ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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On Being One of Many Ekalavyas

This brief piece notes that there were a number of economists and others who received career boosts from publication of their articles in the Economic Weekly. They were not members of any established centres of power or learning and had admiration for the journal and like Ekalavya they did their bit to help the journal, when needed.

DISCUSSIONfebruary 28, 2009 vol xliv no 9 EPW Economic & Political Weekly126A Premchand ( retired from the International Monetary Fund and now lives in the US. On Being One of Many EkalavyasA PremchandThis brief piece notes that there were a number of economists and others who received career boosts from publication of their articles in theEconomic Weekly. They were not members of any established centres of power or learning and had admiration for the journal and like Ekalavya they did their bit to help the journal, when needed. In looking back, it may be appropriate to raise the question not in terms of what one has done for the Economic Weekly (EW) both in the first and second avatars but what it has done to the careers of many young economists, and several others from academic disciplines such as sociology, political science, public admin-istration, etc. Many of the top officials of the institutions in Delhi and Bombay were known to be within the consultation circle of Sachin Chaudhuri, and most of them were also publishing articles in the EW without their names (EPW, 3, 10 and 17 January). The weekly may have benefited from their wiser counsels but it also offered its pages to the publication of articles drawn from young minds outside the well- known establishments. These young minds looked forward to writing for the weekly and publication therein helped the careers of many including the present writer. They were inspired by the example of the EW and like Ekalavya in the Mahabharata, they considered it a privilege to be associated with the journal and to provide such assist-ance as was needed as a part of the non- financial “teacher gift”. How the Ekalavyas helped the second avatar of the journal Economic & Political Weekly(EPW) is recount-ed here. Inevitably, a part of it is personal.During the late 1950s some of us work-ing in the Ministry of Finance, Delhi, mostly comprising junior officers drawn from outside the economic division, formed a small discussion group which for want of a better name was called “non-descripts”. This group used to meet once in a fortnight in the lounge of Raisina road apartments (between Krishi Bhavan and Chelmsford Club and now the Press Club of India) and discuss the articles that appeared in the EW andThe Economist. The purpose was modest and was limited to self-education. Many of us were bored with the routine work in the office and were in search of different avenues seeking a greater understanding of the broader issues on the political and economic fronts.By the end of 1961, I completed writing a book (later published asControl of Public Expenditure in India, 1963) that was also accepted for publication. The publisher suggested, however, that it might be adv-antageous to publish an article or two drawn from the book in established jour-nals such as theEW. I mentioned this to one of my friends in the group who lost no time to tell me that articles by unknown persons like me were not likely to be pub-lished in the EW and that I should be pre-pared for disappointment. Being made of sterner stuff and endowed with a thicker skin, I decided to send an article to the EW.My expectations were very low but to my pleasant surprise, it was published as the lead article in the following week. The publication worked like magic for my morale which now reached new heights. My friend, who was shocked by this, wanted to know whether I had any friends higher up. That was the beginning of a long association with the weekly both as a reader and as an infrequent contributor of commentaries, book reviews, and articles mostly with my name and some without my name. Much later I had a glimpse of Sachin in the corridors of North Block.First ArticleLater I moved from the finance ministry to the Fourth Finance Commission. All of a sudden, the EW stopped publication and the reason, we were told by a few who were privy to what was going on in Bombay, was financial. Like most of its readers, we too felt that the demise was unfortunate but not being close to any power centres, we were not sure as to what we could do to help its revival. It was just a hope that it would come back with renewed vigour but no one among our group had any idea as to how that miracle was going to be achieved. But that miracle did happen and EW be-came EPW, and began publication with a cover page, although the contents display was not different from the previous version.But much had changed during this short period. The two new financial dailies, The Financial Express andThe Economic
DISCUSSIONEconomic & Political Weekly EPW february 28, 2009 vol xliv no 9127Times began to offer platforms for publica-tion of articles. Those who had something urgent to convey began to write to the dailies. Their remuneration was also more attractive. The EPW had to devise new approaches to attract new customers and to increase its circulation. It was still oper-ating on a shoestring budget and by this time it became a normal habit of the man-agement and staff to do so. But they perse-vered and came out with new formats that began to attract a growing clientele. One such format that I was associated with at the initial stages was the one relating to “Review of Management”. I was told that this initiative was taken at the suggestion of some members of the faculty of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmeda-bad. (It started its own in-house journal a little later.) After the second issue or so, both R K Hazari and Krishna Raj felt that the circle of contributors should be expanded and they called me to explore whether I could get some contributions from Delhi-based writers. I was at that time working with the Planning Commission in what was known as the Management and Development Administration Division. I quickly got a few colleagues together and arranged articles for at least two issues of the review and some of them became regular contributors later. Meanwhile, theEPW began to assert its own place in the highly competitive business of the financialmedia.Thereafter, I moved to the Ford Founda-tion and later to the International Monetary Fund. During all those years EPW kept its pages open to my infrequent contributions. The weekly carved its own niche and be-came an enduring part of India’s intellectual life. Its unique features facilitated the achievement of a distinct place. While the founder-editor had cast his own long shadow on the form and content of the weekly, he did not see it as a platform only for his ideas. Rather, he seemed to have believed that whatever was fit to be printed would be published. If he had believed that EW was primarily his mouthpiece then presumably it would have gone the same way as Gorwala’s Opinion or Stone’sWeekly.The EW and EPW were seen on a wider canvas that went beyond economics (and the contributious of “Gangs” drawn from the RBI and other centres) into politics (who can ever ignore Romesh Thapar’s “Delhi Letter”), into public affairs, the feminist movement, dalit literature and a variety of other issues that are a part of India’s life.It was that wider canvas which attract-ed writers from the left, right and centre, from national and international institu-tions, from young and old, and from men and women. All that the weekly seemed to insist on was cogency of reasoning and it is this flexible approach and capacity for adaptation that enabled it to survive and move up from strength to strength.Unless the gods are tempted in some ways, the journal will continue to grow largely for the reason that it was never individual-centred and welcomed all types of views. In the process, it has contri-buted to the emergence of a whole batta-lion of Ekalavyas and they owe their careers, in part, to the exposure given to them by the weekly. Green Left Weekly

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