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Rangnekar’s book is a legacy to India’s next generation reforms: Bimal Jalan

Nov 20, 2012

The book- The Politics of Poverty: Planning India's Development - sounds contemporary about policy paralysis, says Dr Bimal Jalan, former Governor of India’s central bank, Reserve Bank of India.

The Politics of Poverty: Planning India's Development

The Politics of Poverty: Planning India's Development by Late Dr Dinanath Kashinath Rangnekar is an articulate selection of his writings, meticulously arranged along four themes –social and political dimensions of development; international context to India's experiment; planning and budgets; and, the industrial and economic policy.

Launching the book, Dr Bimal Jalan, former Governor of India’s central bank, Reserve Bank of India, said it was legacy for next generation reforms. “It is a tremendous occasion for all of us who had the opportunity of knowing Dr Rangnekar in different capacities. I was in the Ministry of Finance and before that in the Ministry of Industry, and was an avid reader of what Dr Rangnekar wrote.  This book is really a legacy to our country’s next generation reforms and anybody researching where we were, how we were and why we are where we are today, would benefit a great deal. The most striking feature of the book is (that) it sounds so contemporary about policy paralysis and about our questions on what is going on and why we are not able to deliver,” Dr Jalan said.

Speaking to OneWorld, Dr Jalan said, “What this particular book says is that we have not been able to move much in terms of delivering in accordance to our capabilities. The difference between policy paralysis that existed in the past is that in those times you were actually stuck (like in a traffic jam) with very little hope of movement, but in today’s times, (the) sky is the limit.”

Paranjoy Guha-Thakurta, Senior Journalist and commentator said what Dr Rangnekar wrote in the sixties, the seventies and the early eighties, was relevant even in the present times.  “The issues, the problems and the relevance of the problems were as relevant then, as they are today.  You cannot understand the present or will not be able to anticipate the future unless you know what you have been through in the past,” Thakurta said.

Quoting from the book Thakurta said, the search for social justice has been checkmated by lobbyists, fixers and vested interests.  It was not for nothing that the Time Magazine described Dr Rangnekar one of the 50 people who would influence Asia. “Dr Rangnekar’s book talks about inflation, it talks about what is so relevant today, how a decade of food inflation has so sharply widened inequalities in this country,” Thakurta argued.

M K Venu, Managing Editor, The Financial Express, said most issues like inflation, land markets and the procurement prices that Dr Rangnekar spoke of are still contemporary. “Dr Rangnekar did not jump to conclusions. He always did a lot of data analysis before he commented on something. He was ideological, but at the same time very practical. The other interesting aspect which I see in his writings is that he combined economics with deep sense of understanding of political economy and how social structures came in the way of implementing policy,” Venu said.

The selection of writings in Dr Rangnekar’s book is accompanied by essays from TN Ninan, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Sanjaya Baru. The writings, beginning in the early 1960s and ending in 1984 cover the period when the country was at the cusp of a fundamental transformation of its economic policies and its political fabric. In doing so, the book provides a significant reflection of those times.

Apart from a commentary on PL480 (the American Food assistance, purportedly for peace – though with strings) and the accompanying devaluation, the collection also includes reflections on the 1970s call for a New International Economic Order and the problems of development in an unequal world.

Drawing on his expertise in planning, budgets (what he characteristically called the 'annual Indian rope-trick'), and black money, the collection also includes his commentary on the transition from Nehruism and planned development, to the genesis of the contemporary brilliance of India's economic performance.

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