Curtained Economists of India



Since the longest time, we have read or heard about people like Adam Smith and Milton Friedman as the pioneers of the very foundation of economics. We may call it the advantage of being brilliant and coincidentally from hyper commercialized countries as well but the blunt fact still remains is that many economists still exist in ink and flesh that have changed the status quo of the ambiguity of the subject, in essence.

Economics is a normative science. It deals with not only what is or has been but also what ought to be. Consequently economists not only study the economic behavior but also contemplate on policies that would benefit mankind in their opinion and agreed, disagreements are inevitable in such a normative analysis but it serves no argument as to why the work these economists go unheard or conveniently concealed.

Since the longest time, we have read or heard about people like Adam Smith and Milton Friedman as the pioneers of the very foundation of economics. We may call it the advantage of being brilliant and coincidentally from hyper commercialized countries as well but the blunt fact still remains is that many economists still exist in ink and flesh that have changed the status quo of the ambiguity of the subject, in essence. With a fresh outlook, let’s look at the top economists of India that are hardly spoken of.





1. Bellikoth Raghunath Shenoy: He was an Indian classical liberal economist and a highly influential advocate of classical liberalism in India. He studied Economics at the Banaras Hindu University and later at the London School of Economics. In 1931 he became the first Indian economist to have a paper published in a leading scholarly journal. Dr. Shenoy’s work on “Sterling balances of Reserve Bank of India”, written in 1946 was the first effort by any economist to accurately calculate the World War II expenses and actual value of foreign exchange reserve with the Reserve Bank of India. Shenoy suggested the devaluation of Rupee for it to attain proper parity with Pound Sterling. In 1955, Shenoy was appointed to the panel of economists who were to appraise Nehru’s ambitious Second Five- Year aimed at heavy industrialization. Bellikoth Raghunath Shenoy was the only one to submit a “Note of Dissent” and he was also critical of many other policies of the Nehru government.




2. Radhakamal Mukherjee: He was a leading thinker and social scientist in modern India along with being a professor of Economics and Sociology at the University of Lucknow. He was a pioneer of interdisciplinary approach to science. He sought to break barriers between physical sciences and sciences relating to person aspects. In 1934, published an original paper on the “Broken balance of Population, Land, and Water” dealing with ecological problems of the Gangetic Valley. This was long before environment economics became part of professional and popular discourse.


3. Vijayendra Kasturi Ranga Vradraraja Rao: He was an Indian economist, politician and educator from Tamil Nadu. He obtained a B.A. and M.A in Economics from Bombay University and a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 1937. His doctoral thesis was titled “The National Income of British India”. The only original paper published in the Indian Journal of Economics in 1938 was Rao’s paper, “The problem of unemployment in India” and it was the earliest attempt to apply Joan Robinson’s concept of disguised unemployment to a less developed country. His other works include: Taxation of Income in India (1931), India and International currency plans (1945) and Post War Rupee (1948).




4. Amiya Kumar Dasgupta: He has been described as “one of the founding fathers of modern economics in India and “a true pioneer in developmental economics”. In 1934-36 he worked for a Ph.D. in economics under Lionel Robbins at the London School of Economics. He is widely acknowledged to be India’s leading economic theorist in the decades 1930-60 and a pioneer in contemporary development economics. He was also the teacher of the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. Dasgupta was one of the founders, in 1949, of the internationally known journal The Economic Weekly and served as the President of the Indian Economic Association in 1959.





5. John Drèze: He is a Belgian-born Indian economist, social scientist and activist. He has worked on several developmental issues being faced by India like hunger, famine, gender inequality, school feeding and employment guarantee. His works combined standard economic methods and those tools used most commonly by anthropologists. The combination of extensive field work and qualitative analysis of everyday life, along with quantitative analysis makes his work distinctive in the field of Economics. A key work that Drèze worked on was the primary education study of key states in northern India. It is called the Public Report on Basic Education (1999) or The PROBE, and it remains the main reference to this day due the lack of similarly comprehensive studies using grassroots development specialists




6. Amiya Kumar Bagchi: He is a distinguished Indian political economist. His contributions have spanned economic history, the economics of industrialization and deindustrialization, and development studies from an overall Marxist perspective, incorporating insights from other schools of radical political economics, including left Keynesianism. Among Marxists, he is known for his extensive contributions to theories of imperialism and underdevelopment. Bagchi has specialized in the history of Indian banking and finance, and acted as official historian of the State Bank of India from 1976 to 1998. His famous discourse on quasi-capitalist banking has been recognized as a masterpiece by Bloomberg L.P.

Besides these there are great many economists who are yet to receive their due acclaim. While there are some who are remembered for their other achievements besides economics, for instance, Dadabhai Naoroji, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Dhirubai Ambani , it is now time to thoroughly review and appreciate the contribution of our Indian economists, regardless of their fame for they are have left behind a legacy that cannot be neglected forever.


Written by: Krishna Kapil Rastogi

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