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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 31, July 20, 2013

Remembering K.S. Krishnaswamy: Essential Mysorean and Sensitive Economist

Sunday 21 July 2013, by Devaki Jain



The ‘culture’ of a Mysorean has been captured through the writings of R. K. Narayan. However, for those who migrated to Delhi from Mysore, it was a subject we often went back to noting our uniqueness with a sense of contentment if not quiet pride. We cherished the fact that we were a rather laid-back people, with local concerns and great tolerance. Often seen as dull for not rising up like our neighbours, the Tamils or the Malayalis, living somewhat sedately, homebodies, seemingly content with our contexts.

KSK, as many of us knew and called him, but Krishna to those who were his own colleagues either in universities or in the RBI, like K.N. Raj, or Dr Manmohan Singh, epitomised these virtues.

I was introduced to him by K.N. Raj, when I was looking for Indian material to teach a course in social accounting, a paper that had been introduced into the BA Hons course at Delhi University in the same year that I joined the Miranda House Economics Department. KSK was then the Financial Advisor to the Planning Commission.

To my great good fortune, I found a man who was gentle and willing to respond without looking busy and self-important. He shared some raw reports which had come from the RBI and explained some of the Indian concepts to me. Of course our roots clinched the deal so to speak and we became strong family friends.

Many years later, as I was building a small centre for women’s studies, and he was the Deputy Governor in the RBI, I went to see him and made him more or less swear that when he retires to Bangalore, he shall not join the councils of the famous centres of economic research in Bangalore, like the ISEC or IIM or any other, but will join and advise our little centre called the Institute of Social Studies Trust—which he did! He used to constantly encourage us saying how much more interesting it is to work with grounded small centres doing pioneering work on data and analysis of households in poverty with special reference to women and children. He was our in-house guru and the Institute’s name rose because of his stature.

At least 10, if not more, young activists and scholars of Karnataka were guided by him apart from some others who were known scholars, such as Gita Sen, U. Kalpagam and Srilata Batlivala, all of whom worked under his guidance. His gentleness and ability to nurture the raw youngsters has left a permanent mark of devotion to him in their minds.

As I joined the South Commission, and used to report to him some of the issues, he prepared the first draft of a South-South Bank to be discussed by the Commission!

EPW was his most favourite space and nurturing it, helping in its publications was a passion and again the ISST was the beneficiary of that association as we learnt the politics of India’s economic history. Never impatient, never showing off, never interested in the pomp of high office, deeply respectful and loving of Madura, a real comrade and wife, KSK was the essential Mysorean.

I for one could not bear to hear that he had passed away. I had been to visit him just a few months ago and as always talked of policies
and governance in Karnataka and what was happening to the wonderful foundations for localised government and good financial mana-gement that he and his associates in Karnataka’s Economic Planning Council, L.C. Jain, Rajani Kothari and others, had set up some decades ago.

The author, a noted development economist, is a former Member of the South Commission.

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