Economist Abhijit Sen, a former Planning Commission member and one of the country’s foremost experts on rural economy, died on Monday night. He was 72.
“He suffered a heart attack around 11 PM. We rushed him to the hospital, but it was all over by the time we got there,” said Dr Pronab Sen, his brother.
In a career spanning more than four decades, Prof Abhijit Sen taught economics at Oxford, Cambridge and New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, and held several important government positions, including the chair of the Commission of Agricultural Cost and Prices.
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He was a member of the Planning Commission from 2004 to 2014, when Manmohan Singh was the prime minister.
In 2010, he was awarded the Padma Bhusan for public service.
When the NDA came to power in 2014, it appointed Sen to head a high level task force to frame a “long term grain policy. Sen was a vocal advocate of a universal public distribution system for rice and wheat.
He would argue that the burden of food subsidy on the exchequer was often exaggerated and that the country had enough fiscal headroom to not only support a universal PDS, but also guarantee a fair price to farmers for their produce.
Sen had also been associated with several global research and multilateral organisations such as the UNDP, Asian Development Bank, Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the UN, International Fund for Agricultural Development and OECD Development Centre.
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Sen, whose father Samar Sen was a World Bank economist, studied physics at New Delhi’s St. Stephen’s college before switching to pursue a doctoral degree in economics from Cambridge University.
Sen had been suffering from breathing-related ailments for the past years, which got aggravated during the COVID-19 pandemic, said his brother, Pronab.
He is survived by wife, Jayati Ghosh — also a well-known economist –and daughter Jahnavi.