Nobel laureate Amartya Sen slams Narendra Modi for ‘seizing direct control of academic bodies’


While hitting out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for seizing direct control over academic institutions, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has gone public about his “ouster” from the Chancellor-ship of Nalanda University in a 4000-word candid essay about to be published in the August issue of the New York Review of Books.

In an interview to Times of India, Sen hit out at the ‘extraordinary large’ interference by the government in academics. “I have never been anti -industry but no country can become an industrial giant with an uneducated and unhealthy labour force,” Sen told TOI.

Sen is scheduled to step down from Nalanda on July 17, after which he will be replaced by George Yeo, former foreign minister of Singapore.

“I was certainly ousted from Nalanda. Some members of the Board, especially the foreign members were keen on carrying on the battle for me but I stepped aside as I did not want to be an ineffective leader. The government may have held up finances or statutes had I continued,” Sen said.

“Nalanda not a one-off incident. Nothing in this scale of interference has happened before. Every institution where the government has a formal role is being converted into where the government has a substantive role.”

Sen also pointed out several incidents to corroborate his accusations. He said that the former head of NBT, writer Sethumadhavan was asked to step down and in his place, an RSS ideologue was appointed. At ICCR, someone who believes Modi is a greater personality than Mahatma Gandhi, Dr Lokesh Chandra was appointed for the same reason. Sen also said that the ICHR head Yellapragada Sudarshan Rao had not carried out any historical research but just written an article on how the caste system in India was good rather than bad.

“The Delhi IIT Director, Raghunath Shevgaonkar resigned, the IIT Bombay Board chairman, Anil Kakodkar, expressed that he could not help the government in anything in the future, for the IIMs they have introduced a bill where instead of having indirect power of withholding the signature which they did in my case or they did in Trivedi’s case, now they would directly like to appoint the director. That’s the new bill. Instead of having effective power, this becomes direct control,” added Sen.

Sen also said that the Modi government had done nothing for advancing health and education.

“India spends 1.2 per cent of GDP on public healthcare, China spends 3 per cent. Now even that 1.2 has been cut to 1 per cent. There is confusion in India is wanting high growth rates like China but overlooking that China has improved public services dramatically. It has pretty much guaranteed healthcare for all, they have everyone in school, they have complete coverage. That has been the Asian pattern of development. You do it together: market economy and the state’s role. The market economy needs a complentarity with the public services.”