Monday, March 27, 2017

                                  TRIBUTE TO ABID  HUSSAIN

                                      Inline image 1

Shaping India’s Future –Essays in Memory of Abid Hussain ; Edited by Deepak Nayyar and Rana Hasan ; Published by Academic Foundation ; Pages 245 ; Price Rs 995/-

When the definitive history of post-Independence India comes to be written unquestionably Prof.Abid Hussain’s name will appear in letters of gold. His spectacular contribution covered a remarkable range of areas. He wore several hats with distinction—outstanding civil servant, distinguished diplomat and a citizen totally committed to India’s advancement.

The Editors themselves are highly renowned—Deepak Nayyar has taught in Oxford, Sussex, IIM Kolkata and is currently Professor Emeritus in JNU. He was Vice Chancellor of Delhi University. He was Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India and Finance Secretary for a number of years. He has 15 books to his credit and over 75 papers in respected journals. Rana Hasan is a Ph.D in Economics from University of Maryland and an M.A from the Delhi School of Economics. He has published books on trade as also several articles in learned journals.

The book under review is in two parts. The first part includes nine essays on                       “ Economics and State” and “ Governance and Society”. The second part comprises tributes to Prof.Hussain by very eminent scholars.

We shall first take up the “ Tributes” and understand the role played by Abid Hussain. 

Jagdish Bhagwati, Professor in Columbia and  Adviser to several International Organisations declares, ”He must be remembered for his pioneering work on community development and his unwavering support for our economic reforms.”

Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes --- “ his contribution to a range of social and economic institutions is enormous. He was an irredeemable believer in India’s prospects and was eternally youthful in his optimism about what India could achieve.”

Deepak Nayyar recalls some attributes of Hussain---” He had remarkable leadership qualities, was embedded in delegation, trust and loyalty ”.

Aravind Panagariya speaks of Hussain’s diplomatic skill. Such were his attainments that the Government felt compelled to eschew the normal practice of appointing a member of the Indian Foreign Service or a politician as our Ambassador to the United States and chose him for that post instead.

Jairam Ramesh recounts how Hussain’s contributions were not confined to Industry and Trade. He authored a Landmark Report on restructuring of the Council of Industrial and Scientific Research and on the Textile Policy in the late 1980s.

Dr.Y.V.Reddy declares that “..his greatest quality has been that his very presence added to happiness all-round in every moment of his life. I had the honour and privilege to be trained by him.”Hussain was the Collector of Vishakhapatnam and Dr.Reddy was his Assistant Collector.”

Let us now deal with the Essays in the book.

Deepak   Nayyar analyses “ The State and the Economy ”. Noting the enormous diversity in the nature of the State in different areas of the world he argues that the success of a variety of models depended on the abilities of the countries and governments to make course corrections. Governments must endeavour to change the nature and quality of its intervention in the markets. differentiating between the functions, the institutional and strategic aspects.

RBI’s Ex--Governor Dr. Reddy in a perceptive essay on “Planning and Finance Commissions” examines the role of the Planning Commission, the NITI Aayog and the Finance Commission. He argues that the Planning Commission’s replacement by the NITI Aayog captures the new realities of macroeconomic management and of Union—State relations, especially the need to foster a spirit of competitive federalism within the context of broader environment of cooperation. The recommendations of the Finance Commission are relevant for NITI Aayog as they enable the States to cement their partnership with the Centre for transformation and development.

Rajiv Kumar emphasises how India chose to undertake simultaneously three distinct transitions—social, political and economic. This is a tremendous task viewing India’s continental size and diversity, He strongly recommends that “Employment Maximisation” must be chosen as the exclusive policy goal that will provide the required analytical framework for policy making in the country.

RBI’s former Deputy Governor Rakesh Mohan focuses on the Transportation needs of the country over the next twenty years. Both the quantum and the types of investment are crucial if the country is to achieve growth rates of 8—9 per cent. He calls for a step-on in public investment in railways and again a coherent and integrated strategy for the transport sector.

A very valuable essay is the unpublished essay of Abid Hussain which deals with bureaucracy in a democratic society like ours. He notes the general disenchantment with bureaucracy. It must recreate the sense of pragmatic idealism which was once its hallmark and should become more mission—oriented with a sense of pride in doing service to the people.

There are some more critical articles which we have not touched upon due to space constraints.

Each chapter has a rich bibliography. The book is a highly useful addition to the literature on India’s development.



1. Abid Saab was a man with a great sense of humour. When he was our Ambassador to USA, he was harassed by journalists during an interview. He diffused the situation by saying ‘ Gentlemen, there seems to be some confusion here. I am “Abid Hussain from India”, not “Sadam Hussain from Iraq”.---P 237

2. An interesting anecdote.”Prime Minister Indira Gandhi once said to him,”Abid Saheb, I gather that you are partial and select only those whom you know or are your friends.”. In reply Abid Hussain said, “ Yes, Madam, that is correct. But I assure you that everyone I chose is better than me !.’—P 235

3. Abid Hussain was the legendary collector of Vishakhapatnam. There is an “Abid Nagar” in that city. Abid’s only daughter was named”Vishakha”—P 240

26 / 03 / 2017

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