The book is a collection of the author’s previously published essays written between 2000-2017 with a fresh general introduction, section-wise commentaries and bibliographic additions. The themes encompass a whole range of development issues, namely drought and hunger, poverty, school meals, healthcare, child development and elementary education, employment guarantee and food security and PDS. Then there are chapters on corporate power and technology (and their hold on public policy such as in the relentless drive for Aaadhar), war and peace (focussing on nuclear deterrence and Kashmir) and a ‘top up’ section on varied issues connected to the other themes in the author’s underlying philosophical vision for an ethical social development path.
Jean Dreze is one of the country’s most well known development economists, known for his influential work on hunger, poverty and gender inequality in particular. He also has worked with an extensive team of colleagues over the years, including Nobel Laureate economists Amartya Sen and Angus Deaton, his partner Bela Bhatia, also a scholar and activist, and his long-term research-collaborator and frequent co-author Reetika Khera. At the same time, he is equally at home with his activist collaborators, the ‘jholawalas’—ranging from right to information activists to field researchers, rural workers and even student volunteers. He then, despite his disclaimer to the contrary, is the ultimate ‘jholawala economist’, who is ‘found not only in universities, governments and corporate sector, but also among the public at large—working with civic organisations, trade unions, political parties, alternative media, the peace movement or just freelance’ (p. 20).