Institute for Social and Economic Change

Professor V K R V RAO Centenary Year (2007-2008)vkrvrao-photo.jpg (34975 bytes)

Professor V K R V Rao

V KR V Rao

Biographical Sketch




VKRV Rao Prizes

VKRV Rao Memorial Lectures


He won the prestigious Adam Smith Prize in 1935; he was one of the three in the first group of Ph.Ds that Cambridge University produced in economics, the other two being Hans W Singer (of the World Bank) and Alec K Cairncross (Economic advisor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher).

His academic brilliance brought him close to the likes of Lord John Maynard Keynes who enrolled him as a member of his famous Political Economy Club. (Keynes was at the time engaged in producing his epoch making work, "The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money", which triggered off the Keynesian revolution in economic theory and policy)

He was awarded Ph.D degree from Cambridge in 1936; his dissertation was a pioneering exercise in estimating India’s national income, which became a classic soon after its publication in 1940 and provided a method for national income estimation for many decades thereafter. .

On return to India, after a brief stint as Senior Lecturer in Economics in Andhra University, Waltair, he was appointed as Principal and Professor of Economics in L D Arts College, Ahmedabad in 1937, where he continued till 1942. (He was also concurrently Principal, H.L College of Commerce).

He was the first Chairholder in Economics at Delhi University in 1942 and continued in that position till 1961. He was instrumental in introducing innovative courses for B.A (Honours) and M.A degrees as also for putting in place (for the first time) a Ph.D. programme in Delhi University.

In his assignment as Director of Statistics, Govt. of India (1944-45) he prepared the first Food Statistics of India in 1944, which later became a regular exercise. The year 1945 saw the publication of his book Planning Economic Transition from War to Peace in India (Vora, Bombay).

As Planning Advisor, Government of India (1946) he brought out a systematic food Plan for India both for production and distribution taking into account nutritional and regional deficiencies. He also drew up a project for a large scale nutritional survey to be conducted all over the country and got the survey scheme sent to Provincial Governments. This also led him to write a path-breaking article in Sankhya that presaged human development indicators rather than mere per capita income as a measure of development.

The year 1946 saw the publication of his book "India and International Currency Plans" which was a milestone in the research in Indian monetary economics.

In 1947, Rao was appointed as the Indian expert to the United Nations Sub-Commission on Economic Development on the recommendation of Hans Singer, in which capacity, he was instrumental in getting food from America under PL 480 at subsidized prices. Later, Rao served on the Committee that set up the World Food Programme with Hans Singer in the Chair. All these experiences culminated in the book "Turning World Resources to the World Welfare, 1950".

He founded the Delhi School of Economics and became its first Director in 1948. He envisaged it as an institution which would combine the activities of a department of economics and an all-India research centre where besides basic research appropriate for a university department, research on development policies relevant for a developing economy like India would also be pursued. He attracted talented young people as faculty, many of whom became very influential as scholars and policy makers.

By 1953, Delhi School had embarked on an expansion drive; shifted its premises to the new arts faculty building; new faculty was absorbed and new research projects were taken up, and in 1955 sifted to its own spacious building. He was very proud of it and took pains to keep it impeccable and shining. . The focus of the DSE which was limited to Economics later expanded to include Sociology, Commerce, and Human Geography. A valuable study during these years was "Economic Review of Refugee Rehabilitation in India" in five parts one each of five townships – Tripuri, Faridabad, Kingsway Camp, Nilokheri and Rajpura.

In 1957, assumed charge as Vice Chancellor of Delhi University. Notable among his achievements are: introduction of the novel concept of taking the University to the public by which he arranged lectures on different topics for the benefit of the general public at the nominal admit fee of Re 1 per head; dress code for convocation ceremony which was well received by both faculty and students; brought about changes in curriculum and methods in the light of his Cambridge experience, particularly for M.A and Honours students. Another novel endeavor was the constitution of a statutory Board of Non-Collegiate Women Education with led to greater enrolment of women in courses of instruction. The Gandhian in him prompted him, with assistance from UGC and Gandhi Peace foundation to offer Rs. One lakh to any Indian university which built a Gandhi Bhawan, made provisions for Gandhian Studies and for meetings or discussions on Gandhian ideas.

He took over as Director of the Institute of Economic Growth which he had nursed into life as a breakaway from the DSE. In fact his becoming the Vice Chancellor of Delhi University helped him to do the needed spadework for the creation IEG. During his tenure as Director, IEG (1960- 1963), Rao managed to get financial help from the Government of India – Morarji Desai was the Finance Minister then – for all-round development of the Institute, particularly its Library. A significant research work undertaken by the Institute was ‘Greater Delhi: A Study in Urbanization 1940-57’ under the direction of P B Desai. A few of his notable academic contributions were made during this period: in 1961, his book ‘Education and Employment – A case Study of Delhi University Graduates (Bombay, Asia) was published, followed by ‘Foreign Aid and India’s Economic Development (jointly with Dharam Narayan) (Bombay, Asia) and ‘Essays in Economic Development’ (Bombay, Asia).

Rao joined the Planning Commission in 1963; he was the Member in charge of Education and other allied areas. Notable publications during his days at Planning Commission are: Evaluation Report of Intensive Area Scheme, Delhi, IEG, followed in 1965 by A Study on the Working of Intensive Area Scheme of Khadi and Village Industries Commission, and "Education and Human Resource Development" (1966).

He was elected to Parliament from Bellary Constituency in Karnataka (a place he had visited for many years on vacation to stay with his brother in law RMVSRao) and he was sworn in as Cabinet Minister for Shipping and Transport in 1967. His stewardship of the Ministry saw the setting of an expert committee to examine the conditions of the roads and on the basis of their recommendations he was instrumental in getting the Finance Ministry to increase grants to the states and also making them on continuing basis. He gave special attention to the completion of West Coast road and made the road from Bombay to Cape Camorin all along the West cost eminently motorable. Nava Sheva port in Bombay and extension of Madras outer harbor and Ports of Vishakapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, Halida in Bengal, etc. also received a fillip in Rao’s time. Other notable events during his tenure are: Nationalization of Jayanti Shipping Corporation, acquisition of new fleet of ships to Indian Merchant Navy from East Germany & Yugoslavia, the Indo –Soviet Shipping Agreement, providing additional seats for Haj pilgrims, streamlining the Ship building facilities at Vishakapatnam, and Cochin , etc.

Rao, during his stewardship of Education Ministry, realizing the importance of promoting social science research in the country created an autonomous body which would sponsor social science research programmes as well as research projects and administer grants to the institutions and individuals, give financial support to learned associations, standard journals and institutions, and to achieve this objective, he brought into existence the ICSSR in 1969. Both NCERT and ICSSR have played a major role in the qualitative development of education and research in the country. Three of his significant works appeared during his stewardship of the two Ministries: 1)The Gandhian Alternative to Western Socialism (Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan – 1970) Values and Economic Development – The Indian Challenge (Vikas Publications- 1971) and The Nehru Legacy (Popular Prakashan - 1971).

When the second term in the Parliament was over, he wanted to return to academic life once again and IEG was the natural choice. But later developments made to change his mind; he decided to return to his cultural home state to establish his third and largest institution, the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore which came into existence in Jan. 1972, with substantial financial help from the State Government of Karnataka, the then Chief Minister of the State Devraj Urs, Chief Secretary, GVK Rao and many others, and the ICSSR. As his academic response to the drought of 1972 and oil crisis of 1973, Rao quickly got into the act of influencing policy: With some of his colleagues at the IEG, he came out with a book "Inflation and India’s Economic Crisis"(Vikas, 1973).

His subsequent major works were: Bangala Desh Economy: Problems and Prospects (ed.) (Vikas Publications 1972); Planning for Change: Issues in Mysore’s Development (ed.) (Vikas Publications 1975); Swami Vivekananda - Prophet of Vedantic Socialism (Publications Division, Govt. of India – 1979); Food, Nutrition & Poverty (Vikas Publishing House, Delhi – 1982); Indian Socialism: Retrospect & Prospect (Concept Publishing Company (P) Ltd. Delhi 1982); India’s National Income 1950-80: An Analysis of Economic Growth and Change (Sage Publications, Delhi – 1983); Current Indian Crisis: Darkness Before Dawn (Vohra Publications, Allahabad – 1984); National Integration: Some Unsolved Issues (Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan – 1984)

Listed here are a few of the academic awards/ fellowships conferred on him:

Hon. D.C.L from Oxford

Hon. Fellowship of Gonville and Caius College

He was member of several national and international Learned Bodies and Conferences which include:

Corresponding Member, Institute de Science Economique, Paris

Correspondent, Royal Economic Society, London

Member, International Statistical Institute, Amsterdam

Member, Governing Body, International Association for Research in income and wealth

Member, Governing Body, International Economic Association

Member, Governing Body, International Institute for Educational Planning

President, Indian Agricultural Economic Conference

President, Indian Economic Conference

His membership of Commissions, Committees include:

Member-Secretary, Bombay Economic and Industrial Committee (1938-40)

Member, Consultative Committee of Economists (1940-42)

Chairman, U.N. Sub-Commission for Economic Development (1947-50)

Member, Taxation Enquiry Commission (1953-55);

Chairman, Indian National Commission for UNESCO (1969-71).

He was awarded PADMAVIBHUSHAN by the Government of India in 1974.


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