Abhijit Sen, a renowned agriculture economist passed away on Monday
Abhijit Sen, a well-known agriculture economist and former member of the Planning Commission under the previous government of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), died On Monday. He was 72 years.
‘He had a heart attack around 11 o’clock at night. We rushed him to the hospital, but by the time we got there, it was too late,’ said Pronab Sen, who was also an economist and the chairman of the National Statistical Commission and Chief Statistician of India.
Abhijit Sen was also head of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) in the first NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He then authored the report of the High-Level Committee on Long Term Grain Policy in July 2000.
The important report said that the CACP should be given more power and that it should set minimum support prices based on the ‘C2’ cost of production, which the government had to accept. This recommendation—to include all paid-out cultivation costs in cash and in kind, as well as the estimated value of unpaid family labour and rent/interest forgone on owned land and fixed capital assets—led to the ‘Swaminathan formula,’ which caught the attention of farmer groups.
The National Commission on Farmers, which was led by M. S. Swaminathan and gave its final report in April 2006, said that the MSPs of crops should be at least 50% higher than the ‘C2’ costs. The Abhijit Sen committee, on the other hand, had suggested that only the ‘C2’ costs of the most efficient producing regions be taken into account.
It also favoured a public distribution system that gave rice and wheat to everyone at the same price and got rid of the ‘below poverty line’ and ‘above poverty line’ groups. This was then put into the National Food Security Act of 2013 by the UPA government. Now, more than a third of the country’s population gets wheat and rice at the same price of Rs 2 and Rs 3 per kg.
Sen also did a lot of good work in the academic world. In 1981, he got his PhD in Economics from the University of Cambridge. ‘The agrarian constraint to economic development: The case of India’ was the title of his thesis. In 1985, he joined Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Centre for Economics and Planning.
This centre, which had well-known scholars like Prabhat and Utsa Patnaik, Krishna Bharadwaj, Amit Bhaduri, Deepak Nayyar, C P Chandrasekhar, and Jayati Ghosh (his wife), became known for its strong left-liberal orientation and quantitative research that supported critical thinking in economics.
Sen’s wife, Jayati, and daughter, Jahnavi Sen, who is a deputy editor at The Wire, are the only people who will remember him.