‘Gender neglect greater than we assess it to be’

Gender equity has a major effect on development of economies, said Nobel prize winning economist Amartya Sen, referring to the recent gangrape of a woman in Delhi and the emerging issues of treatment of women in India. He was delivering the G L Mehta memorial lecture on "India: a defense and a critique" at IIT Bombay's annual festival, 'Techfest 2013', on Saturday.

Sen made a comparison with Bangladesh, noting that it has shown a marked improvement in the status of women. He pointed that Bangladesh now has better figures than India on several human development indices, including infant mortality, immunisation, the number of girls in schools and percentage of female labour force.

"The issue of gender neglect is much greater than we assess it to be. Gender equity has a major effect on development of a country," he said.

Referring to widespread protests on better security for women, Sen said, "It is wonderful that this issue is getting the attention of the public."

On the debate on market-driven economies as opposed to state-driven ones, he said, "Both dogmatic approval and rejection of the market force will not help. There is a need for a combination of the market and government initiative." He noted that while China had, in initial years, spent more on education and healthcare, they had a "deep suspicion of the market".

Comparing the economies of India and China, Sen said India lags behind on account of "deprivation of the people from basic facilities". He noted that 48 per cent of Indian homes do not have even have toilets, and asked, "How can we think of achieving economic development when nearly half of our population does not have proper sanitation facilities?"

He, however, noted that the increase in per capita income achieved by India is substantial, and said, "Any person who believes that increasing income is not important needs to have his head examined."

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