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A Republic of Letters

A Republic of Letters

With India's independence, new forces were unleashed; the period of negativism and imitativeness had come to an end. However, creativity in thinking was sadly missing. Sachin Chaudhuri's Economic Weekly was in a way therefore a historical necessity. Sachin questioned every premise, made others around him to do likewise, and provoked and prodded the younger ones to be restless, aspiring and to seek answers scientifically to the questions of the times. On the 60th anniversary of its launch, a handful of the many who were associated with EW and Sachin Chaudhuri during the 1950s and thereafter reminisce about the excitement surrounding the journal. These reminiscences will be published in EPW during the course of January. Here the first two essays.

mystery. At around 50, he had passed his

A Republic of Letters

prime when he launched EW in 1949, judging by the biological standards of India in those days. His scholastic career was lack-Deena Khatkhate lustre. He, along with P C Bhattacharya

With India’s independence, new forces were unleashed; the period of negativism and imitativeness had come to an end. However, creativity in thinking was sadly missing. Sachin Chaudhuri’s Economic Weekly was in a way therefore a historical necessity. Sachin questioned every premise, made others around him to do likewise, and provoked and prodded the younger ones to be restless, aspiring and to seek answers scientifically to the questions of the times. On the 60th anniversary of its launch, a handful of the many who were associated with EW and Sachin Chaudhuri during the 1950s and thereafter reminisce about the excitement surrounding the journal. These reminiscences will be published in EPW during the course of January. Here the first two essays.

Deena Khatkhate (dkhatkhate@aol.com) worked in the Reserve Bank of India and then in the International Monetary Fund. He still writes for the EPW.

T
he advent of the Economic Weekly (EW) in 1949, overtly an exercise in financial journalism, but at a deeper level a novel thought-experiment using quotidian economic and financial news as a laboratory was a unique phenomenon not only in India but also in the intellectual world at large.

Paul Samuelson wondered how a brooding and nonchalant Sachin Chaudhuri, the founder-editor of EW, whom he met when Sachin visited Cambridge, Massachusetts in the early 1960s could produce every week such an erudite journal with so much interest to the academicians. G unnar Myrdal called the Economic W eekly’s “Weekly Notes” and “Commentaries” an intellectual radar transmitting the essential facts about Indian society and churning new ideas on development and societal change. W W Rostow saw it as the “New Statesman of the East”.

Such encomiums galore showered on an obscure journal edited with aplomb, passion, dedication and faith in a basement of a dilapidated building in the Fort area of the city of Bombay in the aftermath of Indian independence prompted a prominent Indian historian, Ramachandra Guha, to treat the growth of EW, overflowing with effulgent ideas and its successor, Economic & Political Weekly (EPW) as identical with the march of I ndia’s intellectual history.

Sachin Chaudhuri’s EW was in a way a historical necessity. With India’s independence, new forces were unleashed; the period of negativism and imitativeness had come to an end. However, creativity in thinking was sadly missing. Sachin questioned every premise, made others around him to do likewise, and provoked and prodded the younger ones to be restless, aspiring and to seek answers scientifically to the questions of the times.

Looking back with the perspective of the present, Sachin’s transformation into a formidable intellectual crusader is still a and A K Dasgupta, were among the first batch of students studying economics in the department of Dacca University, e stablished by Ashutosh Mukherji with S G Panandikar, a brilliant alumnus of the London School of Economics, as its first professor.

As Panandikar later told me, Sachin with P C Bhattacharya and A K Dasgupta were all brilliant, but Sachin had chaotic study habits. He was fastidious and if he was f ascinated by one part of the curriculum he would abandon all others, unlike his two contemporaries Bhattacharya and Dasgupta who reached high eminence as a civil servant and a leading theoretical economist, respectively. In his professional career, Sachin hopped from one job to another with no settled means of livelihood; he was a humdrum manager at the Bombay Talkies, a secondrank journalist in newspapers like the Bombay Chronicle of B G Horniman (a Britisher who had become an Indian national out of his love for India) and Free Press Journal of the spirited nationalist, S Sadanand.

Preparation for the Venture

None of these jobs provided a strong intellectual background, though in his journalistic career, Sachin imbibed idealism and a concern for broader national issues. Yet his eccentricity and restlessness arising from his curiosity as noted by Panandikar, culminated eventually in his creative thinking as reflected in abundance in EW. These traits in his mental make-up were a legacy, in some sense, of his growing up in his native east Bengal.

In 1964 I happened to visit what was then East Pakistan. Impressed by what I saw there, I recounted my experience to Sachin. I narrated to him how I enjoyed a play by Tagore that was enacted by Pakistani school children and my boat ride through the limpid waters of the Sita- lakhha river. That account established a new equation between him and me. He then expatiated

january 3, 2009

on life in east Bengal in bygone times and drove home the point that the main springs of his creative thinking came possibly from his upbringing there, which symbolised a different milieu, a mode of life in a thinking society.

Sachin’s innovative impulses and curiosity as mirrored in the contents and novelty of EW were abetted also by the intellectual company he kept in his youth and in later life. A K Dasgupta, D Ghosh, D P Mukherji, Radha Kamal Mukherji and his brother Radha Kumud Mukherji were among his prominent friends.

Dasgupta and B P Adarkar were leading economic theoretians, a rarity in India prior to 1950. Dasgupta was an engaging conversationalist and always looked at things not common. He was a frequent visitor to Sachin’s Churchill Chambers flat in Bombay. Many of the palavers at Sachin’s place – a Bengal equivalent of the adda – where I was often invited – were enlivened by discussions on diverse subjects, often with some “spiritual” sprinkling to quench our thirst. Dasgupta once narrated a story which Sachin was fond of repeating. An Indian who was studying economics in one of the English universities prepared a pre-PhD paper and submitted it to his t hesis supervisor, who was a well-known theoretical economist. He read through the typescript and made a cryptic remark that “I met Keynes, Robertson, Hawtrey and a host of others in your manuscript but not yourself”. This used to be a recurring theme in Sachin’s conversations with us, which in a way laid the foundations of EW.

Bombay School

One evening, with a rambling chatter Ghosh went into his frustrating and intellectually demeaning experience at the Bombay School of Economics and Sociology, a pioneering research institution in social sciences where Sachin himself spent some time for a PhD degree which, of

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course, he never accomplished. C N Vakil, a patriarch of the School ran it like a private fiefdom, never allowing distinguished scholars such as B P Adarkar, A K Dasgupta, D Ghosh and many others to blossom. In fact, he made their tenure unpleasant and academically unproductive. Ghosh’s narrative was not to score brownie points against the autocracy and parochialism of Vakil so much as to throw in bold r elief the sorry state of economic teaching at the Bombay School. All this was, as I could discern, the leitmotif for his intellectual foray into the unknown territory with his EW.

Until 1949, his aspirational ambitions remained pigeonholed for want of fi nance. An immediate provocation came from a senior Indian economist in the government while on a travel abroad. In a casual conversation on the Indian economic policy, this worthy displayed such an amazing innocence of economics that both Sachin and his brother Hiten were appalled. Hiten then goaded Sachin to start a journal by assuring him the financial wherewithal, partly from his own business income but largely from the m unificence of a leading industrialist, Sakseria. This accidental entry into independent journalism was the thin end of the wedge and it eventually led to ushering in of a dynamic era in creative thinking in the social sciences in India.

Only one among the Indian journals, with the solitary exception of Sankhya, whose articles were ensconsed on the perch of citations in the economic l iterature was Sachin’s EW in the years prior to 1966.

The honours go to Sachin, who brought a scientific spirit and analytical approach to bear upon commentaries on social, political and economic affairs in the country. What his professor at Dacca University, S G Panandikar called Sachin’s eccentricity and “out of box” way of study habits morphed into scientific mode of thinking and looking. This impelled him to seek contributions from his friends in the social sciences like A K Dasgupta, D Ghosh, D P and D K Mukherjee in the early years of the EW when he could not afford to hire well-educated staff. Gradually over the years he roped in academics like M N Srinivas, B V Krishnamurty, Babhutosh Datta, S N Sen and later in the 1950s S ukhamoy Chakra varty, B S Minhas, J agdish Bhagwati, Amartya Sen, Sayyad Naqvi, Gautam Mathur, Iqbal Gulati, V M Dandekar, Pranab Bardhan, T N Srinivasan, Raj Krishna, Daya Krishna, Amiya

and Amaresh Bagchi. This was not enough to keep the EW going with the same high standards that he set for it.

Sachin therefore carefully spotted talent mainly among young and well trained economists from the government of India, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the economics department of the Tata’s Bombay House, such as I G Patel, K N Raj, S R Sen, Y S Pandit, Ashok Mitra, K S Krishnaswamy, V K Ramaswami, Dharma Kumar, V V Bhatt, Anand Chandavarkar, Arun Banerji, Arun Ghosh, R M Honavar, M Narasimham, Deena Khatkhate, etc.

Honorary Economists

It is now an open secret that Sachin’s weekly had a reserve army of honorary economists of high talent with their subterranean contributions rolling in all the time in the initial stages of EW and even later. Sometime in the 1950s, Sachin could afford to have some fine economists like Hannan Ezekiel and Ravi Hazari on his staff on a part-time basis but his heavy r eliance on the “honoraries” continued unabated during his lifetime and after.

The EW, though unrefereed, made its mark among the frequently cited acade mic journals for two reasons. First, he persuaded famous economists like Michal Kalecki to publish some of their seminal papers in the EW. Kalecki’s article on “ Essential Consumption” made headlines. Second, some bright young economists like Amartya Sen started writing in EW. His seed piece on labour cost and econo mic growth – a forerunner of his famous book on the choice of techniques appeared first in the EW. Later, Sen also published in the weekly articles on size of farm and productivity which in a refined version a ppeared later in the Journal of Political Economy. A K Dasgupta’s article “Keynesian Economics and Underdeveloped Countries” published in EW special number, January 1954 was one of the first articles which pointed out relevance of the short-term Keynesian econo mics to the long-term problem of the underdeveloped economies – an important departure from the prevailing ideas.

Likewise, Sachin’s perspicacity and u ncanny knack of exploring new areas helped him to publish some of the most original sociological and anthropological village studies by M N Srinivas and Verrier Elwin, which attracted the attention of scholars the world over. A casual scanning of the issues of EW is enough to show how many articles in their raw form first p ublished there by well-known and not so well-known economists and sociologists subsequently appeared as finished products in famous refereed journals abroad. The same tradition was carried forward with even more vigour and imagination by his successor, Krishna Raj in the EPW.

My love affair with EW began by accident. In my very first year in the research department of the RBI, I was asked to write a paper on “The Impact of the Indian Fiscal Policy on the Indian Banking System”. While working on it, I stumbled on the confusion both in the RBI and the Finance Ministry about the definition of deficit fi nancing in the Indian context. I re defined it in the paper but in doing so, I faced criticism from my colleagues and the s uperiors. My friend V V Bhatt mentioned this casually to Sachin. Naturally he asked for it and on reading it and being struck by the novelty of the definition asked for a copy to be published in EW. Being naïve and unaccustomed to the bureaucratic rigmarole, I gave him the copy of bowdlerised version of the paper, titled “Measurement of Deficit Financing in India” while my paper was being discussed internally at a higher level.

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Soon after I left for Trivandrum to join comments. When Sachin realised the sig
on deputation the staff of the Travancore nificance of this debate, he asked me if I
Cochin Banking Inquiry Commission. knew, M Srinivasan, the author of the com-
When my article was published anony ments. I, of course, pretended my igno
mously in the 11 February 1956 issue of rance. As time passed, Sachin learnt from
EW, a ton of bricks fell on my head for the the grapevine about my identity as the real
sin I committed of flouting the holy writ of author and mischievously twitted me.
the RBI’s staff rules. I was aware then that All this polemics figured in Sen’s book
many of my senior colleagues in the on the Choice of Techniques: An Aspect
central bank were writing surreptitiously of the Theory of Planned Development
for the EW and thought perhaps that was ( Oxford Blackwell, 1960) and his article
the way that was. I was hauled up and was “Some Notes on Capital. Intensity in
about to be fired. Eventually I was let go D evelopment Planning” in the Quarterly
with a postponement of my confirmation Journal of Economics, 1957.
by six months, presumably because many I too published two papers modifying
among the senior staff had a guilty con ideas in my comments “Opportunity Cost
science. Sachin apologised to me; I on my of Labour and Economic Growth” in Social
part did not blame him or any other. Research and “Pattern of Investment,
That paper of mine, however, lived long. Choice of Techniques and Growth” in the
The government changed the definition of Economia Internazionale. In all this,
deficit financing from a mere change in Sachin’s EW was a major catalyst.
the sum of cash balances and issue of ad hoc
Treasury bills to the net RBI credit to the Samizdat Writing
government. Later the concept was used to Thus began the period of my samizdat
estimate the non-inflationary level of deficit writing for Sachin’s EW not with one pseu
financing, by the Planning Commission. donym but many such as “D Shenoy” or its
Sachin often quipped that “though Khatkhate abbreviation “D S” (An obituary of Sachin
lost, the government gained with deficit in the Economic Times within four days of
financing being counted as a “resource” to his death was by D S), or without any name.
finance India’s Five-Years Plans!”. In this “hide and seek” game I was not
This episode, traumatic though it was, alone. V V Bhatt’s alter ego was “Savya
should have normally deterred one from Sachi” which Sachin bestowed on him or
further transgression of the RBI’s discipline. just “S Sachi”. Others like K S Krishna-
The writing for EW and Sachin was too swamy, Anand Chandavarkar, V K Rama
intoxicating for me to worry about the swami, Dharma Kumar, M Narasimham,
permanence of the job. I started to write Ashok Mitra, Arun Banerji wrote anony
again for the EW, which soon became a mously articles, Weekly Notes, or even
habit. In the 29 September 1956 issue of EW, e dits at times. We in the RBI often used to
Amartya Sen published his first ever article, play a parlour game amongst ourselves by
“Labour Cost and Economic Growth” and writing in EW critically on government
A K Dasgupta his “On D isguised Unemploy and RBI policies (which used to annoy the
ment” (My memory about the title is rather panjandrums in the government of India
vague). I was then getting into the study of and the central bank no end) and then
development e conomics and these papers wait for each other to guess the culprit.
aroused my interest. Being certain that the This made our writings not only provoca-
RBI would not permit me to enter into con tive and informative but also entertaining.
troversy, I wrote, assuming the name of Very often, such indulgence in samizdat
M Srinivasan, who was a student of the by many of us irritated the economists in
Bombay School with his permission facili the Delhi School of Economics. Once a
tated by the late P R Bramhanand, a com prominent economist at the Delhi School
ment on these two papers, “Common Sense asked Sachin, while on his visit to Delhi,
Made Difficult”. Prompt came a reply from “Who are these people in Bombay often
Sen “Labour Cost...of Common Sense” writing nonsense in EW?”. The reference
f ollowed by my rejoinder “Common Sense was to the comments Bhatt and I had made
of Labour Cost”. Sachin was totally un on the articles in EW by that economist
aware of my identity as the author of these and his other fellow travellers on foreign
Economic & Political Weekly january 3, 2009
EPW

exchange and exchange rate policies, Plan priorities and the assumptions underlying them. When Sachin conveyed that comment to me I remember to have retorted “I agree that it is nonsense we wrote but at times it is necessary because two nonsenses make one good sense!”. Sachin always enjoyed such combative encounters amongst his contributors, anonymously or otherwise as he believed that they contributed to debunking of the h umbug, to clarity of thought and eventually to the emergence of new ideas.

Embarrassment

At times, Sachin was embarrassed by unidentified authorship of articles. Iqbal G ulati, a fine public finance specialist, asked me to review a book on central banking when he was editing EW in the absence of Sachin. I did it with a title “All a Matter of Pebble Gathering”. Sachin was upset when he read the review on his return, the author of the book being his close friend. When he met me, he said half- jokingly that I had lost him a friend by my unfriendly review. Not so similar but equally interesting was the publication in EW of a brilliant review of Sraffa’s book, Production of Commodities by Commodities by Krishna Bharadwaj. The review a ttracted Sraffa’s attention and he wrote to Sachin requesting him to let him have the address and the institu tional affiliation of Krishna Bharadwaj, thinking that she was a male. Sachin too thought likewise and asked me to find his (sic) whereabouts. Both were surprised when Krishna was an up-and-coming woman scholar with great promise. This review is now considered to be a classic and Sraffa himself ranked it as one of the two best reviews of his book. Krishna was offered a fellowship at Cambridge on the basis of the review, which marked the beginning of her remarkable career as an economic theorist of international fame.

Addas at Churchill Chambers

Sachin’s reputation as a distinguished e ditor of an unique journal was spreading like a rapid fire. For a large number of well-known economists like Arthur Lewis, Joan Robinson, N Kaldor, J R Hicks, M Kalecki, T N Swan, Donald M’Cdougall, R ichard Goodwin, Alvin Hansen, Rosenstein-Rodan, and a host of others who visited India, he was a magnet and Churchill Chambers was an inevitable stopover on their way to Delhi and Calcutta. Sachin was very hospitable in his modest way and these great social scientists did not mind legging up the creaky, dingy and unlit staircase because the conver sational feast was salivating and sui generis. Often times, some of us closely known to Sachin were the lucky ones to be his guests at these gatherings with the eminent scholars.

Two of such occasions were memorable and both concerned the Nobel Laureates – Arthur Lewis and Milton Friedman. Arthur Lewis had asked Sachin to invite P R Bramhanand because he happened to read the latter’s book on the Indian economy which was laudably reviewed by R agnar Nurkse in Quarterly Journal of Economics. This book was also known for one of the seminal ideas of “wage-goods constraint on growth”. In the course of a lively discussion, the topic of race cropped up and Lewis said to the ire of some of the self-righteous Indians present that “I ndians suffer from strong colour pre judice”. Bramhanand shot from the hips, refuting Lewis’ statement with convoluted logic, confused analogies, and patriotic fervour. At this stage, feeling strongly that enough was enough, I intervened, saying “Professor Lewis, you are dead right. We Indians are quite racist in our behaviour and thought-processes”. Lewis, somewhat surprised by my vehemence asked me “Why?”. My reply was simple and pithy without being profound. “To Indians at large, whenever a daughter is born and she is of dark complexion, she is by definition ugly; on the other hand, if she is white-coloured, she is beautiful even though her features are ugly”. Lewis, smiling mischievously and clapping his hands said “Dead right. These are the typical s ocial mores in the Indian society which I noticed amongst the Indian communities in the Caribbean.”

Friedman’s Visit

Milton Friedman visited India twice – first in 1955 under the auspices of the International Cooperation Administration, the US government’s foreign aid agency to a dvise the Indian government. During that visit, he wrote one of the most scintillating, perceptive and prophetic notes on the draft Second Five-Year Plan. Somehow he escaped Sachin’s notice or Sachin was not aware of his importance as an economist, being mesmerised by Kaldor, Joan Robinson, Goodwin – all pro-planning and of leftist persuasion. On his second visit in 1962-63 sponsored by the Council for Economic Education, a pro-business body, Friedman and his wife Rose were invited by Sachin for dinner. For whatever reasons, Sachin never mentioned this d inner to any of my friends or me. I, however, did ask Sachin if he met Friedman, but my question was drowned in his characteristic loud laughter, saying that “You know he is an American edition of our Professor B R Shenoy. Can he tell us anything different from what we know from Shenoy?”. Much later in 1998, when Milton and Rose’s memoirs, Two Lucky People was published, one paragraph on page 306 where Rose described her meeting with Sachin hit my eye.

Last night we were guests at dinner given by the editor and owner of a weekly newspaper.

We were told in advance he was a character but we weren’t told how much of one. He is unmarried – I was one woman, with seven men. When we sat down to dinner and half of the company (these are all university graduates and have been abroad) ate with their right hands… this was a little too much for me, I hope before we leave India, we feel close enough to some Indians to get an explanation of this…at the conclusion of the party, we were conducted downstairs by our host with a flashlight and almost stumbled over the sleeping bodies in the hallway.

The context is loud enough to speak that it was Sachin as a host. It still remains a puzzle why no reference was made to what transpired between Friedman and Sachin at the dinner. Perhaps they avoided discussing economics as Sachin might have heard reports about Friedman’s experience with V K R V Rao at the Institute of Economic Growth in Delhi around the same time. Friedman was invited there to deliver a lecture on monetary theory and policy over which Rao presided. After Friedman finished his lecture, Rao, instead of extending the normal courtesy of thanking the speaker remarked that “Professor Friedman is seductive but I want to warn the students in the audience that if you answer questions in the money exam along Friedman’s lines, you will flunk”. Arthur Lewis was right when he said at Sachin’s party that he found Indians to be smug, complacent and at times boorish.

Foreign visitors who came to see Sachin were not all economists. There was Edward Shills, an eminent sociologist from the University of Chicago who wrote a book on the Indian intellectuals. Even more significantly, there was the one and only V S Naipaul who, if my memory serves me right, wrote somewhere on his meeting with Sachin and EW. In his book, In a Free State he has immortalised Paresh, Sachin’s domestic help, who used to cook food for our bodies while we had a feast of thoughts at his famous addas.

Despite his busy schedule, Sachin had a large circle of friends – young and old, f amous and not-so-famous, wellconnected aristocracy and commoners but they all were interesting specimens, in their own ways, of the educated class. I met Sharada Mukherji, a scion of the famous Ranjit Pandit family and later a governor of Gujarat, brothers and n ephews of a great socialist leader late Achut P atwardhan,

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and a highly sophisticated industrialist, Sudhir Mulji, whose Oxford credentials were flaunted more than his wealth, apart from a large number of bright, young fresh graduates from the foreign universities. Sachin was a man for all seasons.

Open Mind

Like all those who live by their wits, Sachin too had his hobby horses. But he was cognizant of the limits up to which he should cling to them. Once he was convinced that some of his concepts had outlived their times, he did not hesitate to reassess and jettison them with detachment. He started with a firm belief that planning of a comprehensive nature was necessary and he made no apologies for it. But his beliefs did not become dogma. He retained due respect for other views. He did not set equation between persons and their theories but between the needs of the prevailing conditions and the theories to tackle them. Towards the end of his life when I was almost in daily contact with him, often driving him at night to Hiten’s house at Pali Hills, Bandra, he was reappraising his views on the type of planning we had between 1952 and 1965. Without offering any excuses for his earlier beliefs he thought aloud whether planning was not inadequate in an emerging situation in India.

The same could be said about his a pproach to the Nehruvian vision of India which had enamoured him in his youth. When Nehru passed away in 1964, he brought out a special number of EW on N ehru’s times. I was asked to write a piece on “Nehru and the Administration”. I had done a volte face about Nehru after India’s ignominy in war with China in 1962 and I told him that being in the RBI, I would not be able to express myself candidly. In his usual imploring voice and with a cigarette hanging from his drooping lips, he said “Make it contributed”. I wrote in that a rticle,

The Paradox of Nehru was to be sought partly in the fact that the instruments which Nehru could use for the achievement of his goals were much at variance with the requirements of his ideology. This often led to ridiculous situations in our foreign relations as well as in the implementation of economic policies.

Soon after this article was published, he visited Delhi where he was pestered by many senior officials about the authorship of the article. He of course played hooky with the questioners. He himself was in the “change mode” in regard to Nehru and his outmoded way of thinking about the Indian polity. This was reflected in his e ditorial “Miles to Go” in the first issue of EPW. “The nation can no longer” his e ditorial read “be activised by an incantation of Nehru’s ideas and Nehru’s policies. But the forces released during that era have by no means worked themselves out. The task before the country today is to free forces from the dead weight which is holding them back.” All this amply bears out Sachin’s ideological neutrality and his preference for ratiocination rather than dogma unlike several of the friends associated with him in his endeavours, thereby making his weekly, a “Republic of Letters”

– to invoke that beautiful and eloquent phrase of Naipaul, where all thoughts and feelings have equal voice.

Sachin, though moulded by Bengali Bhadralok culture and ethos remained quintessentially cosmopolitan in outlook and behaviour. After the EW folded up, many of Sachin’s Bengali friends urged him to shift the new weekly office to C alcutta but he did not succumb to their pleadings. He told many and I was one of them, that his weekly could thrive only in compassionate, cosmopolitan and collegial Bombay with its ingrained generosity than uni-cultural Calcutta.

End of Economic Weekly

In the twilight of his life with ill-health pursuing him relentlessly, he saw the Taj of his life’s achievements crumbling b efore his eyes. But his spirit was undaunted. The Sakserias were the main backers of his weekly, thanks to Hiten’s efforts and goodwill. But somehow around the mid-1965, something went amiss in his relationship with the S akserias who until then scrupulously stayed away from interfering with running the weekly. Sachin reacted in a huff to the shock and dismay of a l egion of his friends and the admirers of EW, by shutting shop. It was in the midst of the India-Pakistan war with a blackout all around that I met him at his residence when he announced the dreadful news. With that I thought like the blackout outside, the light had gone out from the country’s i ntellectual life as well.

Launch of EPW

Sachin later disclosed that he with Hiten and a few others were trying to revive EW with another name as the old name was copyrighted. It was a Herculean task, with no financial resources in sight. He mooted an idea of a charitable trust and was looking around for the ways to raise funds from well-wishers of the EW, who unfortunately were not millionaires. He told me that some of his friends, among whom Ashok Mitra was prominent, had raised around Rs 20,000 which was measly for a new venture. I was just a middle-level RBI economist but hope had no limit. I used some of my wealthy contacts like Pallonji Shapurji, Dharamsi and Ranvir Khatau and procured Rs 5,000 from each of them only on the condition that I would sign on the receipt. I knew that it was asking for trouble but devil-take-the hindmost kind of my outlook on life propelled me to sign it. I told Sachin that I stuck my neck out.

He was in low spirit then but when he heard about my dare-devilry, he suddenly stirred up from his somnolence. Months later while returning from Sachin’s Pali Hill residence with the then governor of the RBI, P C Bhattacharya, I learnt from him that Sachin appraised him about my adventures in raising funds by flouting the RBI rules. He asked me not to worry as what I did was for a good cause.

In addition, I also mobilised donations from my friends M Narasimham, V V Bhatt, Russi Karanjia of Blitz who worked with Sachin in the Free Press Journal. Fortunately, I suddenly struck a gold mine when I received a cheque of Rs 2,500 from the Life Insurance Corporation as my paid-up life insurance policy had matured, which I handed over to Sachin. Knowing my strained financial position, Sachin returned the cheque but finally took it back on my insistence. Somehow I could raise around Rs 27,000 for the Sameeksha Trust.

It is a little known fact that John P Lewis, a noted economist at the Princeton University, who wrote a famous book

Sage

I ndia’s Quiet Crisis and for some time was the head of the US Aid Mission in Delhi sent a cheque of Rs 50,000 to Sachin without being solicited and without any strings a ttached. He also wrote in an accompanying letter that the weekly was free to c riticise the US government policies. I was in a minority of one among Sachin’s friends to urge him to accept the offer. It upset me when Sachin declined it as he thought it would be badly perceived by his fellow countrymen. I was not convinced by this phony argument. I agitatedly told him that if American money was tarnished, so were the donations from the capitalists like Shapurji and Khataus. And then what about H T Parekh, the Alembic owner P atel and, Sudhir Mulji who not only gave large amounts but also mobilised from other rich sources; two of them were later made the trustees of the Sameeksha Trust.

A few weeks before Sachin’s death, he asked me to see him in his office to discuss some serious matter. I could see that he was visibly in the funk. He told me vaguely but in a roundabout fashion that his health was deteriorating and he thought of some one, a capable economist and his friend to take over from him. He felt badly let down when the person shunned his o ffer. That was his farewell to me. Two days later a fter I met him, I got a call from Krishna

Raj conveying the sad news of Sachin’s death. His mission was half-accomplished but he might have mused “When I give up the helm, I know the time has come for them to take it over. What there is to do will be instantly done.” How true! In came first, Ravi Hazari, though briefly, who

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-a llowed all winds to blow across the Sachin’s Republic of Letters and then Krishna Raj, a shy man of eloquent silence and u n coruscating persona who accomplished Sachin’s mission with a zeal of messiah to establish the EPW in the comity of respected academic journals.

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EPW
january 3, 2009

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