You are here: Home » Current Affairs » News » National
Trial run of M'bai's Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ Metro line 3 to be conducted today
Business Standard

Noted agricultural economist, former CACP chief Abhijit Sen passes away

He had deep knowledge and understanding of India's rural economy, says NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand

Economists | Niti Aayog | Jawaharlal Nehru University

Sanjeeb Mukherjee  |  New Delhi 

Abhijit Sen
Abhijit Sen

Noted agricultural economist and former member of the Planning Commission Abhijit Sen passed away on Monday night, aged 72.

ALSO READ | Dinner with BS: Abhijit Sen

“He suffered a heart attack around 11 PM. We rushed him to the hospital, but it was all over by the time we got there,” Pronab Sen, his brother, told PTI.

In a career spanning over four decades, Sen taught at the in New Delhi, and held several important government positions including the chair of the Commission of Agricultural Cost and Prices.

He was a member of the Planning Commission from 2004 to 2014, when Manmohan Singh was the prime minister.

Sen grew up in New Delhi, attending Sardar Patel Vidyalaya and then St Stephen’s College where he gained a Physics Honours degree.

Thereafter, he turned his focus towards and earned his PhD from Cambridge for his thesis, ‘The agrarian constraint to economic development: The case of India’, under the supervision of Suzy Paine.

In an interaction with Business Standard a few years back, Sen had said that in the mid-eighties, he was looking to leave Essex, where he had not enjoyed teaching assignments because he did not want to live in a garrison town.

An opening in JNU’s Centre for Economic Studies and Planning in 1985 gave him the opportunity to return, not least because he thought it as good as any other international university at the time and certainly better than the Delhi School of .

It was also like a homecoming, since fellow like Krishna Bharadwaj, Amit Bhaduri, and Prabhat Patnaik (all with Cambridge connections) were teaching there.

Over time, the centre developed a reputation for being a leader in development economics and the study of the Indian economy.

That apart, Sen held the position of chairman of a number of official commissions, including the High Level Committee on Long Term Grain Policy, Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, the Tenth Plan Subgroup on Agricultural Economics and Rural Development.

He had also done stints as a member of the State Planning Boards of West Bengal and Tripura, the PM’s Taskforce on Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, and the Expert Committee on Rural Credit.

Sen has also been adviser/consultant for multilateral organisations such as the United Nations Development Programme, New York; International Labour Organization, Geneva; Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, Rome; OECD Development Centre, Paris; the UN University World Institute of Development Research, Helsinki; International Fund for Agricultural Development, Rome; Asian Development Bank, Manila.

In 2010, he was awarded the for public service.

Known for his trademark flowing beard that matched his long unkempt hair well, Sen had once told this paper that he hadn’t been to a barber for more than 20 years.

A staunch supporter of the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Sen held that this was one scheme that made a big difference in rural India in recent times, the being the food security law.

He was a votary of the cash transfer scheme, but said that it can work only in some situations. In fact, he warned that using it as a magic wand for tackling all kinds of subsidies may not work.

In the Planning Commission, Sen held contrarian views on several topics concerning the rural economy.

Ramesh Chand, eminent agricultural economist and current member of the (which has replaced the Planning Commission), said Sen had deep knowledge and understanding of India’s rural economy and what was needed to support it from the policy side.

“I got introduced to the Planning Commission through Abhijit Sen and he made me part of numerous working groups and committees on the 11th and 12 five-year plans,” Chand told Business Standard.

He said that it was under Sen’s leadership that India developed a model and achieved 4 per cent growth in agriculture that was adopted in the 11th five year plan and the country managed to get very close to the target on a sustained basis.

Sen has authored or co-authored over 30 papers.

“One of the great papers that Prof Sen produced was on the impact that public intervention had on the foodgrain economy,” Chand said.

In the paper, Sen compared the open market price for grains without government intervention and prices with government intervention. Sen concluded that leakages and corruption in the public distribution system wasn’t more than the “greed” of the private sector.

“He said that the cost of distributing food to the remote parts of the country was less than the price at which the private sector will sell the same grain,” Chand said.

Ashok Gulati, another eminent agricultural economist and Infosys Chair Professor for Agriculture at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), remembered Sen as a man with a sharp brain and a great researcher on several critical issues.

“Though we followed different ways of thinking as far as the rural sector is concerned, I respected him as a great researcher and sharp mind and we have interacted several times in the past…. I have always found him to be a man of great wisdom and intellect,” Gulati told Business Standard.

Sen is survived by his wife, economist Jayati Ghosh, and daughter

Subscribe to Business Standard Premium

Exclusive Stories, Curated Newsletters, 26 years of Archives, E-paper, and more!

Insightful news, sharp views, newsletters, e-paper, and more! Unlock incisive commentary only on Business Standard.

Download the Business Standard App for latest Business News and Market News .

First Published: Tue, August 30 2022. 09:34 IST