Seventh P K Gopalakrishnan Memorial Lecture

The Memorial lecture started with Prof Sunil Mani, Director welcoming all to the Seventh PK Gopalakrishnan Memorial Lecture. He described Prof Gopalakrishnan as an eminent sociologist and economist who played an important role in Kerala especially during 1970-80. He was secretary to the Government of Kerala during the Chief Minister ship of Sri Achutha Menon, and was also instrumental in setting up a number of institutions supporting technological change and public policy making in Kerala which also included the CDS. He played a pivotal role in helping Prof KN Raj in setting up the CDS. Dr Gopalakrishnan had taken his masters in social science from the Institute of Social Studies at The Hague followed by a PhD in Economics from the University of Amsterdam. He was also a very good economic administrator at the state level and was instrumental in establishing the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment which is functioning well thanks to the strong intellectual leadership given by Dr  Gopalakrishnan. Prof Mani pointed out that there are two lecture series in his memory, one at the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment and the other at the CDS which started in 2004. He said that the last 4 lectures had been delivered by Professors from JNU.

Prof Mani introduced Prof Thorat as a very distinguished academician who had been the Chairman of the UGC and also of the ICSSR until recently. He pointed out that he was President of all the major Economic Associations in the country. He was President of Indian Economic Association, Indian Society of Agricultural Economics and President of Indian Society of Labour Economics. In addition to being Professor Emeritus of JNU, he also holds the KR Narayanan Chair for Human Rights and Social Justice at the Mahatma Gandhi University at Kottayam. He was awarded the Padmashree in 2008.  Prof Thorat has been able to publish quite extensively even though he very much involved in various administrative capacities, his recent book being ‘Social Science Research in India: Status Issues and Policy,’  by Oxford University Press and another forthcoming publication ‘Bridging the Social Gap-perspective on Dalit Empowerment’, by Sage. Prof Mani also welcomed the family members of Dr PK Gopalakrishnan who had come for the meeting.

Prof Thorat started his lecture by saying that he was very privileged to have been asked to deliver the PKG lecture at the CDS. He said he would be looking into the issue of inter-group inequality in India with the main focus on inter-caste inequality in the economic sphere which has increasingly become a matter of major concern.
He said that group inequality associated with caste, gender, ethnicity and religion has been recognised and that they have also developed group-based policies for certain social groups, such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes in the form of reservation policies in the public sector.  The group-specific policies in informal form have also been developed for groups such as women, religious minorities and nomadic and denotified tribes.

He pointed out that in recent times, there has been a growing demand for the affirmative action policy by other groups such as women, religious minorities like Muslims, Dalits Christians.  In this context, the issue of group inequality and the policies to deal with them has become a subject of discussion and debate.  In this context, it has become necessary to understand the nature of the group inequality, their causes and possible solutions.

He said he would be discussing the insight from the economic theories of discrimination to understand the causes of group inequality, their sources through discrimination and exclusion and the possible solutions.  The theoretical discussion will take stock of theories of economic discrimination with focus on Neo-Classical, Marxists and other theoretical approaches developed in the United States of America and in Indian context discussion will mainly discuss the thinking of  Dr B.R. Ambedkar on caste inequality.

After the lecture, the floor was thrown open for an informal interactive session with students, research scholars and those from the audience. At the end of the discussions, Prof Sunil Mani thanked Prof Thorat for his inspiring lecture and also thanked the family members of Dr PK Gopalakrishan for generously funding the lecture series. He informed that the next lecture was scheduled to be held in December of this year and that Prof Rajmohan Gandhi has been invited to deliver the lecture.