Renowned economist Isher Judge Ahluwalia dies aged 74

Isher Judge Ahluwalia was ICRIER’s chairperson for a period of 15 years. File   | Photo Credit: Ashoke Chakrabarty

Padma Bhushan awardee Dr. Isher Judge Ahluwalia, a renowned economist who also worked extensively on issues related to urbanisation and education, passed away on Saturday in the national capital.

Fondly known as Isher to her colleagues and friends, the 74-year old, who was the better half of former deputy chairperson of the erstwhile Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia, had been battling cancer over the past ten months.

Also read: ‘Breaking Through: A Memoir’ review: The quiet economist who shattered the glass ceiling

Her demise comes a little over a month after she stepped down from the chairpersonship of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), which she is credited with transforming into a research institution to reckon with.

Ms. Ahluwalia was ICRIER’s chairperson for a period of 15 years till she resigned last month, citing her declining health. She was the director and chief executive of the think tank between 1998 and 2002.

“I can say without an iota of doubt that ICRIER was in her DNA. The only persons who got precedence over ICRIER were her grandchildren,” said Rajat Kathuria, the present director and chief executive at ICRIER.

Awarded the Padma Bhushan by the President of India in 2009 for her services in the field of education and literature, Ms. Ahluwalia had led a high-level expert group on urban infrastructure and services for the Centre between 2008 and 2011.

“Isher was and will continue to be an icon for women economists,” said former Competition Commission of India member Geeta Gouri. “Often, in public platforms, Isher would proudly declare that ICRIER owes much of its success to favourable gender balance. ICRIER has had around 70% women [on its rolls] for much of its recent history,” she said.

In August, ICRIER’s board had appointed Pramod Bhasin to succeed her as chairperson but Ms. Ahluwalia was named Chairperson Emeritus, a position specially created to honour her exceptional contributions to ICRIER. “Her shoes are impossible to fill,” Mr. Bhasin, Genpact founder and former president and CEO of GE Capital India and Asia, had said then.

Ms. Ahluwalia had dedicated her poignant memoirs Breaking Through, published just recently, to her two daughters-in-law. Her earlier books include Industrial Growth in India: Stagnation Since the Mid-Sixties and Productivity and Growth in Indian Manufacturing. She also published two books on urbanisation in recent years.

Former Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jairam Ramesh, in an eulogy to her, termed her as “one of India’s distinguished economists”.

“She had her own distinctive identity, apart from being Montek’s wife,” he said.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 2:32:11 AM |

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