Abhijit Sen, economist who stood for farmers, rural poor, dies

In a career spanning more than four decades, Abhijit Sen taught economics at Delhi’s JNU, and held several important government positions including the chair of the Commission of Agricultural Cost and Prices

Updated - August 30, 2022 09:22 pm IST

Published - August 30, 2022 07:48 am IST - New Delhi

Economist Abhijit Sen. File

Economist Abhijit Sen. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu Picture Library

Former member of Planning Commission, former chairman of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices and eminent economist Abhijit Sen died here on Monday night following a heart attack. Prof. Sen was a faculty at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning (CESP) at Jawaharlal Nehru University since 1985 to his superannuation in 2015. Politicians, academics, his students, farmers’ leaders and activists remember him for his contributions in areas such as minimum support price, rural economy and rural employment.

Senior Congress leader and former minister Jairam Ramesh said Prof. Sen was one of India’s finest economists. “Over a period of almost three decades, I learned so much from him. A formidable scholar, he had strong ideological roots but also an open mind. He belonged to a species that is fast becoming extinct,” Mr. Ramesh said.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said Prof. Sen was a fine economist with both his head and heart in the right place. “His work, interventions benefitted many lives and families. I am sure that my friend had much more to say and contribute at this difficult time India is going through. His passing is a big loss to us,” Mr Yechury said.

All India Kisan Sabha leader Ashok Dhawale said Prof. Sen was a great agricultural economist. Samyukt Kisan Morcha leader Yogendra Yadav said the country has lost a champion of food security and one of the architects of the National Food Security Act that saved millions of poor households during COVID 19. Activist Aruna Roy said Prof. Sen was a friend and advocate of peoples’ rights and movements. “He took the voices of the common masses to the highest levels of policy making. He was one of the leading advocates for the MGNREGA and the right to food in addition to championing farmers’ causes,” Ms. Roy said.

Professor of Economics in CESP, JNU Surajit Mazumdar, who was his student, told The Hindu that Prof. Sen’s main work was in understanding the processes of change in agriculture and how agriculture constrained the development process of the Indian economy; and on unemployment, poverty and inequality in the Indian context. “I was an MA student when Prof. Sen joined the CESP faculty in 1985, and I became a part of the CESP faculty myself just a little before he superannuated from service in 2015. I always admired his very sharp mind that could be directed towards analyzing almost anything, and of course his warmth and complete lack of arrogance. While he was known for his work on agriculture, unemployment and poverty, he could speak authoritatively on a variety of subjects,” Prof. Mazumdar said.

Prof. Sen is survived by his wife, eminent economist Jayati Ghosh and daughter Jahnavi Sen, a journalist.

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