Rupa Subramanya Dehejia, the Wall Street Journal’s IndiaRealtime blogger, talks about India’s opportunity gap in her recent post.
The main point she makes in her piece is that India’s place in the global human development index ranking is already only at 119 out of 169, not accounting for the very blatant and apparent inequalities. She brings issues to the forefront that are usually pushed to the undersurface, such as caste and community impacts on access to opportunity.
Concepts of inequality in access to opportunities for education and therefore income are ingrained in the development crises in India. Dehejia makes an excellent argument for this. But I would like to take it one step further. Opportunity doesn’t just stop at access, it even applies to desire for access.
In Sangam’s work with slum dwellers, children and adults alike, drive for upward mobility was sorely lacking, which is, I believe, the ultimate cause for their stasis and stagnation. Populations which are brainwashed into believing that their opportunities are limited cannot achieve much. Adults who have become jaded and cynical push those same mentalities onto their children, and everyone drags each other down. There are even the extreme cases of parents who ask why, if they had no opportunity for an education, should their children do any better? I speak from experience. I saw this and heard this myself.
So from an economist’s perspective, Ms. Dehejia, you’ve hit the nail on the head. And as an activist, I say there’s more to it. People who want change can achieve it. Especially in India, a nation of determined people who have made leaps and bounds over the centuries. True, things like caste and community cannot be changed. But attitudes can be changed. And I think that makes all the difference.