ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Passion for India

Gilbert Etienne died in Geneva on
17 May at the age of 85. Throughout his life, India was his passion. For decades he had been a prolific writer on Indian development issues, in books, academic articles and newspapers. With his wife Annette, he lived in and travelled frequently throughout India, visiting villages and talking to villagers, discussing their goals and their problems and heading back to Delhi or to state capitals to report his findings and discuss the solutions with the leading actors of the day, prime ministers and chief ministers, industrialists, top officials and intellectuals, many of them his friends.

He believed that to understand development you had to get your boots muddy. He had no time for people who sat in their offices analysing National Sample Survey data, but could not tell you the average yield of a high yielding paddy and had never talked to farmers about cultivation methods. He also had little time for high theory. Often development just needed common sense, decent governance and competent, dedicated officials. An effective district magistrate or development commissioner was often the answer.

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