“What is important is whether the police are serious about crimes against women”

“Increasing the enormity of punishment in cases involving crimes against women will not solve the issue of rising crime against women,” Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said here on Monday, adding that there was no scientific basis to it.

“What is important is whether the police are serious about such crimes, how quickly the matter is tried in a court and whether there is a system that punishment will be given to those responsible,” he added.

Prof. Sen was speaking to journalists after the tenth annual declaration of The Kolkata Group — a forum of scholars, policy makers activists and development experts which had deliberated on the issue of “Women, Health and Justice” earlier in the day.

Asked about the ongoing debate of awarding death penalty to those responsible for crimes such as rape, he said he did not believe that capital punishment could solve the problem.

“Awarding death penalty can serve the purpose of revenge but will not help in social reform,” Prof. Sen said, adding that evidence from other countries had also proved that.

Stating that crimes against women occurred in all parts of the country, he said statistics on rape revealed that the number of such cases in Delhi was nine times higher than in Kolkata.

“That this city has fewer such cases can be a welcome development but people should not be satisfied with it,” Prof. Sen said.

Verma panel report

On the recent recommendations made by the Justice Verma Committee, he said that members of The Kolkata Group studied them and liked them as “they give dignity to sexual autonomy of the woman.”

Asked about certain cases where the state was accused of such crimes, he said people should protest and keep raising the demand for a police and legal system that protected the rights of women.

‘Fresh approach to public healthcare’

Calling for a “fresh approach” to public healthcare in the country, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said here on Monday that the allocation of resources to healthcare was “woefully small” and there was need for greater allocation of public funds to the sector.

“When the rest of the world has moved ahead, public health in India has remained stationary. We believe that it has gone so wrong that a fresh approach is required,” Prof. Sen told journalists after the tenth annual declaration of The Kolkata Group on “Women, Health and Justice.”

Scholars, policy makers, activists and development experts addressed the subject at the Tenth Annual Kolkata Group workshop during the day.

The state should commit itself to providing “universal healthcare for all,” he said, adding that “reliance on private healthcare is an illusion.”

Asked whether there was need for legislation providing a right to health, Prof. Sen said: “Yes, it is but it alone cannot provide the cure.”

Stating that public healthcare had not been priority for the Centre, he said India invested 1.2 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in healthcare whereas China spent 2.7 per cent of its GDP on public healthcare.

“It is a mistaken belief that private healthcare can meet the gap… Private healthcare can have a role to play on the foundations laid by public healthcare,” Prof. Sen observed.

Commenting on the lack of professionalism in the medical fraternity, he said: “There is a tendency to convert medical profession into business by a section of doctors. This lacuna can be done away with as there are also a lot of extremely dedicated doctors in the country.”