Public health in India a disaster: Amartya Sen

Public health in India a disaster: Amartya Sen
Highlights

The ancient Nalanda University, renowned across Southeast Asia and beyond, once had a school of public health. A Chinese student, Yijing, who studied there around 6th century AD, had a lot of admiration for the state of public health in India,

One of the reasons why an epidemic like Ebola has become so difficult to control is that many of the healthcare establishments that could have come up did not come up in order to qualify for aid from international organisations, though that is not the position now

The ancient Nalanda University, renowned across Southeast Asia and beyond, once had a school of public health. A Chinese student, Yijing, who studied there around 6th century AD, had a lot of admiration for the state of public health in India, “which today is in a state of disaster,” said Nobel laureate and renowned economist Amartya Sen.

As part of the Nalanda Distinguished Lecture series, the Nobel laureate spoke about public health in the country

Sen, who is the vice chancellor of the revived Nalanda University that began classes from September 1 this year, said, “Yi Jing had fond admiration for the state of public health in India and found it comparable to China. He praised public health in India, which is now a disaster."

Delivering a talk on ‘The Relevance of Nalanda in the Contemporary World’ as part of the Nalanda Distinguished Lecture series, the economist said that the revived university had plans to start a school of public health and also one on Buddhism and on linguistics.

Later, in answer to a question, Sen said that in India the government spends about one per cent of the GDP on public health in comparison to China's three per cent.

“We need to go beyond that to provide good public health to the people. In many parts of the world that are poor, international lending agencies like the World Bank and IMF discouraged such countries from spending on healthcare until a decade ago and instead wanted them to spend on developmental expenditure,” Sen said.

Citing the rise of Ebola, Sen elaborated, “One of the reasons why an epidemic like Ebola has become so difficult to control is that many of the healthcare establishments that could have come up and did not come up in order to qualify for aid from international organisations, though that is not the position now.”

It was mentioned that there had been some attempts to see the ancient Nalanda University as part of the Silk Route, through which trade and commerce was carried out between the east and west between the third century BC and the third century AD. And also that the "gigantic influence of the Nalanda trail" was still not grasped by the world and that the UN had not given it the recognition it deserved.

To a question on why Indian universities failed to make the mark among the top universities in the world, he said, "We should not lose our heads over the matter but focus on raising quality. While the IITs are very good, they lack teaching in humanities subjects.”

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