Book Review: The Broken Ladder

Book Review: The Broken Ladder

India is an economic bright spot and one of the fastest growing economies in the world. India is also one of the unequal economies in the world is also true. One-third of world’s poor live in India. It produces talents who can compete for head to head with the talents anywhere in the world. At the same time, the majority of Indian schools and colleges produce graduates who are unemployable due to the poor quality of education. India is attracting people from far away countries for medical treatment at the same time Indians in large number do not get basic health care facility. 

India is also attracting people from far away countries for medical treatment at the same time Indians in large number do not get basic health care facility. The expensive health care is a single major factor which pushes people down the poverty line. Indian villages specially villages beyond 5 KM of district headquarters lack basic infrastructure. The public schooling system has improved but the quality of education remains a challenge.

Anirudh Krishna, in his book “The Broken Ladder”diagnoses the causes and effects of economic disparity and poverty in India.

Anirudh Krishna a professor of public policy at Edgar T. Thompson and professor of political science at Duke University, USA. Before taking up a career in academic and research, Anirudh Krishna worked in Indian Administrative Service for fifteen years. He has made a home in central India where he lives for some time every year.

He also visits villages and slums across the country to gather primary data and first-hand experience of the economic condition of people. The book ‘The Broken Ladder’ is the result of survey and research done on the ground. It has a bottom-up approach which the author calls worm’s eye view rather than bird’s eye view.

‘The Broken Ladder’ is the result of survey and research work on ground and experiences the author had out of his personal interaction with villagers. The author who has made home in a village in central India lives for some time every year and carries out research work. The author believes more in worm’s eye view than in bird’s eye view.

The very title of the book sets the tone and tenor. A vast majority skipped the fast economic bandwagon and for them, the ladder to move up the economic hierarchy appears broken. With judicious use of economic data, the author has presented the true picture of the economy.

In the chapter Dollar economy and Rupee economy, the author delineates two different faces of Indian economy. The world renowned brand of car is running parallel to the bullock cart on Indian roads. The economic growth has produced a chunk of wealthy people who can afford coffee at dollar equivalent whereas the others hardly afford tea at roadside dhabas.

The author in this well-researched treatise reveals the pattern of Indian economy. There is a segment which has advanced and has become part of dollar economy whereas a majority remains languishing in Rupee economy.

There has been a big push in educational infrastructure creation in rural areas still those who are educated hardly get any advantage. “The prospect of moving down in life seems more plausible than moving up”.

In the chapter on preventing future poverty, the author exhorts policy makers to relook at the approach on poverty alleviation and prevention. 

“Growth is not a ready antidote to problems of vulnerability and broken ladder”. A separate policy is needed for poverty reduction, the author suggests. “Improving governance in public (health) system and strengthening regulation in private (health) system is critical”. 

India is not reaping the benefits of the demographic dividend. “The height to which one rises depends crucially upon one’s starting point. The opportunity is not widely disbursed or easily available. The broken ladder does not only harm the affected individual rather it limits the achievement of entire society.

The author recommends the overhauling of administrative machinery to make the state better in dealing with the concerns of ordinary citizens. The public administration of future needs to be an instrument for brightest and hard working achieve stellar careers. To make democracy real one, its protection, benefits, and opportunities must reach doorsteps.

The author suggests a macro strategy grow the national economy and a micro strategy to promote individual development.

A lot of books are available on poverty in India but here is a compassionate, well-researched book with a balanced view. This book is useful for researchers, policy makers, teachers, students and for anyone who is interested in poverty in India.


Imteyaz Alam




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