Kolkata, Feb 4: Noble laureate Amartya Sen on Sunday said at a session in the Kolkata Literary Meet that he felt upset to see the Left parties today taking up issues like price rise of fuel and electricity and not highlighting the bigger picture.
Professor Sen said the situation was critical particularly when India's position in terms of human development indicators was deteriorating. He said while the country was second-best in South Asia earlier, just behind Sri Lanka, now it is second-worst with Pakistan at the bottom.
The Nobel Prize-winning economist said these issues required to be addressed but the quarters which are expected to raise a voice on them were not doing it. He was hinting at the Left parties who claim to be standing for the people.
The scholar also said the Left's withdrawal from the UPA-I after opposing the Indo-US nuclear deal in 2008 was a mistake, although a minor one compared to the leadership that it was giving to the people of the nation. He said such leadership could not be expected of the "Hindutva parties". He said a little could be expected from the Congress but far more from the Left Front.
Professor Sen said he supported the Left and was also a member of the Left during his days in the Presidency College but now was critical of the Left parties for their priorities had changed.
When asked by Sharmila Tagore, the actor who moderated the session on who actually represented the interests of the common people, Professor Sen said the term 'ordinary people' seemed to have been redefined. He said the ordinary people now constituted the relatively poor section of the privileged in the country, adding that issues like withdrawal of the subsidy on LPG did not affect many people for most people did not have an instrument in which a gas cylinder could be fitted.
Professor Sen also cited the example of the massive 'power blackout' that gripped northern India in July last year. He said while the media created an uproar, many missed the fact that for a third of the country's population, it was not a black-out on a particular day but a reality they had to live with everyday.
The economist also said that a key issue like open defecation had not been addressed in India. He said 48 per cent of the households in this country did not have toilets while the corresponding figure in China and Bangladesh were one and between 9-10 per cent, respectively.
[See: Prof Sen slams Muslim groups]