The top economists of India:

In an ultra capitalistic society such as ours, where money is worth so much more than the paper it’s printed on and when finding pennies on the sidewalk constitutes a lucky day, the presence watchmen who can look out for this “utopia” of ours is quintessential. Our nation’s economy has been through a roller coaster ride since its independence – influenced by politics, socio-cultural practices, countless scams and just general nonchalance. Yet, the reason I could afford a laptop to write this on and you could afford a device to not have anything better to do is a testament to the work of the real ‘Avengers’ of our nation. After a lot of research, I would like to share with you the contributions of three of these economists and why you should know more about them than your favourite Bollywood celebrity.

1) Dr. Amartya Sen

Sen has made contributions to welfare economics, social choice theory, economic and social justice, economic theories of famines, and indexes of the measure of well-being of citizens of developing countries. He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998 and Bharat Ratna in 1999 for his work in welfare economics. He was also awarded the inaugural Charleston-EFG John Maynard Keynes Prize in recognition of his work on welfare economics in February 2015 during a reception at the Royal Academy in the UK. Sen’s work on ‘Choice of Technique’ complemented that of Maurice Dobb. In a developing country, the Dobb-Sen strategy relied on maximising investible surpluses, maintaining constant real wages and using the entire increase in labour productivity due to technological change, to raise the rate of accumulation. In other words, workers were expected to demand no improvement in their standard of living despite having become more productive.

In 1981, Sen published Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (1981); a book in which he argued that famine occurs not only from a lack of food, but from inequalities built into mechanisms for distributing food. Sen also argued that the Bengal famine was caused by an urban economic boom that raised food prices, thereby causing millions of rural workers to starve to death when their wages did not keep up.

Sen was inspired by violent acts he had witnessed as a child leading up to the Partition of India in 1947. On one morning, a Muslim laborer named Kader Mia stumbled through the rear gate of Sen’s family home, bleeding from a knife wound in his back. Because of his extreme poverty, he had come to Sen’s primarily Hindu neighborhood searching for work; his choices were the starvation of his family or the risk of death in coming to the neighborhood. The price of Kader Mia’s economic unfreedom was his death. This experience led Sen to begin thinking about economic unfreedom from a young age.

He is regarded as one of the top economists of all times.

2) Dr. Raghuram Rajan

Any article on Indian economists would be incomplete without mentioning the Governor of the RBI. He made a name for himself as the Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund between 2003 and 2006. Rajan was one of the few economists in the world who predicted the global economic collapse of 2008. In India, as the RBI governor, Rajan has been credited with bringing back stability to the volatile domestic currency and in keeping credit rates well-controlled to boost economic growth. As Governor of the RBI, Rajan made curbing inflation his primary focus, bringing down retail inflation from 9.8% in September 2013 to 3.78% in July 2015 – the lowest since the 1990s. Wholesale inflation came down from 6.1% in September 2013 to a historic low of -4.05% in July 2015. Under Rajan, the RBI adopted consumer price index (CPI) as the key indicator of inflation, which is the global norm, despite the government recommending otherwise. Foreign exchange reserves of India grew by about 30% to the tune of $380 billion in two years. Under Rajan, the RBI has licensed two universal banks and approved eleven payments banks to extend banking services to the nearly two-thirds of the population who are still deprived of banking facilities.

In 2013, he was awarded the fifth Deutsche Bank Prize in Financial Economics for his “ground-breaking research work which influenced financial and macro-economic policies around the world”.

In 2014, he was conferred with the ‘Best Central Bank Governor’ award by Euromoney Magazine.

In 2014, he was conferred with the ‘Governor of the Year’ award 2014 from the London-based financial journal Central Banking.

3) Dr. Manmohan Singh

Though most of us recognise him for his service during his tenure as Prime Minister, it is important that we also acknowledge what an amazing economist he is. He is known to have been the brain behind India’s socio-economic reforms and economic liberalisation. A man of a few words, having received his doctorate in economics from the University of Oxford, Singh served as the RBI governor and as the Chief Economic Adviser of the GoI before taking over as the Finance Minister in the P. V. Narasimha Rao government. He has been highly successful as the Finance Minister and as a reform oriented economist.

Singh as Finance Minister, freed India from the Licence Raj, the source of slow economic growth and corruption in the Indian economy for decades. He liberalised the Indian economy, allowing it to speed up development dramatically. During his term as Prime Minister, Singh continued to encourage growth in the Indian market, enjoying widespread success in these matters. Singh, along with the former Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram, have presided over a period where the Indian economy has grown with an 8–9% economic growth rate. In 2007, India achieved its highest GDP growth rate of 9% and became the second fastest growing major economy in the world. Impressive, isn’t it?

Our economy is arguably the single greatest driver of all of our lives. It changes everything from how far your car can travel to how many onions you can afford to use in your curry. There are countless more unsung heroes who have helped build and maintain our economy. It is imperative that we take some time out to learn more about and appreciate these largely unsung heroes.

This concludes our list of the top economists of India.

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