Ambedkar was also an ECONOMIST


Years ago read ‘Dr. AMBEDKAR Life and Mission’ by Dhananjay Keer. Loved it. Thereafter, read ‘Thoughts on Pakistan’ by Dr Ambedkar. Written in 1941 it is as relevant today as it was then. His understanding of the sub-continent Muslim mind is outstanding.


Today he is remembered as a backward classes icon or architect of the Indian Constitution. By not remembering him as an economist we are doing a disservice to the legacy of Dr Ambedkar.


Did you know that ‘Ambedkar’s London doctoral thesis was on the management of the rupee. His Columbia dissertation was on the state-centre financial relations under the guidance of Edwin Seligman, one of the foremost authorities on public finance in the world.’ 


A brief note on his early life taken from Keerji’s book. 


“The Ambedkars came from Konkan. Ambedkar’s ancestral village is Ambavade, five miles off Mandangad, a small town in Ratnagiri District. Ambedkar’s grandfather Maloji Sakpal came of a good Mahar family. It enjoyed the honour of keeping the palanquin of the village goddess and naturally the yearly festival was a great occasion for the family to attract the attention of the whole village. 


Two of Maloji’s children survived. One was Ramji (Ambedkar father) and other was daughter Mira. The family belonged to the devotional Kabir school of thought. The Bhakti school of thought fought consolation in human attributes like compassion, benevolence and resignation to God.


The original surname of Bhim’s father was Sakpal, a family name. Bhim drew his surname Ambavadekar from his native village Ambavade. A Brahmin teacher in the High School, whose surname was Ambedkar, took such a liking to Bhim that he changed his surname to his own Ambedkar, in the schools records”. 


We present links to a series of articles on Dr Ambedkar the economist. These were published in the business paper MINT. Next, we present article links that present a different view on caste.


We dedicate this compilation to Sayajirao Gaekwad, the former Maharaja of Baroda. Here is why.


Keerji wrote, “on request of well- known Marathi author and social reformer, Krishnaji Arjun Keluskar, Sayajirao granted Bhimrao a scholarship of rupees twenty-five per mensem. In June 1913, The Maharaja of Baroda thought of sending some students to the U.S.A. for higher studies at Columbia University. Bhimrao narrated his whole story to Maharaja in his palace in Bombay and thereafter the Maharaja decided to send Bhimrao along with three others students for higher education.” Pranams to Sayajirao Gaekwad. 


1. The misappropriated legacy of Dr B R Ambedkar 2015

“If one were to sketch a typology of leaders from the time India was being imagined as a modern nation-state to the first few years of its existence, Ambedkar stands apart for combining three attributes: modernity of outlook; bringing scholarship and learning to political life; and pragmatism in public life.


In terms of scholarly output among political leaders, he stands alone. Seldom has an Indian written on as diverse a range of subjects as Ambedkar. Everything he wrote or said was deeply referenced in the style of the scholar that he was. His was not the politics of inner voice. The Problem of the Rupee: Its Origin and its Solution (1923) looked at India’s currency problem in the colonial age. Pakistan or the Partition of India (1946) was a clear-sighted and realistic appraisal of India’s partition. Thoughts on Linguistic States (1955) tackled a subject on which India still continues to tie itself into knots”.


2. The economics of Ambedkar 2016

“What is most remarkable about Ambedkar’s analysis is that he was able to conceive of the notion of “disguised unemployment” much before it came into vogue in development economics, and that he was able to anticipate one of the key insights of Nobel Prize-winning economist Arthur Lewis three decades before Lewis formulated his famous two-sector model of the economy.


Both Nehru and Ambedkar advocated state ownership of key industries to drive rapid industrial growth without closing avenues for private enterprise in the country.


One of the biggest influences on Ambedkar was American educationist and philosopher John Dewey, who became the president of the League of Industrial Democracy in 1939, and who subscribed to a broad conception of social democracy.


3. Our un-Indian Constitution 2016

“For instance, it was profoundly shaped by the system of English Common Law that had effectively been institutionalised in India. It bore a deep imprint of the Government of India Act 1935. It borrowed Directive Principles of State Policy from the Irish Constitution, and was influenced by the American debates over due process—all made to serve distinctly Indian political challenges. Even though the Constitution had the political authority of the nationalist movement behind it, it ran the risk of being vulnerable to two charges. The” practical accusation was that it was not a constitution suited to India’s needs. The theoretical charge was that the Constitution represented a kind of derivative eclecticism.”


4. Why the Ambedkar legacy matters? 2015

“In another edit, we write about why Ambedkar’s legacy matters, and why we must go beyond just quoting him tactically. “Picking and choosing quotes while ignoring the larger Ambedkarite project is an easy sport that too many indulge in these days. That Ambedkarite project is about individual liberty, the end of the caste system, social democracy, a democratic public culture, the embrace of modernity, pragmatism, constitutional methods and education for an enlightened citizenry.”


5. Ambedkar’s teacher 2016

“In this piece, Anurag Behar writes about Prof. John Dewey, who taught Ambedkar at Columbia University, New York between 1913 and 1916. He ends his work quoting Ambedkar quoting Dewey, “… Prof. Dewey said... Every society gets encumbered with what is trivial, with dead wood from the past, and with what is positively perverse. As a society becomes more enlightened, it realizes that it is responsible not to conserve and transmit the whole of its existing achievements, but only such as to make for a better future society. The school is its chief agency for the accomplishment of this end.”


6. BR Ambedkar: In his own words 2016

“B.R. Ambedkar was a man of many parts—a scholar, a social reformer, a politician, a religious thinker and the moving spirit of the Indian constitution. He wrote prolifically over his nearly four decades in public life. Here, Mint offers a very brief glimpse into his astonishingly diverse oeuvre. These selections have been chosen with an eye on contemporary relevance, and hence do not cover what Ambedkar wrote on the more immediate issues of his time.


Ambedkar was a trained economist with two PhD degrees. As in most other aspects of life, Ambedkar was an uncompromising modernist in economic matters. He believed that the industrialization of India was the best antidote to rural poverty”.


In the spirit of free debate we present a series of articles that provide an alternate view on caste. For those who want to understand Bharat the last link has excerpts from a book by Maharshi Aurobindo titled ‘India’s Rebirth’.


1. When caste was not a bad word 

2. Why post-independent India is at odds with its true nature

3. Caste is a socio political institution

4. Why caste cannot be so one dimensional

5. History of the word DALIT 

6. A noted Gandhian Dharampalji wrote that according to surveys done by the British in 1920 in Madras Presidency the maximum number of scholars were Sudras

7. Thoughts on Pakistan by Dr Ambedkar

8. India's Rebirth by Sri Aurobindo  

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