India must re-orient its economic policies to guarantee the rights of the oppressed classes such as Dalits, tribals and women, with an emphasis on land reforms, said Venkatesh B. Athreya of M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation.

Speaking at the two-day national conference on ‘Social Justice and Sustainable Development’ organised by the Department of Economics of the Madura College here, which began on Tuesday, he reiterated Amartya Sen’s definition of development as “the expansion of the ‘capabilities’ of people to lead the kind of lives they value and have reason to value,” by stating that unlike increases in income, the expansion of people’s “capabilities” depended both on the elimination of oppression and on the provision of facilities such as basic education, healthcare, and social safety nets.

According to the agenda supplied to the media, the underlying theme of the meet is based on the Brundtland Report 1987, which says that “social justice as a concept constitutes an inherent part of the conception of sustainable development that the World Commission on Environment and Development had outlined.”

The conference looks at how this conception of sustainable development is broadly compatible with liberal theories of justice. It also plans to look beyond liberal theories of justice focusing on “accelerated ecological interdependence, historical inequality in past resource use, and the ‘growth of limits.”

The agenda states further that “the logic of accumulation of capital under which most economies function encourages selective satisfaction of these needs by maintaining deep social injustices.”

Technical sessions include paper presentation under various heads such as global warming, environmental pollution, climate change and social forestry. Faculty members and researchers from various cities are participating in the conference.

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