Thursday, July 06, 2006

On food, medicine and books

Is it right of a human deny aid to another's hunger, pain and illiteracy claiming the sufferer's inability to pay his profits as the reason?

In India, an entrepreneur can accumulate profits out of all the above three plagues on society. In advanced free market economies, one would expect the market to manage services in all the three, right ? But interestingly the strongest voice for free market, the US, has support programs which preclude undue profiteering in all the three sectors. Are we Indians missing the essence of 'free market'?

M. S. Swaminathan wrote about India "The growing privatisation of food and water security systems is already leading to an unequal social bargain. The poor will not be able to withstand the tragedy of distress sales and inundation by low-cost foods and fruits from rich countries whose agriculture is driven by heavy inputs of subsidy, capital, and technology." Ever wondered why US farmers dont commit suicides like these Indian farmers in AP and Vidharba. The Bengal famine of 1942 happened not due to grain shortage but because grains were locked up in private trader's godowns.

In healthcare in India, most medical supplies and equipments (even glucose drips) fetch margins of around 300% to the manufacturer. Why has the invisible hand failed to bring efficiencies ? seriously, I dont know.

Excellent public school systems are run by the government in fully capitalist economies to ensure basic education. All medical facilities are government funded by countries like US and Canada. One can walk out of hospitals after treatment without any other thought other than convalescence.

Let us not get this wrong. Excellent private run institutions exist in all three sectors in western countries. I wouldn't be surprised if the best facilities in these three sectors are privately run. But the government has ensured access to food security, healthcare and elementary education first.

Don't stupid, unemployable rural people get ill and feel hungry? Or are they stupid and unemployable because they fall ill and go hungry too often and are unable to improve their lot?

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