Friday, 22 April 2016

Drought and entitlements

Drought and entitlements
... A different, and more passionately direct,  indictment of a callous government is contained in the tract titled  Poverty and Un-British Rule in India, by that great Indian nationalist  Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917): Professor of Mathematics in Elphinstone  College, Bombay; Professor of Gujarati in University College, London;  Founder-Member-President of the Indian National Congress; and the first British Indian Member of Parliament. The book, published in 1901, carries, among other things, a first (and brilliant) attempt at defining a poverty line for India, and seeks an explanation of the poverty of  the country in the continuous and oppressive draining of its wealth, achieved by ‘plunder, not trade’, that is, through punitive taxation  unredeemed by British exports into India. It is worth noting that  Naoroji had anticipated Sen’s ‘entitlement theory’ of famines, as borne  out by this record of a speech addressed by him in Kennington, London,  in 1900: 
“It might be asked were not the famines due to droughts? His answer was  in the negative. India was able to grow any quantity of food. Her  resources in that respect were inexhaustible, and when famines had  occurred in the past before she was subjected to the continual drain of  her wealth the population were able to withstand them because they had  stores of grain upon which they could fall back. But nowadays they were  unable to accumulate such stores. Immediately the grain was grown it had to be sold in order to provide the taxation of the country, and the  people were therefore not in a position to cope with famine…  [T]he  difficulty of India was that the Natives had no money with which to buy  food should their crops fail, and hence it was that these disastrous  famines arose.” ...

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