Abhijit Sen teaches rural economics policy making

By CNBCTV18.com IST (Released)


Sen was Chairman of the Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices and a member of the Planning Commission between 2004 and 2014. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan for public service in 2010.

Renowned agricultural economist Abhijit Sen died on August 29 at the age of 72. Sen, a former member of the Planning Commission and one of India’s leading authorities on rural economy, suffered a heart attack around 11 p.m. Monday and was rushed to hospital.

“It was all over by the time we got there,” PTI news agency said, citing his brother, Dr Pronab Sen. Pronob Sen is also an economist and former Chairman of the National Statistical Commission and Chief Statistician of India.

In a distinguished academic career spanning over four decades, Sen has taught economics at universities including Oxford, Cambridge and Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

He has also held important government positions such as Chairman of the Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices.

In the Manmohan Singh government, Sen served as a member of the Planning Commission between 2004 and 2014. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan for public service in 2010.

Early life

Sen was born in Jamshedpur on November 18, 1950. His father Samar Sen was also an economist who worked for the World Bank. Sen was educated at Sardar Patel Vidyalaya in Delhi and graduated in Physics from St Stephen’s College, University of Delhi. He then switched to economics and obtained his doctorate at the University of Cambridge, England. His thesis was “Agrarian constraint to economic development: the case of India” under the supervision of Suzy Paine.

Sen taught at the universities of Sussex, Cambridge, Oxford and Essex in the UK before joining the Center for Economic Studies and Planning at Jawaharlal Nehru University in 1985. He worked with economists like Krishna Bharadwaj, Prabhat Pattnaik , CP Chandrashekhar, Amit Bhaduri and his wife Jayati Ghosh at the university.

Sen has also served as a member of the Senate or Executive Council of several academic institutions such as University of Delhi, Indian Institute of Technology (Delhi) and University of Allahabad. The Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswa Vidyalaya (Agricultural University) of West Bengal awarded him an honorary doctorate.

Other roles

Besides teaching, Sen has also been involved in decision-making bodies over the years. He was appointed chairman of the Agricultural Costs and Prices Commission by the United Front government in 1997. After his term ended three years later, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government asked him to leading the High-Level Committee of Experts on Long-Term Grain Policy. The committee, which submitted its report in 2002, recommended the introduction of a universal public distribution system (PDS) for two grains – rice and wheat – for all consumers across India. He also suggested making the ACCP a statutory body.

Between 2000 and 2001, Sen was a member of the Prime Minister’s Task Force on the WTO.

In 2004, Sen was appointed as a member of the supreme policy-making body – the Planning Commission. It was renewed in 2009.

Besides his work in India, Sen has advised international organizations such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Labor Organization, the OECD, International Fund for Agricultural Development and Asian Development Bank.

The Man with the Characteristic Beard

In 2013, Business Standard reported that the man with the flowing beard and long, shaggy hair hadn’t been to a barber in 20 years.

“Maybe the last time I visited a hairdresser was when I got married,” Sen told Business Standard in the interview.

The economist is said to have enjoyed smoking Charms, the popular brand of cigarettes among students. According to Sen, Charms reminded him of the French Gauloises he smoked when he was at Cambridge.

The economist is survived by his wife Jayati Ghosh and his daughter, Jahnavi Sen, who is deputy editor of The Wire.

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