“Can India Afford its Villages?” is the title of an opinion piece in today’s livemint.com (a joint HT and WSJ newspaper). The subtext says, “The answer to the problems of our rural economy paradoxically lies in urban development.” If you have been reading this blog for a bit, you would immediately suspect that I wrote that piece. Partly so. I co-authored the piece with Reuben Abraham.
The absence of universal basic literacy and education is a constraint on present economic performance and future growth. Doubtless, education is costly but the opportunity cost of not having an education is even higher. The old adage about a stitch in time saving nine holds with special force in the case of basic literacy. Here’s the argument. At most one generation requires help in becoming literate; the children of literate parents are overwhelmingly literate; and the children of illiterate parents are more likely to be illiterate compared to those of literate parents.