I Economic Reforms and Policy Formulation

Planning, Poverty and Political Economy of Reforms: A Tribute to Suresh D. Tendulkar

T.N. Srinivasan

Abstract This paper pays tribute to Professor Suresh D. Tendulkar’s contribution and scholarship to economics, economic-policy making, and economic reforms in India. The paper’s scope is by no means exhaustive, and primarily focuses on his contributions on economic planning in India, the political economy of economic reforms, and his important conceptual and policy-relevant work on poverty measurement. The paper also presents results on empirical exercises comparing trends in inequality, and various poverty lines in India in the recent past. The paper concludes with policy observations on economic reforms in India, and directions for further empirical research on poverty.

Keywords Poverty • Inequality • Political economy • India • Professor Suresh D. Tendulkar

JEL Classification I30 • 132 • P48


Suresh D. Tendulkar, (hereafter Suresh) joined the Planning Unit (PU) of the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) at New Delhi in 1968 soon after obtaining a doctorate from Harvard University where his thesis committee included Hollis Chenery, Hendrik Houthakker and David Kendrick. The PU had originally been established to assist Professor P.C. Mahalanobis during his term as a member of the Planning

T.N. Srinivasan (H)

Economic Growth Center, Yale University, 27 Hillhouse Avenue,

P.O. Box 208269, New Haven, CT 06520-8269, USA e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2017 3

K.L. Krishna et al. (eds.), Perspectives on Economic Development and Policy in India, India Studies in Business and Economics,

DOI 10.1007/978-981-10-3150-2_1

Commission. I joined in 1964. B.S. Minhas, who had joined in 1962, headed it. For about ten years we were colleagues, friends and co-residents at Hauz Khas. I left ISI in 1977 as I moved to Yale. Suresh left a year later to take up a professorship at the Delhi School of Economics (DSE). My friendship with Suresh, his wife Pramodini (Sunetra) and their daughters Juee and Sai continued during my three decades at Yale since 1980. We frequently corresponded and also met during my visits to India. After Suresh retired from the DSE he held various positions successively in the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council including its chairmanship and also in the national level official statistical agencies. During our long association our exchanges included personal matters and economics, policy and in particular quality of economic data. We collaborated on our book Reintegrating India with the World Economy (Srinivasan and Tendulkar 2003).

We met, for the last time it turned out, on December 30, 2009 at the conference on Frontiers of the Interface between Statistics and Sciences in celebration of the 90th birthday of Dr. C.R. Rao. Suresh, Kirit Parikh, Abhijit Baneijee and I, as chair, participated in a session on “India: Data, Statistics and Economic Policy”. Soon thereafter, on January 2, 2010 he sent me a copy of the report of the Expert Group to Review the Methodology for Estimation of Poverty chaired by him (Planning Commission 2009). The Group came up with a radically new poverty line. I recall my talking to him on my reactions (described below) to the report but I cannot find any record of this conversation. His next e-mail to me at the end of April 2010 asked me to clarify the distinction between Financial Stability which he said he did not understand and Macroeconomic Stability which he understood and described. I responded to him in three long e-mails during April 28-30, 2010. I must state here that I had briefly alluded to Euro Zone issues that were to become salient in 2011. I do not have any record of his reply to my long e-mails. His very last e-mail to me was on December 23, 2010 from Pune telling me that he was to leave Pune to reach Delhi on January 11. I neither saw him before he left for Pune nor do I recall whether he became ill before he was to leave for Delhi from Pune. I was in Delhi again in June 2011 but unfortunately I could not talk to him since he was critically ill. But I talked to Pramodini. With his passing away on June 21, 2011, India lost a great teacher, economist and policy analyst and I lost a very dear friend.

The rest of the chapter is organized as follows. I start in Sect. 1.2 with a discussion of the leading issues on planning models and processes in India as a prelude to work at ISI. Section 1.3 discusses Professor Tendulkar’s research 1968 through 1978 while he was based at ISI. This is followed by Sect. 1.4, which discusses his research at Delhi School Economics from 1978 to 2011, including his work on economic reforms of India. This is followed by a discussion on some aspects of inequality in India in Sect. 1.5, and results from econometric exercises on poverty trends in Sect. 1.6. Section 1.7 concludes.

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