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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 39, New Delhi, September 19, 2015

Remembering Ramaswami Iyer

Sunday 20 September 2015, by Devaki Jain


I first met Ramaswami Iyer as the husband of Suhasini Iyer—Suhasini was deeply admired and loved by a Cambridge graduate called Foy Nissen who later was in charge of the British Council Library in Mumbai. He insisted that we meet her and of course, typical of Suhasini, we were cherished and fed and our bonding began.

But the real intertwining between my family and the Ramaswami Iyers began when my husband, L.C. Jain, belonged to a special committee set up by the Planning Commission not only to look at water resources but to address the conflict in the Narmada Valley. During the committee’s meetings Lakshmi described to me a civil servant who was a member of the committee but was not like a typical bureaucrat. He found it refreshing to find somebody like Ramaswami who was open to other members’ arguments and, more importantly, showed extraordinary know-ledge of the subject. Then began a friendship and a mutual admiration which continued for decades. Lakshmi’s admiration for Ramaswami made him draw him in as an expert during the work of the World Commission on Dams, of which Lakshmi was the Vice-Chair.

 The Commission was headquartered in South Africa.

We would meet wherever we could, including in Bangalore or at coffees and lunches in Delhi. Lakshmi and Ram became almost inseparable in their passion for knowledge and progressive decisions.

 Yes, passion is how I would describe Rama-swami as we all have seen in his work related to the linking of rivers. Those of us who find the IIC the most suitable place for our relaxation or for intellectual and cultural stimulation will deeply miss the presence of this couple.

 I hope Suhasini will not hesitate to come back into circulation, as we are the larger family and would embrace her. 

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