Jagdish Bhagwati and Padma Desai are icons in the field of economics. Renowned, respected, even loved, across the world, they have made stupendous contributions to different aspects of economics.
These two have played an important role in my "intellectual" life, without ever having known of me!
By 1992, upon joining the IAS in 1982 with a bachelors degree in science, I had completed a masters degree in economics through correspondence and started forming preliminary views against socialist policies.
But it was only in 1992 when I went to Curtin University (in Australia) and read Jagdish N. Bhagwati and Padma Desai's book, India: planning for industrialization: industrialization and trade policies since 1951 (1970), that I started firming up these views. Open economies do better. That was a revolutionary idea.
In particular, I was mystified by their critique of planning (Jagdish had worked in the planning commission). For long I had (thoughtlessly) believed the planning commission was a symbol of the great and wise people who "managed" India. How terribly wrong I was. It was Bhagwati and Desai who first made me wonder about this institution's value.
The lessons of Bhagwati and Desai led me to an academic thesis in 1993 for small scale-industry liberalisation in India (similar to the concept that Abid Hussain was to implement a few years later).
To Jagdish Bhagwati and Padma Desai, therefore, I owe my first serious re-consideration of India's socialist policies. It would take me another five years (till late 1997), after three more years of academic study including reading the works of Deepak Lal and many others, for the broad canvas of the policies I now advocate to become clear. (And of course, when the concepts became clear, I had to do something about it!)
Anyway, I'm writing this note mainly to record that I met today, for the first time, these two icons of Indian economics. I also got to listen to a fantastic lecture by Padma Desai on Russia.
My day has been made.
[I've taken this picture, above, from the internet; it is not from today's conference.]
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