The Bharat Ratna awardee, in an exclusive interview with TOI, accused the BJP government of “failing” to keep many of its promises and of pursuing policies that divided communities.
“If these policies (reservation for upper castes) are being championed by the BJP, we may have to ask whether it is benefiting from them,” Sen said, indicating that the policies appeared tailor-made to woo upper castes to vote for the party.
Sen, who has been vocal against the growing intolerance and has spoken about the necessity of “impatience” against “absurdities”, also felt the Citizenship Bill and the National Register of Citizens were discriminatory: “The new regulations being advocated and adopted have a lot of discrimination, particularly on the grounds of religion, which in my judgment is against the spirit of the Constitution.”
“If you say that you are a Hindu or Christian, you have a right to comment; but, if you are a Muslim, you don’t… I think that is an enormous violation of the spirit of the Constitution and the general Indian attitude towards human beings. There is a lot of discriminatory attitude towards those who speak up for justice. When they speak up for minorities, they are seen as prejudiced in their favour, as happened in the case of Naseeruddin Shah,” Sen said.
The economist felt waiver of farm loans did have its benefits but cautioned that it could trigger problems as well and, hence, could be viewed differently by people with varying perspectives. “Those keen on financial discipline will be against forgiving farm loans but those who want to impact the lives of people may think it has a good case on ethical grounds. Farm loan waiver is a blunt instrument; it does some good, I believe, but it can also generate problems,” he said.
Illustrating what he wished to say with an example from his hometown, Santiniketan, Sen recounted that the farmland that used to be there behind his house was no more; it had been replaced by a cluster of houses as the burden of farm loans had become too heavy for farmers to bear. “If this kind of inescapable forced selling of land had been prevented, they could have retained the land and continued cultivating,” he argued.
He also said high economic growth had not led to poverty alleviation, better healthcare, employment generation and reduction of inequality.
Sen, who had earlier spoken about a united opposition, said it was not necessary to have one opposition party. “There can be multiple opposing parties as different parties have different interests,” he said. “But the opposing groups will be more powerful in influencing the voting result if they do combine,” Sen added.