Nobel laureate Amartya Sen compared demonetisation to an unguided missile on Saturday. While addressing a gathering in Mumbai to mark 75 years of Tata Memorial Centre, he said, “Demonetisation, one fine morning came just like a missile where there were reports coming in of hardship and suffering though it’s not quite clear yet where the missile has landed.”

Sen, who wants the exploitation of poor patients by private doctors to stop, also said that India’s political decisions has to involve the public, said Sen. Several times during his address, he criticised Indian government’s meagre spending on healthcare. “In public healthcare, we need more devotion by the state,” he said while delivering the Memorial Centre’s platinum jubilee oration, “Healthcare for all why and how”.

Sen added that one of the results of bad public healthcare is that people have to go to private doctors. He declared that India’s continuing backwardness in providing good healthcare to its people is a striking failure.

A cancer survivor, Sen, said, “I could have been defined as a cancer patient.” He was detected with the disease at the age of 18. “I was given 5 years (to live). A 15% chance of living five years and that was 64 years ago.”

The professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard insisted that India should take development lessons from China. “A higher proportion of Gross Domestic Product should be devoted to public healthcare,” he said adding that India generally had the second best social indicators among the six south Asian countries. “It is second worst, ahead of one country Pakistan.”

He cited the examples of Bangladesh and Nepal, which are doing better than India on some health indicators. “Much poorer economy of Bangladesh is caught up with and surpassed India in terms of many social indicators including life expectancy, immunisation, infant mortality, child under nourishment girls schooling and sanitary facility such as having family toilets. In all this respect Bangladesh is ahead of India.”

Sen also pointed out that the societal reach of economic progress in India has been “extraordinary limited.” He said healthcare should include social determinants of health such as nutrition and sanitation.