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Sachin Chaudhuri and the EW: The Early Years

Sachin established the Economic Weekly after independence both to inform India's new policymakers and intellectuals as to what was occurring in the economy and society and to influence government policies in the economic and social fields. Its aim was to influence policy to make a better India for the Indian people, both economically and socially. The EW was a socialist magazine supporting Nehru's policies but independent with respect to specific issues.

ECONOMIC WEEKLY: 60 YEARS AGO

Sachin Chaudhuri and the EW: The Early Years

George Rosen

meet him soon after I got to Bombay. He was interested in my work and was very helpful in my efforts to establish contacts with economists, journalists and businessmen in the Bombay area. My articles on India’s industrial growth, based on my r esearch there, were published in the EW.

Sachin established the Economic Weekly after independence both to inform India’s new policymakers and intellectuals as to what was occurring in the economy and society and to influence government policies in the economic and social fields. Its aim was to influence policy to make a better India for the Indian people, both economically and socially. The EW was a socialist magazine supporting Nehru’s policies but independent with respect to specific issues.

George Rosen is a development economist who has worked on the Indian economy ever since he wrote his doctoral dissertation, which was completed in 1949. He has worked in Asia since 1950 and first came to India in 1955, after which he began writing articles for Economic Weekly.

S
achin Chaudhuri was one of the most stimulating and personally enjoyable people I have ever known, both in the world as a whole and in India in particular. Reflecting his character and his interests, he established the Economic Weekly (EW) one of India’s most stimulating and provocative magazines in 1949. The EW specialised in economic and political policy-related issues arising after India became independent, within a broader social and cultural framework. I gained very much from Sachin’s friendship, in both understanding and appreciating India’s culture – quite apart from its economy. And the EW provided me with some of the most valuable sources and insights for my economic work in India.

I had written my doctoral dissertation on the economic development of India and China and its effects on the United States without doing economic research in either country. That work was finished in 1949; I came to India to do research for the first time in 1955. I was one of the economists on the MIT Center for International Studies project on India’s economic development. I was working on India’s industrial status and policies towards industrial growth and improvement of well-being on a national scale. I was based in Bombay for my r esearch and I worked there for two years

– 1955-56 and 1958-59 – on the MIT project. Following that period I spent a year in C alcutta in 1961-62 on a Ford Foundation project to prepare a city plan for Calcutta.

During those three years I became a good friend of Sachin, who had a long family and intellectual background in Bengal and Calcutta but was then based in Bombay, India’s chief economic centre, where he had established the EW. By 1955 the EW had became one of India’s leading public journals on political-economy issues within the country. I had been strongly a dvised to get to know Sachin and I was fortunate to

But I gained much more than this from

Sachin. We were good friends and from

this friendship I gained a sense of India’s

culture and intellectual life that I could not

have gotten from anyone else. That contri

buted not only to my knowledge of India’s

industry and political economy but to the

enjoyment and pleasure that I got from

those years spent in both Bombay and

Calcutta and from my later stays in India

and that I continue to get from Indian culture

and society and friends. Part of that enjoy

ment is from the Bengali food to which

Sachin introduced me, and from Indian art

from the past and by contemporary artists,

as well as from Indian music and dance,

all of which Sachin enjoyed very much.

Sachin established the EW after inde

pendence both to inform India’s new

p olicymakers, and intellectuals as to what

was occurring in the economy and society

and to influence government policies in

the economic and social fields. It was not

an academic journal then, nor is it now,

although many scholars contribute

a rticles, based on their work, to it. Its aim

is to influence policy to make a better In

dia for the Indian people, both economi

cally and socially. The EW was a socialist

magazine supporting Nehru’s policies but

independent with respect to specific

i ssues. Sachin pushed strongly to establish

an effective working democracy on both

the national and local levels, and to estab

lish a society able to support India’s grow

ing population and raise the economic

and social well-being of all its people,

transcending class, caste and geographic

lines. His broader intellectual and cultural

interests made the EW a magazine that

looked at Indian society from a wide

ranging perspective, beyond narrow eco

nomic boundaries. Such a broad perspec

tive was especially valuable for foreign

scholars like me, who came to India to do

research with relatively little knowledge of

the country’s culture and society.

january 17, 2009

EPW
Economic & Political Weekly

ECONOMIC WEEKLY: 60 YEARS AGO

In the late 1950s, Bombay was one of I ndia’s leading intellectual and cultural centres, as well as an economic one. The EW made a major contribution to this leader ship by providing a vehicle for the interchange of r esearch and ideas from members of major institutions in the economic field. The MIT center had close r elations with two of those institutions, Bombay University and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and my research benefited greatly from those close relations. Sachin, of course, knew all of the leading economists in both the university and the RBI, and many of these economists wrote a rticles for EW. Senior economics faculty at the university included Vakil, Lakda wala, Dantwala and Brahmananda; among the junior faculty were Hazari and Sandesara. All of them often wrote articles for the EW and I got to know all of them. My research benefited greatly from my exchange of i deas with them, especially from the work in the industrial economy area done by B rahmananda, Hazari and Sandesara.

The RBI had one of India’s ablest staff of economists. I got to know some of them well, in part through my MIT center position and through personal contacts resulting in large part from Sachin’s friendship with them. These included K S Krishnaswamy, a good friend of one of my own classmates, V V Bhatt, D R Khatkhate and M Narasimham. They were one of the world’s ablest group of development econo mists and they were also contri butors to the EW in those days. Because of Sachin’s close relationship with them I also got to know them well and benefited greatly from their knowledge, from their work published in EW, and by personal exchange of ideas with them in meetings that often were made possible by Sachin.

Two other close friends of Sachin and me at that time were Daniel and Alice Thorner, who were then living in Bombay. Dan was doing research on India’s agricultural sector and recommending policies in that area to the government. They were very good friends of Sachin’s and wrote articles often for EW.

I introduced two of my co-economists in the MIT project, who also became close friends, to Sachin, and they wrote articles on their research for the EW. Their interests were mainly in the agricultural sector and

Economic & Political Weekly

EPW
january 17, 2009

they did pioneering research on India’s rural sector. One of these was an American econo mist, Walter Neale, who was based in Poona. His work was p ath-breaking at the time. The other was A Vaidyanathan, who had recently returned from the US with a PhD degree in economics from Cornell University. I worked with him in Bombay in the 1950s; he later became one of India’s leading and most influential agricultural economists working with the government and major research institutes.

Sachin Chaudhuri’s Circle

Sachin’s friendship with Indian economists extended far wider than those he knew in Bombay. I have mentioned his Bengali and Calcutta family background and this was the basis for his close relationship with many of the leading economists from Calcutta who contributed to the EW and with whom I became good friends. One of his closest friends, who often visited Sachin in Bombay and whom I first met at Sachin’s apartment there, was Ashok Mitra: In the 1950s he was a P lanning Commission economist; later he became the West Bengal finance minister when the CPI(M) won the state elections. He is one of the most stimulating e conomists I know on issues of India’s p olitical economy and was a steady c ontributor to the EW and later to E conomic & Political Weekly (EPW), when he left g overnment.

Sachin also knew well Sukha moy and L alita Chakravarty from Calcutta. Sukhamoy was a major economist with the government of India and at the University of Delhi until his early death, and Lalita was teaching at the university. Both contributed to the EW and EPW when they were able to do so. Amartya Sen also was a good friend of Sachin and a contributor to the EW and EPW while he was in India, before he left for senior academic positions at Harvard and Cambridge (UK).

In addition to those world-famous B engali economists, Sachin knew well and published in EW various leading e conomists working at Delhi University in the 1950s. He was a close friend of A K Das Gupta,

ECONOMIC WEEKLY: 60 YEARS AGO

K N Raj and P N Dhar, all of whom contributed major articles on their research and on economic policy to the EW.

Under Sachin’s editorship, with his broad-ranging approach to economic and social policy issues in India and the stimulating and provocative articles by the distinguished authors he attracted, the EW became a leading policy-oriented journal by the late 1950s. After Sachin’s death in the mid-1960s it was continued as the EPW, with great editors maintaining Sachin’s editorial approach and standards.

In my opinion the non-Indian journal that is most comparable to the EW/EPW is the Economist, though the latter has

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-a very different policy direction. The fact that this Indian journal is comparable to one of the world’s leading policy- oriented journals is a measure of Sachin’s a ccomplishment in founding and editing the EW 60 years ago, and of his successors’ a ccomplishments in maintaining his a chievement.

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january 17, 2009

EPW
Economic & Political Weekly

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