The Survey as policy with ideological overtones -MA Oommen

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published Published on Mar 3, 2021   modified Modified on Mar 3, 2021

-The Hindu

To say that growth and inequality converge in terms of their effects on socio-economic outcomes is outrageous

The Economic Survey 2021 ( does not seem to be a policy document derived straight from the empirical data of the economy or the social compulsions embedded in it. On the contrary, the Survey rings with policy postulates based on strong ideological overtones. Of interest would be Chapter 4, captioned ‘Inequality and Growth: Conflict or Convergence?’ which is ostensibly “an effort to identify the correct policy objective for India”.

Need for desirable outcomes

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, India has fallen into the vortex of a ‘once-in-a-century crisis’ as the Survey forcefully puts it. It projects a V-shaped growth of recovery and reiterates the call of the Economic Survey 2019-20 for “ethical wealth creation by combining the invisible hand of markets with the hand of trust”. Given the great truth that trust is broken more in an unequal society, (on this, see Wilkinson and Pickett cited in the chapter), it is unrealistic to abstract from the crony capitalism and corruption that dominate the political society and proceed from there to ethical wealth production (which indeed is an important instrumental value). It is hoped that market-mediated growth will take the country to desirable socio-economic outcomes that include not only reducing poverty but also a wide spectrum, ranging from infant mortality to mental illness.

A silence on poverty

Even so, concerned scholars remain confused at the silence of the Survey on the nature and magnitude of poverty which is a multi-dimensional phenomena of deprivation, confounded much worse by the pandemic crisis. The graphic picture of migrant families trudging home hundreds of kilometres away from the cities in the wake of the lockdown seems forgotten. At the same time, Chapter 1 of the Survey documents elaborately the structural reforms (achievements include the controversial three farm laws) to take the economy and the people forward.

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The Hindu, 3 March, 2021,

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