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Economist, Plan architect K.N. Raj passes away

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K.N. Raj
K.N. Raj

C. Gouridasan Nair

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: K.N. Raj, widely respected development economist and teacher and one of the architects of the Indian Plan edifice, passed away here on Wednesday. He was 85.

Dr. Raj — who was the economic adviser to Prime Ministers from Jawaharlal Nehru to P.V. Narasimha Rao, and set the pace of India’s economic growth story from the First Five-Year Plan — had been keeping indifferent health for some time. He was admitted to a private hospital here on Saturday with fever and breathing trouble and died following a cardiac arrest at 2.40 p.m.

In keeping with his wishes, his eyes were donated and his body was taken to his home here. The body will be placed at the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), which he set up in 1970, for public viewing in the morning and cremated here with State honours in the afternoon.

Born in Thrissur on May 13, 1924, Dr. Raj became a student of Harold Laski at the London School of Economics, one of his fellow students being the former President K.R. Narayanan.

He joined the Planning Commission at the age of 26 and quit to become a Professor of Economics at Delhi University, where he nurtured, along with luminaries such as Amartya Sen, Jagdish Bhagwati and Sukhmoy Chakravarty, the Delhi School of Economics into an institution of global renown.

Dr. Raj went on to become Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University, a position he left after being disgusted with the rise of communal politics in the campus.

The CDS — which he set up using the architectural wizardry of Laurie Baker and unstinted support from the then Kerala Chief Minister C. Achutha Menon — is now a premier centre of applied economics and social science research in the country.

Dr. Raj, who has personally groomed many an economist in the country, has his students spread all over the world.

In a condolence message, Kerala Governor R.S. Gavai said Dr. Raj’s contributions in various capacities would be remembered for long. Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan described him as one of the guiding lights of the Indian planning process, adding that his contributions as an economist and teacher would be remembered forever.

‘Great economist’

PTI reports from New Delhi:

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condoled Dr. Raj’s death and said the renowned economist was a “moving force behind the setting up” of the prestigious Delhi School of Economics.

“At the young age of 27, he was invited by the then Prime Minister Pandit Nehru to help draft India’s First Five-Year Plan,” Dr. Singh said, describing him as a “very close friend and a great economist.”

Dr. Raj’s contributions to economics as a teacher, researcher and institution builder were immense, Dr. Singh said in a condolence message to the late economist’s son Gopal Raj.

The work Dr. Raj and his colleagues did for the United Nations in the early days of the CDS helped shape the contours of what later came to be called the “Kerala model” of development, Dr. Singh said, adding that the number of awards he received were testimony to his exceptional talent.

“Dr. Raj was also a fine human being. He devoted his life to serving the country and the cause of social justice. He will be deeply missed by all those whose lives he touched,” Dr. Singh said.

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