Joint session Thursday 8 July

Lund University


Joint Session at the 18th ECMSAS conference

”Poverty and Human Development in South Asia – Challenges before the State, Market and Civil Society in the post-modern Era”

Thursday 8 July 2004, 19.30 – 22.00. Venue: Stora Salen, Academic Society Building, Sandgatan 2, Lund

Chairperson, convenor: Alia Ahmad, Lund University

Prof. Ghanshyam Shah, JNU, New Delhi
Prof. Zulfiqar Bhutta, Aga Khan University, Karachi
Dr. Meera Nanda, Hartford, Connecticut

The session was introduced by the chairperson. Thereafter three short presentations by the invited speakers followed, about 20-30 minutes each. After that an open discussion.
The session was tape-recorded, and will soon be published on this page.

Introduction by Alia Ahmad:

South Asia is a heterogeneous region in terms of its politics, economy, culture and society. However, there is one thing in common that is the high incidence of poverty and low level of human development (except Sri Lanka). The region houses more than half of the World’s poor population - roughly 1/3 of the people still go hungry every day, adult illiteracy, especially among women, is very high, a large proportion of the population lack access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and the full prevention of a number of serious infectious diseases has not been achieved.
In the past one or two decades most countries in the region have experienced modest economic growth that is partly due to macroeconomic reforms affecting different sectors like agriculture, industry, infrastructure and services. At an aggregate level, economic growth is associated with a reduction of poverty in headcount measure. However, the pace of poverty reduction has been slow and uneven mainly because of inequality in opportunities and voice.

In the era of neo-liberalism and globalisation the region is facing a great challenge – achieving economic growth, equitable distribution of its benefits and fighting poverty in its many dimensions. We need to address some crucial questions: is globalisation a Pandora´s Box? Alternately, can its processes be harnessed to the benefit of the poor? In that case what role should the state and the civil society play along with market institutions?

More specifically one has to address specific questions such as:

• Who are the poor? What are their specific characteristics?
• Why do they fail to participate in the growth process?
• How to target them in policies and programmes?
• What kind of institutions, policies, and programmes are needed to enable the poor to take part in the globalisation process?

We have made substantial progress in research with respect to the concept of poverty, indicators of poverty, trends in poverty indicators and the impact of different interventions.
This body of research indicates that the poor are denied not only market opportunities for income and employment but also the access to social services in health and education. Inequality in the access to health and education has serious implications for income-related poverty.

In recent years, while health and education has received considerable attention from researchers, policymakers and donors, there is a need for focusing on institutions in service delivery. In the era of reforms towards more involvement of the private sector consisting of profit-motivated institutions and NGOs, the role of the state and the civil society has to be reconsidered.

We have gathered here as academics from different disciplines - medicine, public health, educational sciences, gender studies and the social sciences. This is a rare opportunity. I hope that the lectures of our distinguished speakers and the following discussion will contribute to an increased understanding of the problem of poverty and inequality in South Asia in a rapidly changing world.

Prof. Ghyansham Shah’s presentation
Growth, Poverty and Human Development in India” (as a pdf-file)

Prof. Zulfiqar Bhutta’s presentation
Poverty and Ill-Health. Challenges, Initiatives and Issues in Pakistan” (as a pdf-file)

(prepared together with Inayat Thaver, Dept. for International Development, UK)

Dr. Meera Nanda’s presentation:
Manu’s Children: Vedic Science, Hindutva and Postmodernism” (as a pdf-file)

Summary of the discussion at the end of the session