Ignoring Ambedkar’s economic thoughts unjust: Book


New Delhi: Indian society has done great injustice to itself by ignoring the economic thoughts of national icon B.R. Ambedkar, a new book says.

“After all, his economic thoughts were not parochial,” says scholar Narendra Jadhav in his latest book, “Ambedkar: An Economist Extraordinaire” (Konark).

“What Ambedkar always had in mind was in the best interest of the nation as a whole,” the author says. “To brand him only as a leader of the downtrodden in India is an insult to this great patriot.”

The 270-page book adds: “What is equally disheartening is depriving the Indian society of the benefit of his (Ambedkar’s) economic thoughts, an act which is self-defeating for India as a nation.”

Ambedkar’s basic training was as an economist, Jadhav points out.

Ambedkar (1891-1956) was awarded the degrees of M.A. and PhD in economics by Columbia University in the US in 1915 and 1917 respectively.

The degree of doctor of science (DSc), which the London of School of Economics conferred on him in 1923, was also for research in economics.

Ambedkar’s PhD dissertation, “The Evolution of Provincial Finance in British India”, is considered a seminal contribution to the field of public finance. It analysed the evolution of the centre-state financial relations in British India.

His DSc dissertation, “The Problem of the Rupee: Its Origin and Its Solution”, is a magnum opus and seen as a major contribution to the field of monetary economics.

“Ambedkar’s professional career bears a distinct imprint of an economist,” the book says.

“Various memoranda and statements that he submitted to the government (under British rule as well as in independent India) are indicative of his deep insights into India’s economic problems.

“His speeches are replete with stimulating economic thoughts. He is probably the first thinker to analyse economic dimensions of social maladies in India, such as the caste system and untouchability.”

Jadhav says that not many economists are even aware that on the currency question, Ambedkar crossed swords with influential economic thinkers such as John Maynard Keynes.

The book says that Ambedkar — who later embraced Buddhism — presented a perceptive critique of Marxism in his essay, “Buddha or Karl Marx”.

He also spelt out his views on the ideal strategy for India’s economic development in his Memorandum, “States and Minorities” (1947).

The book says that the widespread ignorance regarding Ambedkar’s contribution as an economist was “shocking and unfortunate”.

Jadhav says that due honour had been given to the contributions of Dadabhai Nauroji and Mahadev Govind Ranade both as freedom fighters and as economists.

“But the same, unfortunately, has not happened in the case of Ambedkar although his contribution to economics was no less important, to say the least.”

Jadhav, an economist, educationist and administrator, has been a member of the Planning Commission and chief economist of the Reserve Bank of India.