The eminent economist, Prof Jean Drèze, visited IIM Ranchi to deliver a lecture on the topic "Social Policy in Comparative Perspective" in the context of his research area i.e. Developmental Economics.
Prof. Drèze, a Belgium-born Indian economist, studied Mathematical Economics at the University of Essex and did his Ph.D. at the Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi. He has taught at the London School of Economics and the Delhi School of Economics. He is currently a Visiting Professor at Ranchi University. He has made wide-ranging contributions to development economics and public policy, with special reference to India. His research interests include rural development, social inequality, elementary education, child nutrition, health care and food security. He has co-authored several books with Nobel Laureate in economics Prof. Amartya Sen (most notably on famine and hunger); with Prof. Nicholas Stern, (on policy reforms when market prices are distorted), and with Nobel Laureate in economics Prof. Angus Deaton (on nutrition). Prof. Drèze has been an influential figure in public policy-making in India. A former member of the National Advisory Council (NAC), Prof. Drèze had conceptualized and drafted the first version of the NREGA and the original, 2011 version of the National Food Security Act.
It was an enlightening session for the students to know about the critical condition of India in comparison to other countries and also to know where India stands.
Our director Dr. Anindya Sen, teaching staff and students gave a very warm welcome to Prof. Drèze. Dr. Anindya Sen in his welcome speech gave a platform to start the event – “Efficiency and Equity Issue”.
Prof. Drèze started by saying that management is not just for business but is also important for implementing social programs and bringing a great change in the society. He said that in India there is a lot of resistance to the idea of implementing active social policies which is wrong. Because whatever we have is because of others. He gave the students as an example that they are studying in the prestigious B-school not only because of their efforts but also because of their parents’ and teachers’ efforts. Thus, we have the responsibility towards those who are left behind.
He quoted numerical figures to analyze how the current social scenario is in comparison to the earlier one in India with respect to other countries. Earlier the government expenditure for health, education, and social security was quite less but has now increased a lot over the years.
He talked about Universal Health Care (UHC) under which if a person is ill, he will be provided medical facilities free of cost. It is present in some countries like Canada, Japan and also in developing countries like Mexico, Brazil, etc. “But India is still very far from that”, quoted Prof. Drèze. He also told students about the concept of “externality”- one throwing garbage will also affect the health of other people. To get rid of that, we need to have garbage collection system and public intervention.
32% of total health expenditure in India is public expenditure which is quite less in comparison to other countries (even lesser than Sub-Saharan Africa). He also said that though India’s GDP per capita is three times that of Nepal still India does worse in terms of social indicators.
Some states in India do not perform well in terms of public health indicators like Bihar and Jharkhand, but Bihar is one of the fastest moving states and is improving quite fast. He quoted “Where there is action, there are results”. There is no way that India can’t achieve that level that it deserves.
He also talked about the mid-day meal program; providing students a meal which tastes just like it is made in their homes may encourage them to come to schools daily and socialize among themselves, but will have no significant nutritional impact. So we need to provide them with better quality meals.
After a Q&A session, the lecture became quite an enthralling experience for the students and it really motivated students to not just think about their education to make lots of money but also contribute towards society by helping those who are left behind.