Sudha Shenoy’s India: Progress or Poverty? is an important contribution to the literature on India’s economic development. Published in 1971, the book critically examines the economic policies of India after independence and their effects on poverty and economic progress.
Shenoy argued that India’s development strategy, characterized by a strong emphasis on state planning, import substitution, and government control over key sectors, had hindered economic growth and exacerbated poverty. The book uses empirical evidence to argue that these policies had led to inefficiencies, hampered innovation and competitiveness, and resulted in poor economic outcomes for the majority of the population.
Shenoy also critiqued the government’s attempts at redistributing wealth through social programs. She argued that these efforts had often failed to alleviate poverty and instead exacerbated disparities and led to the creation of a class of “poverty professionals” who benefit from the programs.
Shenoy made a case for liberalization, free markets, and limited state intervention. Her arguments, which reiterated those of other libertarian economists such as Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, offer an alternative perspective on India’s development path; they have important implications for economic policy, growth, and development in India. Her critique predated India’s economic liberalization in 1991 by two decades, making her a prescient voice.