Development and Participation, and one of the co-authors of the Public Report on Basic Education in India.

AMARYTA SEN is Thomas W. Lamont University Professor, Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Economics, at Harvard University. He won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1998 and was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, 1998-2004. His many books include Choice, Welfare and Measurement, On Economic Inequality, Development as Freedom, Rationality and Freedom, The Argumentative Indian, Identity and Violence and The Idea of Justice.
For more information please contact:
Amrita Talwar: amrita.talwar@in.penguingroup.com
Hemali Sodhi Hemali.sodhi@in.penguingroup.com