Queens College, located in the most diverse borough of the U.S., has a particular commitment towards celebrating the spirit of the global community. Each year, QC holds a “year of” event featuring a specific nation.
Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize winning economist and the person responsible for laying the framework of the United Nation’s Human Development Index, spoke on campus on Mar. 6 for this year’s featured country: India.
Sen’s talk encompassed a range of issues from the economy of British-India to the 2012 Delhi gang rape of a 23-year-old female student.
There may be some disagreement on what a perfectly just India would look like, but all agree that something needs to be done to reduce the massive amount of injustice that does exist, according to Sen.
Sen covered all sides of the issue and was clear to acknowledge the progress India has made in the past 65 years since its freedom from the oppressive regime of the British Empire.
“It was not unnatural, at that time [when India came out from under Britain], to doubt India’s ability to run an efficient democracy,” Sen said.
India is not comprised of one homogenous group. There is a multitude of languages, religions and ethnicities. India has, in many ways, become a successful democratic society and earned its status as a leading democratic country in the world, according to Sen.
Sen noted statistics that clearly showed a significant decrease in infant mortality rates and an increase in life expectancy, female literacy, expansion of free media and economic growth since India’s time under British rule.
However, India still lacks high quality journalism and news coverage of the poor.
There is also a disparity in income distribution, wage rates that have not risen in years and an essential lack of social services.
Sen touched upon the gender inequality within India, particularly violence against women. Sen charged police with being unfriendly to the victims and courts with being slow to act. Convictions are also difficult to secure in the nation.
Despite the fact that India does have a rape problem, Sen concluded that it can hardly be called the rape capital of the world, considering the police reported rape at 1.8 percent out of 100,00 people. This number, Sen argues, is still below the U.S., which is reported at 27.3, United Kingdom at 28.8, Sweden at 63.5, and South Africa at a startling 120 percent.
Sen added that though the number of rapes in India may be underreported, even ten times that figure would be lower than that of the U.S., if there is “no underreporting in these other countries.”
As Sen’s talk was composed primarily of offering rebuttals to moot points, so too were the words he ended with. Sen referred to the adage, “One thing at a time,” as the worst advice that could be given to contemporary India.