Tamil Nadu’s development model has few parallels, says expert

From left, A. Kalaiyarasan, assistant professor, MIDS; S. Narayan, former Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister; A.R. Venkatachalapathy, professor, MIDS; Padmini Swaminathan, former director, MIDS; and M. Vijayabaskar, professor, MIDS, at the event on Friday.  

Tamil Nadu’s development trajectory had few parallels in the country and the only two States that were comparable were Kerala and Himachal Pradesh, said Jean Dreze, honorary professor, Delhi School of Economics.

Speaking at a panel discussion through video conferencing following the launch of the book, The Dravidian Model - Interpreting the Political Economy, here on Friday, he said all three States invested considerably in education early on. He said a key learning from the Tamil Nadu model was the viewing of education as a matter of social justice and thereby making it a political tool.

He said there could not have been a better time for such a book as the investments made by Tamil Nadu in its public health system were showing in the relatively better handling of COVID-19. Acknowledging that there was scope for improvement, including in the area of education and learning outcomes as pointed out by the authors in their book, Mr. Dreze said Tamil Nadu still performed relatively better than almost all other States. M. Vijayabaskar, professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies, who co-wrote the book with A. Kalaiyarasan, assistant professor, MIDS, said it dealt with two core arguments.

“First is that Tamil Nadu has been able to combine relatively high rate of human resource development along with a degree of economic dynamism, with few parallels within the country. Secondly, we attribute this dynamism and distinct development trajectory to the particular form of political mobilisation, which is the mobilisation against status-based inequalities, and the conception of social justice within a caste society,” he said.

N. Ram, Director, The Hindu Publishing Group, said the book was an interesting contribution to the question of what the Dravidian experience is. He said the comparison with Kerala was, however, tricky, as it was way ahead on various indicators of human development. He said two chapters in the book, highlighting the rural transformation and how industrial development in Tamil Nadu was more inclusive with more entrepreneurs from the backward classes, were significant and required further study.

He said it was remarkable how Tamil Nadu remains the State that had given least space for communal forces in the country. Mr. Ram, however, said the book underplayed the extreme oppression faced by Dalits in Tamil Nadu.

S. Narayan, former Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister and author of the book The Dravidian Years, said the book provided an excellent analysis of the development trajectory during the rule of Dravidian parties. He, however, wondered whether the populist movement directly led to the development in all spheres of Tamil Nadu or whether an alternative narrative was possible.

Quoting Periyar E.V. Ramasamy’s views on English language, Padmini Swaminathan, former Director, MIDS, questioned the failure of the Dravidian parties in providing English language education to all sections of society.

Former West Bengal Governor and professor of Ashoka University Gopalkrishna Gandhi stressed on the need for the comeback of a strong Dravidian political voice in the country as federalism was becoming voiceless today. Highlighting the criticism of rampant corruption and other failures of the Dravidian parties, he, however, said the resurgent voice should be integrous, courageous and transparent.

A.R. Venkatachalapathy, professor, MIDS, who moderated the discussion, said the book addressed the lack of serious scholarship on the achievements of the Dravidian rule and it would act as a harbinger of many such works to come.

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 2:43:54 AM |

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