This book explores the role of public action in eliminating deprivation and expanding human freedoms in India.
The analysis is based on a broad and integrated view of development, which focuses on well-being and freedom rather than the standard indicators of economic growth.
The authors place human agency at the centre of stage, and stress the complementary roles of different institutions (economic, social, and political) in enhancing effective freedoms. In comparative international perspective, the Indian economy has done reasonably well in the period following the economic reforms initiated in the early nineties.
However, relatively high aggregate economic growth coexists with the persistence of endemic deprivation and deep social failures.
Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen relate this imbalance to the continued neglect, in the post-reform period, of public involvement in crucial fields such as basic education, health care, social security,environmental protection, gender equity, and civil rights, and also to the imposition of new burdens such as the accelerated expansion of military expenditure.
Further, the authors link these distortions of public priorities with deep-seated inequalities of social influence and political power.
The bookdiscusses the possibility of addressing these biases through more active democratic practice.