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State of Injustice: The Indian State and Poverty (SWP 29)

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Speaking in the Constituent Assembly in January 1947 Jawaharlal Nehru offered a vision of independent India as a state that would deliver social justice. That it has not done so is shown up very clearly in Akhil Gupta’s calculation that the Indian state has been responsible for two million avoidable deaths each year. The paper first reviews the history of the actions of the Indian state in regard to poverty and provides a statement of the poverty problem. It proceeds to a discussion of Gupta’s answer to the question of how and why it is that Indian state has ‘killed’ (as he puts it) so many people, finding his explanation insightful but wanting nonetheless, notably because of the way in which it depoliticizes poverty. Finally the paper asks whether the ‘new welfare architecture’ established through the recent, remarkable series of legislative innovations in regard to social rights, means that the state is now delivering on the promise of social justice. The conclusion is that the legislation makes rather for the management of poverty in the context of the absolute priority that is still being placed on economic growth as an end in itself.
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ISSN 1922-5725
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Harriss, John, State of Injustice: The Indian State and Poverty, Simons Papers in Security and Development, No. 29/2013, School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, November 2013.
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