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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 22, May 16, 2009

Tribute: Ruddar Datt

Monday 18 May 2009, by Kamal Nayan Kabra

Mainstream offers its belated homage to the memory of Prof Ruddar Datt, who passed away last March, with the following tribute. Two of his articles were published in this journal following his death.

It is sad news for the readers of Mainstream that Prof Ruddar Datt, a regular contributor who used to enlighten them on a wide range of current economic affairs, is no more. Indeed, it is sad news for a large number of students of economics spread all over the country who used to benefit a great deal from one of the most popular books on the Indian economy authored and regularly revised and updated by Prof Ruddar Datt. I have come across many Ph.D theses whose authors cited the popular book of Prof Datt as the source of many important facts. His was indeed a book that used to be replete with the latest on nearly all the recent developments, facts and controversies on the vexed issues concerning the changes and challenges confronting the Indian economy. How to combine a popular and highly intelligible presentation with an insight into the working of the Indian economy was really his forte.

Many may not know that he was equally versatile in writing in Hindi as well. In fact, he authored many books in Hindi and a dictionary of technical terms in Hindi is a valuable contribution. What is said above is an aspect of a varied and fruitful life and contribution of Prof Datt that is perhaps too well known. What is equally important is that he was a keen researcher in various facets of the Indian economy and conducted many studies. He remained very active after superannuating from Delhi University where as an able educational administrator, he completed his tenure as the Principal of the School of Correspondence Courses, a college that was among the pioneers in distance education in India. He was also for a while made in-charge of the administration of Ramjas College when it had to be rescued from a troubled period of its existence. After his term in Delhi University he was associated with the Institute of Human Development and continued his research work there.

Thus Prof Datt was a well-known and respected teacher, researcher, author and publicist whose voice could always be heard articulating the needs, aspirations and interests of the common person. This was in keeping with his role as an active leader of the movements of the university and college teachers—a role that he carried out with distinction as the President of the Delhi University Teachers Association, better known as DUTA. In fact, he was very popular among his peers as can be seen from the fact that he was elected President of two professional organisations of teachers and researchers, the Indian Economic Association and the Indian Society of Labour Economics, in the same year (1991)! An author and editor of many books on economic problems in both Hindi and English, he was associated with many magazines and journals.

What would always remain with many like me as an enduring memory is his soft and gentle behaviour and unassuming personality. He always remained a warm-hearted friend who was easily considered as one who had malice toward none and good wishes for everyone. I know how serious would be his loss to the profession and friends. His son is a noted economist whose researches on the question of poverty are well known. Similarly his daughter is a well-known teacher and an ardent researcher in the field of gender studies.

A prominent economist, Dr Kabra is a former Professor (now retired), Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi.

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