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Remembering Amulya

Letters

Remembering Amulya

O
n a Sunday morning in July1974, I went to a meeting ofstudents concerned with India’s development, to listen to the views ofa professor of chemistry at the IndianInstitute of Science. This was in Bangalore, where I had recently joinedthe Indian Institute of Management.The talk was by Amulya Kumar NReddy, who died in Bangalore onMay 7, and it led to many interestingchanges in my life.For the first time, I heard about the social dimension of technology. Whilethe principles of science were universal,how they were harnessed to meet theneeds of society contained in themessential elements of that society. InIndia this was inequality. Economistshad long differentiated between needand demand, but in this talk it took on a new dimension. Demand, the abilityto pay for what you want, was behindthe production decision. What could besold would be produced. And themethods by which they were producedwould also follow the same principle.The scale of demand and relative factor prices would decide the productionprocess – and this was technology.India had an abundance of labour, and its technology should use this abundantfactor most intensively. It set off atrend of thought and led to excitinglines of research.

After the meeting, some of us had achance to interact with the speaker.When he found I was teachingeconomics, he asked me if I knew of the writing in the Economic and Political Weekly (and elsewhere) ofPrabhat Patnaik, which he admired greatly, and from which he had learneda great deal. This set off morediscussion. I was invited home that evening, and thus began a series ofsessions over rum generously pouredby the professor. I was seeking guidanceand wisdom, and he offered friendship.

He began to invite me to discussionsin the cell for the Application ofScience and Technology to RuralAreas. The group in ASTRA did greatwork in the next few years. I mademany new and valuable friends. Ilearned much from these interactions, and brought the lessons into my teaching. My students responded to acourse on appropriate technology withgreat enthusiasm. They published twovolumes of case studies over the next few years, which led to a deeperunderstanding of the factors involved.

To support the work of ASTRA,Amulya set up the Karnataka StateCouncil for Science and Technology, aninnovative organisational structure thatfunctioned with low overheads. The KSCST became a model, not just for S and Tin other states, but for the management ofdevelopment projects in Karnataka.

On retiring from the IISc, AmulyaReddy set up the International EnergyInitiative to take forward the idea that he and others had developed in thepathbreaking book Energy for aSustainable World. This concern, not just to work on the theory, but to findways of implementing therecommendations of that theory is theunique mark of his work.

There are many who have beeninfluenced in their professional workby Amulya. There are many who feelanguish at his passing. The last few yearswere difficult for him because of ill health, but he kept working, as each issueof the journal Energy for Sustainable Development will show. Amulya hasmoved on, but the work he initiated has developed a momentum of its own,and will continue. A teacher and researcher could not ask for more.

I got married in December 1974. Myfather was caught up in work abroad,and could not come for the wedding. Ipicked up courage, and requested theprofessor and Mrs Reddy to take onthe onerous role in the religious rituals,which he did with great élan. He askedme then – and on many occasions since – to feel free to call him “Amulya”. For me this was a problem.He was an elder, a respected professor who was like a teacher, even if he had not formally been one. I stuck to“Professor”. At least now that he is no more, I should respect that wish andtitle this piece accordingly. This is inremembrance of Amulya.

VINOD VYASULU

Bangalore

(Continued on p 1928)

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Economic and Political Weekly May 13, 2006

Letters

(Continued from p 1822)

Early Education

T
he article on the Integrated Child Development Services (March 25) has presented an insightful analysis of why the programme has failed to combat child undernutrition. However, there is one significant misconception. While rightly identifying the anganwadi worker (AWW) as a core input for service delivery, the authors contend that the principal constraint in her ability to effectively implement the health and nutrition interventions is that she devotes most of her day to pre-school education for the four-six year olds, thus neglecting the younger, more vulnerable age group.

This is far from the true reason for the neglect of the under-three age group. For it is common knowledge that pre-school or early childhood education (ECE), though an integral component of ICDS, is either entirely neglected, or reduced to a smattering of desultory activities. The World Bank report Reaching Out to the Child (2004), in fact, states the very opposite

– that “ICDS is less able to deliver ECE because of...the overload of crosssectoral demands on the AWW, and because of the lower priority given to this component”.

It is globally accepted that ECE is crucial to the development of human potential. If, as the article argues, the ICDS has been ineffective in promoting child survival and growth, it has also fallen short in promoting child development through ECE.

It is particularly important to understand this at a time when significant shifts in the ICDS implementation strategies are being considered. Amongst these is the deployment of an additional AWW. Will the existing AWW deliver if an additional worker for the under-threes is deployed? Is it time to consider making ECE a schoolbased intervention, so that ICDS can focus exclusively on the under-threes? These questions need serious debate if we are to achieve the optimal development of all our children.

ZAKIYYA KURIEN

Pune

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