Now for a ‘gross national happiness’ index

It’s about time we put growth in its place, to borrow a line from economist Amartya Sen. Much has been made of our “high growth” – 8% or 9% or whatever. Growth in itself cannot lead to development, which is why economists such as Sen have been making a case for “growth-mediated development”.

High growths don’t pull people out of poverty: just a handful of people in a country population, theoretically, can account for much of its GDP while millions other may be jobless, unproductive or simply impoverished.

Our governments, the one headed by Manmohan Singh and particularly the one headed by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, are quite right in chasing growth, but “single-minded” pursuit of growth is unpardonable.

Bhutan, a small country, gave us a powerful idea in developmental economics when it announced a national index to measure people’s happiness, instead of measuring just growth.

India often likes to believe it could be a “super power”, but a more realistic target is to beat China first. India could even do well, for now, to match Bangladesh, a smaller neighbour with a lower per capita income, but far better human development indices.

Compared to India, fewer children die during their first five years in Bangladesh; girls stay longer in Bangladeshi schools and mothers have less chances of dying during childbirths.

Should India chase growth and leave everything else to the markets or increase focus on state-run social programmes? An acrimonious debate rages on, from university classrooms to television studios.

Last month, Alpa Shah of the London School of Economics joined Professor Akhil Gupta of the UCLA on BBC Radio 4’s “Thinking Allowed” show to discuss why India’s poverty-alleviation programmes don’t work.

Shah called on India to review the kind of economic growth it is currently pursuing, which has led to an “economic polarisation”. In other words, an ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor.

“Rampant corruption and the state’s obsession with paperwork despite widespread illiteracy amongst India’s poorest citizens leads to the arbitrary distribution of state assistance,” Professor Gupta argues.

Last May, the government had asked the Planning Commission to update it on how far the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) had been achieved. The MGDs are a set of eight globally agreed benchmarks to free people from extreme poverty and deprivation by 2015. The target is to reduce these by half.

The plan panel reported that, of the eight goals, none looked distinctly achievable, from health to hunger. Two sub-targets were “likely” to be met, provided efforts were sustained and four are “not on track”, while four others were found to be on course.

It said India was likely to be “close” to its poverty reduction target, despite no clarity on the official poverty line yet. Its 2009-10 poverty benchmark – Rs 32 and Rs 26 for urban and rural dwellers — was squarely criticised for being so low that few Indians would get by on it. The government had then set up a panel for a more realistic “poverty line”.

Prof. Mahendra Dev, who heads the Mumbai-based Indira Gandhi Institute of Rural Development and is on the panel to review the vexed poverty line, recently told me that India’s “income-poverty reduction” was expected to be border line (case). But if one were to include more “non-income poverty indicators”, like spending on health and education, the poverty scenario could be different.

A tight fiscal deficit target of 4.8% means welfare spending is not rising fast enough. In quite a contrast, China, revealing its budget allocations on March 5, announced raising welfare funds. Its largest percentage increase is in health-care spending, set to rise 27%, compared to a 16% increase last year. Much of it will go to rural healthcare subsidies. India’s spends a tiny 1.2% of its GDP on healthcare. Of this, the Centre spends just 0.3%.

India is also “going slow” on hunger reduction. Targets on primary education and HIV-prevalence reversal are likely to be met, but this is offset by abysmal teaching standards. The government’s annual education report of 2011 showed a majority of Class 5 pupils could not read Class 2 texts. Infant mortality reduction, though declining, is not yet an “established trend”, the plan panel said. Is the government watching?

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  • Abu Ahmed

    Very depressing story and I am hungry and very angry right now – and there are no birds around of any flock to be had for lunch, sadly.


  • John Rock

    well, nobody cares about some unknown mouth piece of a communist regime, until Indian media projects it repeatedly. So don’t fall for these unknown so called global media run by communist Chinese government


  • Mamutty chola

    The way the terrorists are targetting our cities at will,reflects failures of our intellegence machinaries -Both at state and central levels.
    There has not been a single terrorist attack in USA since 9/11,shows how effective are their intelligence operatives.Mind you, they are targets of multiple terror groups.
    We must engage US intelligence experts in training our officers .we must bench-mark their best practices.

    Also there is a need to evolve transparent based justice systems.we cannot attain long- term internal peace without justice to the aggrieved. Innocents citizens kept in our jails without trials must be freed.Terrorists have No religion. No religious scriptures, be it ,Quran, Bhagvat Geeta,, Bible, gurugarath Saheb,teaches hatreds towards others. INJUSTICE does .It is a wake up call for all Indians who love their motherland.


  • Anonymous

    I think we need to remember that in comparison ot most of Europe we have become a high population country with high density of population also.,

    China followed the one child norm inspired by Sanjay Gandhi.

    At the end of the day in case populaiton control was NOT a religious issue, India would have already been among the most developed.


  • Mano Sing



  • Abhi

    “High growths don’t pull people out of poverty.”
    It can, if some groups do not multiply much faster than others just to create a vote bank!


  • Anonymous

    Actually Zia is saying that a puny ISLAMIC country like Bangladesh beats India in Human development index…never mind genocide on non-muslims especially hindus in Bangladesh.


    Abu Ahmed Reply:

    India’s populations is huge – whatever and however much is distributed, it still falls short by a huge margin. Why, even Afghanistan fares better than us in some ways – those who manage to survive there eat better than most Indians! Now dont remark that the Afghans have treated Hindus worse than B’desh. Okay, look at Nepal, Thaliand, Phillipines, most of africa. Our people have a very big appetite for corruption and that eats away all the short-supply of goodies.


    Anonymous Reply:

    That is why we need Modi who will take care of corruption.

    As far as Bangaldes is concerned, 20% of their population lives in India


    Abu Ahmed Reply:

    India’s populations is huge – whatever and however much is distributed, it still falls short by a huge margin. Why, even Afghanistan fares better than us in some ways – those who manage to survive there eat better than most Indians! Now dont remark that the Afghans have treated Hindus worse than B’desh. Okay, look at Nepal, Thaliand, Phillipines, most of africa. Our people have a very big appetite for corruption and that eats away all the short-supply of goodies.


  • Abhishek Kumar

    information. Thank you for sharing it. Thanks Packers Movers


  • Anonymous

    Zia before you extoll the virtues of bangladesh vis a vis ISLAMIC model
    would you care to answer the following queries

    even bangladesh’s biggest export garments , the fabric is sourced from INDIA
    5. HOW MANY YEARS OF PEOPLE’S WILL (read DEMOCRACY) has bangladesh enjoyed

    1. SEND CONgress party packing for good

    .2 India needs REVOLUTION IN AGRICULTURE, fully mechanised agriculture with massive acreage by coalescing pattas , corporate farming, patta holders being share holders




    Anonymous Reply:


    Outlook magazine reported that Nirad Chaudhari was a British spy. People on Vindo Sharma’s blog were speculating that you left blogging after you got this info.


    Anonymous Reply:

    @Vinoo, perhaps it has escaped your attention , I had replied to you when you raided this question in Zia ’s previous blog on the down turn of indian economy. Anyway here you have it again

    inoo have you heard of any indian spying for pakistan hanging the
    portrait of jinnah in his home. same here , nirad dick head did not make
    any bones about his mesmerisation with the racist scum churchill and in
    his book “the continent of circe , he unashamedly claims to have
    redidcovered his european roots through his aryan ancestry. So there you
    have it. after reading Madhushree Mukherjee’s book i now rate nirad as a
    buffoon, then nirad moron was a history graduate , and madhushree is a
    phd in physics form newyork uni, and used to be on the editorial board
    of Scientific American. It is like comparing nirad ambassador car with
    madhushree porsche carrera
    As regards his getting a job after sarat bose was arrested, this was a job of a clerk, hardly a high ranking job. Do remember he came out 1st class first in BA history honours , but had exam phobia (my interpretation) so did not sit for MA. However he had studied French History in FRENCH , from original sources.
    I do not think he was a spy , HE HAD TO ENDURE MASSIVE HARDSHIP and he has recounted that in his book
    I do not come to the blog because of work pressure and have been doing a lot of travelling across europe. If interested let me know , I will relate my life enriching experiences


    Anonymous Reply:

    come to vindo sharma’s blog. Lot of people talk about your there

    vijay ! Reply:

    Shan remember your passionate espousal of the “giant” called
    Nirad Chaudhary. I always told you he was a Brit agent out to tell INdia that you cold never beceome as good as the whites.

    Is it not correct now…?

  • Anonymous

    A lot of happiness comes from ignorance. The people of North Korea are very happy because they are insulated form the rest of the world and they believe that their dictator is God. The suicde bombing youth of Pakistan go to jannat with a smile.

    Real happiness only comes when you can be rich, free and not bound by dctats of religious zombies.


  • engrich

    Musharraf Returns


    Sino-Pak naval cooperation reiterated


    Posted by Ece Koc on Apr 9, 2013 in Interviews | 0 comments


    Professor John Esposito


    By Ece Koc

    Professor John Esposito, the outspoken inter-faith promoter
    was recently on A9 TV’s Building Bridges show. Esposito, offered his
    views on many subjects including US media’s way handling news about
    Islam, the ways to cope radicalism and the notorious Regensburg Speech
    of Pope.

    Esposito is a figure known for his strong views in favor of
    building ties with the Islamic world, especially after 9/11, when many
    people thought otherwise. From time to time, he became such a
    controversial figure, many people accused him of downplaying the threat
    of terrorism. He, however, seems unabated by all this criticism, and is
    gaining more and more popularity now. Esposito most recently appeared on
    A9 TV of Istanbul, a television channel known for its efforts to
    promote peace in the world. So when the hosts asked him about how Islam
    is covered in the mainstream US media, Esposito had lots to say:

    “…two-thirds of that will be about mainstream Judaism and
    Christianity, practices, relations, good news and then maybe one-third
    will deal with problems and issues, okay? The reverse is true in
    covering Islam and Muslims in general; that is a disproportionate amount
    deals with what I would call the explosive headline events, the
    conflict events. What you see is this kind of Islamophobic, or bias to
    Islam in regard to a religion, has become part of our mainstream
    politics; in other words, its mainstream politicians. And then there are
    your militant Christian Zionist preachers, many of which have
    megachurches or are televangelists who have large TV followings, or are
    talking heads in the media and again, politicians and others, so that
    not only impacts and affects, if you will, not only Muslims
    domestically, but it falso impacts American foreign policy.”

    He feels that the way most of the time Islam is portrayed is unfair,
    and anyone could have applied the same approach to Judaism and
    Christianity, too, if they wanted: “The way you feel about Muslims,
    the way you think about Muslims, if you don’t make the kind of
    distinctions that I’m talking about the vast majority of Muslims and
    Islamists, and Islam as a religion of peace, then you have a problem. It
    would be the same, analogously, if you say, “Look, if you look at the
    early history and down through the centuries, Christianity was not a
    religion of saints but a religion of warriors” and was often used to
    spread the religion, from the conquistadors to European imperialism, and
    even the logic of a good deal of American neo-colonialism in terms of
    Christians see as opening up the Muslim world to greater conversions,
    and if you take into consideration pedophilia and see Christianity or
    Roman Catholicism and see it through that, you would be seeing it
    through a very distorted lens.”

    Esposito also feels very strongly against Islamophobia and indeed he
    has been very frequently targeted himself by Islamophobists as well: “And
    I think the thing that you want to keep in mind too is that the
    situation gets ratcheted up exponentially because we have so many
    mean-spirited, right-wing Islamophobic websites; so for example, if an
    article appears criticizing me, in a matter of days that will be picked
    up and appear in a dozen different versions and appear in all these
    other websites, and your average American, many of them wind up looking
    at these websites. Many of them have titles, it’s not just the websites
    like “JihadWatch”, it’s the websites that have titles that seem nice and
    innocuous, websites like “American Thinker” “Family Security”, and so I
    think that’s what ratchets that up exponentially.”

    We are swimming against the tide

    Esposito also mentioned that especially after 9/11, the Islamophobists had the opportunity to cash in the fears of people:

    “On those websites, it is simply said in general that Muslims are a
    problem, that Muslims are a threat to security, that Islam is a
    problem. Therefore, if there’s an attack made, other websites pick this
    up because they all cross-fertilize themselves and over a ten-year
    period, over forty million dollars was given by acceptable foundations
    to these kind of websites and their creators and many of these folks are
    quoted as the terrorists affect them; the Norwegian terrorist, Breivik,
    quoted these folks extensively, and on the other hand, on page 66,
    there’s a page attacking me and my center for our work. So that’s where
    we’re at. The whole point is that you’re doing, what so many of us do,
    is very important because we are swimming against the tide, as it were,
    in terms of popular culture and a distorted conventional wisdom.”

    When asked about his views on how to combat radicalism, he had one answer: ‘education’. Esposito elaborates: “I
    think the first thing, the most important thing frankly is education.
    And also it becomes very important to get religious leaders on board.
    You know, one of the difficult thing, and here I have to be quite frank,
    I admire the way that religion and religious education and Islamic
    reform is being done by a number of Turks, both in government and
    non-government. The thing is, yes we can get to a point where we get
    very senior religious leaders, the real impact comes when those senior
    religious leaders make sure that the priests, rabbis and imams are
    trained in their religious schools to have that pluralistic, tolerant
    outlook because they are the people who impact the local communities.
    They impact the families of the people who are going to be parents, they
    impact the kids who are going to the mosques, synagogues and churches.
    All of this is very important.


  • Faulitics

    Well, Zia has done something which he has never done before. That is NOT whine about Muslims being “victims”. But I am sure he will be back to his old communal game. This is just a respite.


  • vijay !



    VARIOUS Islamist groups in Bangladesh are demanding that a new anti-blasphemy law be formulated under which the death penalty can be awarded to those who defame Islam and the Prophet (PBUH).

    It has been rejected by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Nevertheless, the demand and the scale of the emotion and controversy it has stirred up serve to deepen political polarisation in the country. There is little doubt that the end result will be an intensification of the divide between secularists and Islamists.

    In a fresh wave of protests launched by the Islamist group Hefajat-i-Islam (‘protecting Islam’) against bloggers that they consider anti-Islam, hundreds of thousands of people held rallies in Dhaka and other cities and towns across the country.

    They criticised the Awami League government for not taking severe action against those who, in the recent past, augmented their purportedly anti-Islam activities through online social networks and blogs.

    Islamist groups are adamant in their demand and say that they are committed to sustaining their pressure on the government to formulate laws which can award the death penalty to those found guilty of insulting Islam.