India’s confused government focused on taking credit for its actions, rather than working to restrict the spread of COVID-19, resulting in “schizophrenia” that led to massive troubles, says Nobel laureate Amartya Sen.
Speaking at an event organized by the Rashtra Seva Dal, on Friday evening, Sen said India was better placed to fight the pandemic because of its pharma manufacturing prowess and also high immunity levels. The economist’s remarks came in the backdrop of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic seeing the number of officially reported cases topping over 4 lakh a day and over 4,500 deaths daily, amid concerns over under-reporting.
Sen said India could not play on its strengths because of a poor response to the crisis due to confusion in the government. “The government seemed much keener on ensuring credit for what it was doing than ensuring that pandemics do not spread in India. The result was a certain amount of schizophrenia.” He cited the writing by Adam Smith in 1769 wherein the father of modern economics argues that if one does good things, he does get credit for it, and the credit could be sometimes an indicator of how well one is doing.
“But to seek credit, and not the good work that generates the credit shows a level of intellectual naivete which has to be avoided. India tried to do that,” Sen added. “It was trying to generate the credit boasting across the world that India will save the world perhaps. And at the same time, allowing the problem to develop and have a grip over the lives of Indians across the country.”
He highlighted that India was already afflicted with social inequalities, slowing growth and unemployment at record highs, which came to haunt it during the pandemic. “A failure of economy and failure of social cohesion was the basis of the failure of the pandemic attack as well.” Sen also argued for a big constructive change in healthcare and education above all, but also in economic and social policies in general.