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Remembering T N Srinivasan – the most versatile India Economist

Chennai, 13 December 2019:…Prof. Pranab K. Bardhan, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Economics at Krea University delivered the T N Srinivasan Memorial Lecture on the topic “Some Reflections on the State of Economic Statistics in India” at Krea University’s Administrative Office in the city. Hosted by the Board of Governors of IFMR and Governing Council of Krea University, the lecture was attended by leading Economists and Academicians including C Rangarajan, the 19th Governor of the Reserve Bank of India and President of the Indian Statistical Institute – a batch-mate and contemporary of TNS. The memorial lecture was moderated by Dr. Sunder Ramaswamy, Vice-Chancellor of Krea University, who introduced Prof Pranab Bardhan to the audience.

As a close associate, colleague, co-author, co-editor, mentor and very close trusty friend of T N Srinivasan, Prof Bardhan began his lecture with personal reminiscences from their early years spent together, before moving on to TNS’s immense contribution to Economics and Statistics in India. He detailed how TNS adhered to mathematical models of growth. He quoted extensively from his landmark publication ‘Poverty and Income Distribution’ that was first published in 1974, and later revised and co-authored with Prof Bardhan. He stated that TNS wrote on non-economic topics too, and was a “man of strong opinion and tongue that has illuminated many a mind.”

The final and crucial part of Prof. Bardhan’s lecture dealt with the current state of economic statistics in India. Given India’s very good reputation in statistics in the 1950s, he elaborated on the current discrepancies and conflicts that plague the system – particularly the loopholes in data collection, the lack of transparency and the political will to decentralize the data mined. Prof Bradhan also touched on TNS’s favourite topic – trade liberalization and its global impact in contrast to the Indian experience. He elaborated on the contradicting labour data and farm data reports, also quoting from the discrepancies in the Swacch Bharath reports.

The memorial lecture concluded with a brief question hour when participants expressed their concerns about the reliability of NIC data and the possibility of collecting data privately. In his final comments, Dr. Sunder Ramaswamy thanked the distinguished audience and quoted from T S Eliot’s famous lines, echoing TNS’s quest of a lifetime with his signature detour – “Where is the wisdom… lost in all the data?”

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