K N Raj Memorial Meeting 2018

5 February, 2018

A memorial meeting to commemorate the 8th anniversary of Prof. KN Raj was held at the Centre on Monday, 5 February 2017. The meeting was attended by friends, colleagues, faculty, staff and students along with other members of the CDS community.

Prof Sunil Mani, Director, reflected on his close association with Prof. Raj and highlighted on two qualities of Prof. Raj that is worthy of emulation by younger researchers.
i)    Prof. Raj had an uncanny sense of identifying and researching on issues that are of a current and continuing nature;
ii)     One could disagree with him on professional matters and still remain as friends with him.

Prof Mani introduced the two invited speakers who were old students as well as colleagues of Prof Raj to share their thoughts and reflections on his contribution to teaching and research. Prof. Mridul Eapen, he said, had the privilege of being a student of Raj, as well as being on the faculty of the Centre for many years and who is at present  Member of the State Planning Board, as well as honorary fellow and member of the CDS governing board. He then introduced Prof Chiranjib Sen who was a student of Prof. Raj in the Delhi School of Economics and later joined the CDS along with his wife Gita Sen as faculty in the 1980’s and who played a significant role in teaching and research in the CDS. He mentioned that these two people who were students and later on faculty of Prof. Raj were the aptest persons to share their thoughts on this day.

Prof. Mridul Eapen started off by saying that this was a very emotional moment for her and that she was highly honoured to have been invited to speak and reflect on her teacher and mentor who had had a maximum influence on her research and research ethics. She remembers that it was Prof. Raj who steered DSE through its glorious era as Director from 1962 onwards. He had been able to bring in a lot of stalwarts and restructure courses during his directorship. As a student there, she recollects his abilities as a teacher and how he was so very socially aware of the Indian Economy.  Later on at the CDS, as a faculty, she remembers how he was able to imbibe in them a sense of ethics and honesty in research, not allowing them to compromise on quality or take any short cuts. She went on to say that it was part of his greatness that made it possible to differ with him on views, but still be friends with him. She concluded by saying that she was so proud to have been his student.

Chiranjib Sen remembers how the CDS has always touched his heart and how that emotional bond and lifelong loyalty to the centre is entirely due to his association with Dr Raj. He said that this was true of all those who came in contact with Raj who were invariably touched by his personality. Recollecting his student days in the DSE, he remembers the intellectually lively debates and discussions on the changing economy and new concepts and ideas from the new generation economists. Coming to the CDS he remembers how Raj was open to encouraging anyone from any back ground to learn economics at the CDS. He brought in new areas of study like agrarian structure and commercialisation of rural economy, commercialisation of agriculture, growth and stagnation of the Indian economy, demography, population and development and savings. His teaching methods by using index cards were always meticulous and well prepared. He would also insist on written work from his students, and maintained a very close student-guide relationship. Prof. Chiranjib recollects the lighter moments that he spent at Prof. Raj’s house where they would meet in the evenings from time to time. From these informal talks, it was clear to understand the deep respect that Prof. Raj had for Jawaharlal Nehru and also about his close association with Pandit Nehru during the preparation of the First Plan. He recollects Prof Raj’s intense love for Kerala, its culture, history and people and how this always fascinated him. His need to keep in touch and stay connected with the world was also obvious, particularly when he was restricted to his home due to old age and illness. Dr Sen concluded by saying that Dr Raj was a practical thinker, and thought deeply, his bias for hope always made him look forward to something positive and constructive.

Prof Sunil Mani thanked Prof. Mridul Eapen and Prof. Chiranjib Sen for their nice reflections and invited anyone from the floor to share their experiences.

Prof.  KP Kannan, former faculty, Director and present governing body member and an honorary fellow of CDS, said that he could not resist the temptation to join in with the reflections about Dr Raj. He said that he was never a part of the DSE and had only known Prof Raj from the time of joining CDS. He, however, was part of the rival school – the Bombay school which also had its different views on the Indian economy. Prof. Kannan said that it was when Prof. Raj was not keeping well that he was able to visit him at home and have very informal talks about subjects that he was not able to talk about earlier. Earlier he never had the time as he was always busy and travelling to so many counties all over the world for lectures and meetings. When asked why he left the Planning Commission Prof. Raj said that he was not interested in a government job and wanted to be a teacher and researcher. Prof. Kannan remembers as young researchers at CDS they were sent by him to several agricultural research centres in Kerala to study mixed cropping patterns directly. Prof Raj also wrote extensively in journals that were accessible to lay persons, thus being able to convey his ideas to the common people. Panchayati Raj and decentralized planning were areas of great interest to him. Prof Kannan remembers that he was always excited to talk about and explore new ideas, and it was this quality that made the Centre a credible institution for research. He went on to say that Prof. Raj was committed to democracy and equity and reflected on his views about communism and capitalism. He concluded by saying that even though Raj was an agnostic, he did have a leaning on Buddha.

Concluding the meeting, Prof Mani thanked all three speakers for their reflections and requested them to put down in writing these memories for recording in the newly started archives set up for maintaining the history of CDS. He said that as a start, a collection of papers by the founding fathers has recently been compiled. Prof Mani pointed out that many in the audience had never seen or heard or had the privilege of knowing or working with the founding fathers. Therefore, as a first step last year, many of the buildings have been named after the founding fathers. He said, this year a series of workshops on topics close to those of the founding fathers would be conducted. The first would be on the National Health  Policy which was an area that was close to Prof. PGK Panikar, first Director of CDS and Prof. TN Krishnan who was instrumental in bringing the Population and Development programme to the centre. These workshops will be an organic way of remembering the contributions of these people by remembering the area in which they were active. The second workshop on Technology Transfer which will be a way of remembering Prof KK Subrahmanian who had made important contributions in the study of technology and innovation at the  CDS. He finally thanked everyone, particularly Gopal Raj, son of Prof KN Raj for all his help and in allowing the meeting to be conducted earlier, on the 5th  of February, as the actual day, 10th  February falls on a holiday.