New Delhi: Months after he withdrew his candidature as chancellor of Nalanda University, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has now said that the Narendra Modi-led government wants to seize direct control over academic institutions.
Sen has candidly written about his exit from Nalanda University in a 4,000-word essay, which will be published in August issue of the New York Review of Books.
Ahead of the publication of the essay, Sen talked to a newspaper and hit out at the government for "extraordinarily large" interference in academia.
In an interview to Times of India, the Nobel laureate also expressed his worries about cut in budgets for health and education.
"I have never been anti-industry but no country can become an industrial giant with an uneducated and unhealthy labour force," Sen said.
Talking to the daily, Sen said: "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 statues had I continued."
"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 further noted that the government refused to ratify the director's appointment at the TIFR. Also, A Sethumadhavan was asked to resign as the Chairman of National Book Trust and an RSS ideologue was appointed instead, added Sen.
Dr Lokesh Chandra, who was appointed as the new president of Indian Council for Cultural Relations last year, believes that PM Modi was a greater personality that Mahatma Gandhi, said Sen.
Yellapragada Sudershan Rao, the current Chairperson of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), has not done any historical research and instead is someone who has written an article saying the caste system was wrongly blamed for being exploitative when it did a lot of good for India, claimed Sen.
"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."
Taking on the government for failing to understand that a market economy needs successful public services, Sen said: "India spends 1.2 percent of GDP on public healthcare, China spends 3 percent. Now even that 1.2 has been cut to 1 percent. 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."
He further described NDA's Land Acquisition Bill as "comprehensively wrong".
What has gone wrong with this government is the fundamental understanding that human beings are at the centre of development, Sen said.
Notably, Sen on February 20 withdrew his candidature as chancellor of Nalanda University, alleging that the government does not want him to continue to head the prestigious multi-country initiative.
Sen, whose term as chancellor ends in July, was unanimously picked by the Nalanda University governing board at its last meeting January 13-14 this year.
He will be replaced by George Yeo, former foreign minister of Singapore.