For An Economics Of Compassion

August 25, 2014 Admin Random

Economist NA Mujumdar whose respected writings cover even more than 55 years, died on April 6. He had a long and distinguished career in the Reserve Bank of India during which his services were looked for by 5 central banks under the aegis of the International Monetary Fund.

After relinquishing the RBI in 1988, he was connected with a variety of organizations and composed a variety of books as likewise articles in monetary dailies, consisting of the Hindu BusinessLine. Till his death he was the editor of the Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics.

Mujumdar’s works have actually all along been an alternative to mainstream Indian economic idea and it is, for that reason, essential to take cognisance of this.

His newest book, Reinventing Development Economics: Expeditions from Indian Experience (released by the Academic Foundation, New Delhi, 2014, # 8377; 995) was launched a few days after his demise.

This last book needs to be compulsory reading for all those who have an abiding interest in Indian financial development. In short, informing chapters, Mujumdar concerns the Indian development design followed after 1991. One should not dismiss the voice of dissent as simply the ideas of a bygone period. The leitmotif of Mujumdar’s works is applying the acid test of whether the policies are favorable to the interests of the usual individual. The book is a blend of economics, philosophy and ethics, and if ever India turns its policies upside down, this book by Mujumdar will be a reference point for such a change.

From Friedman to Gandhi

The opening chapter of Mujumdar’s book is his presidential address at the 71st annual conference of the Indian Society of Agricultural Economics (2011).

This is a virtual indictment of post-1991 economic policies. He feels that in the euphoria of sustained high growth, we ignore the mistakes of policymakers throughout the duration of liberalisation.

There is, according to Mujumdar, erroneous focus on market-led growth, fiscal correction, promoting personal and foreign financial investment, development of the capital market and creation of an environment of consumerism. His concern is that basic issues of development are ignored which has led to the overlook of agriculture, antipathy for aids and disregard for primary concepts of food security. He calls the duration 1991-2004 the ‘‘ Milton Friedman stage’ and 2004-2011 as the ‘‘ Mahatma Gandhi stage’.

It is important to note that his trenchant criticism cuts throughout the whole political spectrum and as such is a non-partisan view of development over the past quarter of a century.

Mujumdar’s indictment of financial policies is not a psychological diatribe. He marshals facts and figures, and prices estimate flawless economic-social researchers in support of his examination of Indian financial development. He prices quote old Indian scriptures which advise us that our lives need to be directed by control of oneself, givingoffering to others and being caring.

The remainder of the book (53 short chapters) is asharp and pointed criticism of the policy initiatives covering broad development issues, financial policy, banking policy, fiscal policy, food security and the international environment.

On each concern that he takes up, he uses the litmus test of whether the policies are for the betterment of the disadvantaged sections of society.

Exactly what he means

Mujumdar in all possibility knew this would be his last book and for that reason he put everything into his message to policymakers.

Policymakers the world over believe that the wisdom they have is the supreme and nothing can be much better than exactly what they promote. In this book, Mujumdar has left significant concerns for posterity and therefore has made his location in the pantheon of the greats. I am awareknow that there are still some works by Mujumdar (performed in 2013-14) and I hope a compilation of these will certainly be published. Exactly what Mujumdar advocated in his works is in unison with his personal method to life.

An attribute of Mujumdar’s technique to life was to help those in trouble, even if they did not seek his aid.

His works were centred on compassion for the downtrodden and that is exactly what he exercised in life. He thought in a Socratic custom of free and honest exchange of views even if they disclosed sharp differences and he believed that this was importantvital to progress.

On a personal note, I was, for many years, the recipient of sharp criticism from Mujumdar of my work, but at the same time I have been a major recipient of his unstinted support in my career. I had never thought of that the loss of a sparring partner would harm that much.

The writer is a Mumbai-based economist


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