11 February 2010

Kakkadan Nandanath Raj

Kakkadan Nandanath Raj (K. N. Raj, 13 May 1924-10 February 2010) is a planner, visionary, economist and institution builder. Straight out from the London School of Economics in 1950 he helped in the drafting of the first five year plan, 1951-56, building the new India. His vision was not only as a planner with a socialist zeal, but also as a researcher and teacher inspiring generation of students.

I happen to be one among the last batch of M.Phil. students at the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Trivandrum - now Thiruvananthapuram to whom Professor Raj gave some formal lectures. I still remember he introducing us to Hicks' A Theory of Economic History, a classic book, which as Professor Raj said gave you something new every time you read it. His paper The Politics and Economics of Intermediate Regimes, through which he discussed a concept taken from Michal Kalecki. While discussing economic history, he exposed us to the point that econometric tools and techniques can be used and a gelling of the two is known as cliometrics.

The informal atmosphere of CDS in known to residents, but I quote a remark from my supervisor and fatheer-in-law Professor G. Niranjan Rao, "I joined the faculty of CDS in the year 1980. On my first day at the CDS, when Prof P.G.K.Panickar, the then Director intruduced me to him as a new colleague, I addressed him as "Sir". He told me firmly but politely " Don't ever address anybody as "Sir" in CDS!" That was the culture of informality he nurtured at CDS." The informal atmosphere on campus led to discussions beyond the classroom and seminars and these were very learning experiences.

One folklore in the building of CDS is this. Professor Raj was given a budget by Shri Achuta Menon, then chief minister of Kerala to start the campus. Professor Raj thought the budget, though generous, would just be enough to put up an infrastructure, but building an academic institution requires a library. This is when he roped in Laurie Baker who put up the structure with substantial cost reduction. Thus, the rest of the money could go for the library. Generations of students and academia who passed through CDS have benefited from the library, the culture of informality and the persona K.N. Raj.

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