Utilizing the provisions under MGNREGA to generate wages and, more important, create assets such as farm ponds that will support their agriculture, the villagers of hirbandh and adjoining areas have been able to fight abject poverty, make informed choices and take charge of their own activities.
S ome time back, I had the good fortune of reading a treatise by the eminent economist Akbar Ali Khan of Bangladesh. The book, The Economics of Selflessness, is a gleaming example of how a complex subject such as economics becomes a plaything in the hands of an accomplished intellectual and how the subject loses its elusiveness and retains its relevance. Khan has demystified the intricate theories of the subject with a studied nonchalance and has made it accessible to the commoner. Like a master chef, he processed, combined and manipulated the seemingly convoluted concepts and served up a simple yet tasty meal. The secret of his flair probably lies in yet another achievement of his—he was a longstanding trainer in a renowned training institution in Bangladesh. Well, let that matter rest, let us get back to the narrative in hand.
The book from beginning to end is an exposition of the different thoughts and ideas in development economics. Each of these thought-streams have been titled interestingly: ‘Economics of Selflessness’, ‘Economics of Mulla Nasiruddin’, ‘Economics of open manholes’ and so on. In ‘Eonomics of open manholes’, he unfolds a precise indicator of development. It is possible to assess how developed or not a nation is just by looking at its manholes. The extent of development of a country is directly proportional to the number of covered manholes, the more the lids, the more the progress. The more the lids have been stolen, the lesser the progress. I played with the idea in my mind and have to admit that it turned out to be true in most cases. I was struck by the logic and admired the creativity of the writer. Who could have ever imagined that something as commonplace as the lid of a manhole could be a proxy indicator of development!