Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Suresh Tendulker: India Lost a Great Economist

Suresh D Tendulker
Suresh D. Tendulkar (8 May 1939 – 21 June 2011) was an Indian economist and former chief of National Statistical Commission. He was a member of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) from 2004 to 2008 and as its Chairman from 2008 to 2009 when C. Rangarajan vacated the post to enter the Rajya Sabha. He died on 21 June 2011, as a result of cardiac arrest at Aditya Birla Memorial Hospital (ABMH), Pune (India). In January 2011 he was elected as President of the Indian Econometrics Society (TIES). It is shame that due to complacency of the caucus-run functioning of TIES his name appeared on its website only after his demise. Suresh Tendulkar did his B.Com. from Pune University and came first. He then did M.A. from Delhi School of Economics again coming first. He received a PhD in economics from Harvard University.
Suresh D. Tendulkar, was a professor of economics at the Delhi School of Economics, India, where he was also executive director of the Centre for Development Economics. He was head of the department of economics (1986-89) and director of the school (1995-98). Before joining the Delhi School, he taught at the Delhi Centre of the Indian Statistical Institute (1968-78). He has written extensively on Indian development issues and policies, including those on liberalization and globalisation. He has been closely associated with the Indian Statistical System including the National Sample Survey Organization and the Advisory Committee on National Accounts of which he is currently the chairperson.
Suresh Tendulkar headed committee named as Suresh Tendulkar Committee to look into the people living under poverty line in India. He also served as member of the Reserve Bank of India’s central board of directors. Prof. Tendulkar was known for his extensive work on "Credit and Privatisation policies" and "Indian development issues and policies", including liberalisation and globalisation. He was also a part-time member of the National Statistical Commission (2000-01), the first "Disinvestments Commission" (1996-99), and the Fifth "Central Pay Commission" (1994-97).
Prof. Tendulkar's pioneering contribution is his extensive work on poverty and estimation of people below poverty line (BPL). Govt. of India formed a committee in 2009, with Tendulkar as Chairman to 'report on methodology of estimation of poverty'. In 2009, this committee came out with a new method to calculate poverty which increased the number of the poor in India in 2004-05 from 27.5% of the total population to 37.2%. This made Manmohan Singh govt to feel very uncomfortable. In past, poverty was estimated by measuring calorie intake by individuals. But the Tendulkar committee moved to a wider definition, including spending on food as well as education, health, light (electricity), clothing and footwear.
CR Rao's (Professor CR Rao wins 2011 RSS Guy Medal in Gold‏)
Recently, Prof. C R Rao was in London to receive the Royal Statistical Society's highest award, 'The Guy Medal in Gold'. He told me as as follows:  "In the death of Prof. Tendulkar when he was still active pursuing his path-breaking contribution to measurement and alleviation of poverty. He joined the ISI in early seventies when I was the Director of the Research and Training School. I was glad to be associated with him until he left ISI 5years later. I had occasion to meet him a number of times during my visits to India.  He was a perfect gentleman. Prof. Tendulkar had great respect for me. When he was Chairman of National Statistical Commission, he visited  C.R.Rao Advanced Institute of Mathematics, Statics ad Computer Science in Hyderabad. I was surprised when he came to my flat to see me first and invited me and my wife for lunch with him and Mrs. Tendulkar. He, as the president, invited me for the TIES conference to be held this year in Pondichery". Prof Rao's contribution to econometrics (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1722743).
 H.D.Vinod, a leading Econometrician 
Last month Prof Vinod organised a conference on 'Impact of Hinduism on the Economy and Business Management' held in the Fordham University. Prof Tendulker organised the section on "Interaction Between Social, Political and Economic: Dimensions of Inequalities in India: Prof Vinod writes in preface to conference volume to be published by Oxford University Press as follows: "An Interpretation" by Prof. Suresh D. Tendulkar studies income inequality in India, an important topic in Economics. The caste system of Hindu India had a rather rigid, unequal, and hierarchical socioeconomic structure. Tendulkar describes modern Indian elections as involving `identity politics,' a code for voting based on the caste of the candidate. He discusses the challenge of relieving Indian poverty and mentions dynamic interplay of `one-man-one-vote' political equality with Hindu caste hierarchy, helping to crumble the latter. Making a distinction between equal and equitable distribution of income, Tendulkar focuses on incentives, productivity and rapid growth. Rising inequality might not be a serious problem if India also has income mobility and rapid economic growth".
"Unfortunately, this Handbook Chapter would likely be the last publication in Tendulkar's distinguished career (having nearly a hundred publications) since he passed away on June 21, 2011. Suresh Tendulkar was an important voice in economic policy of India, having served in several key positions including as the Chairman of Economic Advisory Council to the Prime-Minister of India. His methodological contribution using data on education, health and clothing revised upward India's poverty rates. On a personal note, I attended the BMCC college in Pune, Delhi School of Economics and Harvard University with Suresh. My condolences to his wife Sunetra and two daughters Saee Sapre and Juee Gonzalvessince the time they were born. Suresh had encouraged me to undertake this Handbook project and provided valuable contacts and referees".  
(see: http://www.fordham.edu/religionbusiness.)
Although I do not claim to know Prof Tendulker or his work very well as some of us claiming after his demise. I met him twice, once at his ISI Delhi office in 1976-77 when I was at the JNU and second time at Prof CR Rao's 90th Birthday International Conference held in Hyderabad. In late 1960s I believe he was involved in constructing National Account/Input-output table for India. At that time I had interest in that subject matter and have published fee papers when I was in US.  His humbleness could be gleaned by the fact that he had agreed to discuss with me although I showed up at his office without an appointment. Contrasting him with some of the Oxbridge 'Marxist' snobs at the JNU he appeared very polite and modest. I was incredibly impressed by his intellect combined with simplicity. It was a pleasant surprise when I met him  in Hyderabad in 2009. In fact, our papers were listed in the same section; 'Econometrics Methods' organised by Prof T.K. Krishna Kumar, but were in sessions. After the presentation, due to similarity of theme but different method and perspective (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1563665), Prof Krishna Kumar who organised the session on Econometrics commented that my paper should have been listed along side with Prof Tendulker which would have generated a healthy debate. Again, in a very brief interaction at Prof Rao's birthday I found him even more polite and generous unlike some members of the Columbian cartel led by Prof Bhagwati. Prof Kumar tells me that he met Prof Tendulker first in 1973 when  he visited ISI.  
Recently, in an obituary Dr Panagariya hails him in high regards and conveniently uses his contributions to erroneously suggest as if he was a great champion of 'free trade' economics. There are serious problems with Panagariya's opportunistic characterisation of Prof Tendulker's economic philosophy to attack the left. We note that Dr Panagariya does not even cite Prof Tendulker's  revised figures of BPL in any of his articles or speeches published in medias while selling his opium of  globalization to toiling people of India.  Panagariya totally relied on the Govt figures of 27% to make a case for his success stories. How could it be possible if he knew Prof Tendulker very well? However, everything is possible from the Columbian Cartel, for example, see http://newsviews-raceclass.blogspot.com, for Framers' Suicides: Bhagwati v Vandana Shiva also at: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1811844 for top 10 hits. Further, it is a matter of record Prof Tendulker has great confidence in planning system. Mrinal Datta Chaudhuri wrote in one of his memoirs, India had fought two wars, Jawaharlal Nehru had died, the country was experiencing a drought and a famine and the planning process was suspended.
"To make matters worse, most of the big names that made Delhi School one of the most celebrated schools in the world also started leaving. Amartya Sen went to London School, Jagdish Bhagwati to MIT, Tapan Raychaudhuri to Oxford, KN Raj to Trivandrum, Sukhamoy Chakravarty to the Planning Commission and Manmonhan Singh to Commerce Ministry".
"Finally in 1978, under the influence of Chaudhuri and Sukhamoy, Tendulkar decided to come back to teach at Delhi School. He genuinely believed in the planning led growth model that India was trying to execute and wanted to be part of that change. Returning alongside him were some emerging scholars like Prasanta Pattanaik, Pranab Bardhan, Raj Krishna and Kaushik Basu. Over the course of the next few years, Delhi School regained its glory days attracting students like Nirvikar Singh, professor of economics at University Of California and Prannoy Roy, chairman, NDTV in its ranks".
I believe it would be disrespect to put labels of ideology on Prof Tendulker. He was a true thinker and beyond ideologies who never hesitate to express his views freely and frankly. In fact, despite his quite controversial approach on measurement of poverty Mr Ahuwalia, Dy Chairman of PM's Advisory Committee had to swallow a poison-pill and accept the new Below the Poverty Line, but Prof Tendulker was sidelined in all advisory roles.  No doubt Prof. Tendulker will be remembered in the history of Indian planning.

Dr Suresh Deman, Centre for Econ and Finance, London
Prof Vrajainder Uppadhaya, IIT Delhi, India
Prof. T.K. Krishna Kumar, Retired Prof. ISI, Adjunct Professor at IIM Bangalore.

No comments: