Post-1991, inequality has widened: Ramesh

Sat 30 Jul 2016

The economic reforms that started in 1991 have helped cut poverty significantly even as inequality has widened appreciably, said Jairam Ramesh, Member of Parliament, and author of a book To the Brink and Back: India’s 1991 Story .

“Poverty has declined significantly since 1991 while inequality has gone up during the same period. Inequality has become sharper; it has become worse. Inequality in health, inequality in access to education, the inequality in access to public services has certainly gone up after 1991. This is the paradox of reforms,” Mr. Ramesh said, during a panel discussion and interaction on “25th Year of Reforms: A Retrospective of What Happened in June-July 1991” with Mukund Padmanabhan, Editor, The Hindu .

The former Union Minister in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government said if one did an analysis of the balance sheet of what happened after 1991, on the positive side of the balance sheet one would have the improved access to consumer goods. “The consumption side of life has become much better as people don’t have to wait for weeks to get a phone or gas connection or book a railway ticket,” Mr. Ramesh said. “But after 1991 on the debit side what happened was inequality increased, secondly public systems collapsed, health system collapsed, public education system collapsed. In education though enrolment rates have gone up when it came to quality it suffered,” he said.

While India’s private health system has become world class, the public health system had suffered. Citing an example, he said, Hyderabad was now regarded among the best in the world in terms of tertiary health care but if one drove just half-an-hour outside the city one would find a primary health centre where there would be more mice, cats and cobwebs than doctors or patients.

“To me this is one of the most significant things that we have not paid attention to,” he said.

India's achievements in education were mixed, said Mr. Ramesh.

In an introduction to the event, N. Ravi, Director, Kasturi & Sons Ltd. and former Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu , said, “Jairam Ramesh has tapped not just his memory but also his records in the keeping of which he was systematic and meticulous.” Mr. Ravi was referring to Mr. Ramesh’s book.


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