Miscellany

Remembering our Editor-in-Chief Prof. Ashok Kotwal

  • Blog Post Date 29 April, 2022
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We regret to inform you that our Editor-in-Chief, Prof. Ashok Kotwal, passed away on 28 April 2022. Apart from being a founding member of Ideas for India, he was Professor Emeritus at the Department of Economics at University of British Columbia, Senior Fellow at (BREAD) Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis in Development and an Associate, (ThRed) Theoretical Research in Economic Development.

It is a huge loss for his family, friends, colleagues, and all of us at Ideas for India. He was an integral part of I4I from its inception in 2012, and his vision will continue to guide us in the years to come.

If you would like to share your messages of remembrance for Prof. Ashok Kotwal, please send them to managing.editor@ideasforindia.in and we will post them on this page for you.

Remembrances

A Tribute to Prof. Ashok Kotwal

Madhav Badami
Associate Professor, McGill University

I knew that Ashok had been seriously ill for quite a while, but still, the news of his death came as a shock. I had the good fortune to get to know...

In remembrance of Prof. Ashok Kotwal

Pranab Bardhan

Pranab Bardhan
Professor, University of California, Berkeley

I have known Ashok for nearly four decades. When in the 1980s, he started writing his well-known papers (many of them with Mukesh Eswaran) on agrarian...

Remembering Prof. Ashok Kotwal

Ashwini Deshpande
Professor, Ashoka University

In 1993, my Ph.D. advisor, Kaushik Basu, was choosing names of development economists to serve as external referees for my thesis. One of them was...

Memories of Ashok Kotwal

Jean Drèze
Professor, Ranchi University

As I remember Ashok Kotwal, I realise with some surprise that we have not met more than a few times – perhaps three or four times, mainly in Delhi...

A eulogy for Prof. Ashok Kotwal

Patrick Francois
Professor, University of British Columbia

Ashok Yeshwant Kotwal was born on 11 July 1945, in Mumbai, India, the youngest of four children. His father Yeshwant Kotwal was an Engineer...

A Tribute for my mentor, Ashok

Nalini Gulati
Managing Editor (2012-2022), I4I

As the Managing Editor of I4I – working with founding Editor-in-Chief Prof. Ashok Kotwal over the past 10 years – ‘words’ have been my job Yet today, as I write this...

In remembrance of Prof. Kotwal

Ashwini Kulkarni

Ashwini Kulkarni
Pragati Abhiyan

Ashok has been the integral 'thought' of our organisation's journey. If some idea, or an argument came to my mind, my first action was...

Remembering Prof. Kotwal

Amartya Lahiri
Professor, University of British Columbia

Ashok came into my life in 2005 when I moved to UBC (University of British Columbia). Within a very short time he had become a core part of my daily life Imperceptibly, he went...

A tribute to Prof. Kotwal

Bharat Ramaswami
Ashoka University

The passing away of Ashok Yeshwant Kotwal is an immense loss to scholarship on development economics...

In memoriam of Prof Kotwal

Rohini Somanathan
Delhi School of Economics

I first met Ashok over two decades ago at the NEUDC (Northeast Universities Development Consortium) Conference in Ithaca. I was in the early years of my career, while he was a well-known development...

The inimitable Ashok Kotwal

Sanjay Subrahmanyam
Distinguished Professor, University of California, Los Angeles

It was with a sinking feeling that I awoke on Friday morning and saw an email in my inbox from Patrick François...

Remembering Prof. Ashok Kotwal

Anand V. Swamy
Professor, Williams College

Ashok Kotwal was a superb economist, and a kind and generous person. I realised the former very early; reading his work in the mid 1980s. The latter came more slowly...

Tributes

Farzana Afridi, Indian Statistical Institute

Bina Agarwal, University of Manchester

Sarthak Agarwal, IAS

Pulapre Balakrishnan, Ashoka University

Michele Mary Bernadine, I4I

Freeda D'Souza, I4I

S Mahendra Dev, IGIDR

Vikas Dimble, I4I

Lakshmi Iyer, University of Notre Dame

Karan Kedia, University of British Columbia

Dilip Mookherjee, Boston University

Sripad Motiram, University of Massachusetts

Nikita Mujumdar, I4I

R. Nagaraj, Centre for Development Studies

K Srinivasa Rao, Institute of Insurance and Risk Management (IIRM)

Ranjan Ray, Monash University

Saul Schwartz, Carleton University

Partha Sen, Delhi School of Economics

Gurbachan Singh, Indian Statistical Institute

Nirvikar Singh, University of California, Santa Cruz

Sreenivasan Subramanian, Independent researcher

Ishita Trivedi, I4I


Kindness, generosity and an indomitable spirit epitomize Ashok for me. I spoke with him just a couple of weeks before he left us, for his guidance on my I4I Conversations piece. He was as sharp and thoughtful as ever, and brushed aside my enquiries about his health. I will miss his considerate nature and always sage advice – Farzana Afridi (Professor, Indian Statistical Institute)

I was very sad to hear about Prof. Kotwal's passing away. I did not know him personally but knew his work and respected him enormously. My deep condolences to his family. May he rest in peace. –  Bina Agarwal (Professor, University of Manchester)

I didn't have the privilege of knowing Prof. Ashok Kotwal personally but as someone who is closely associated with Ideas for India, I can only salute his vision in successfully putting together a platform like I4I and leading this massive initiative. He will be greatly missed.Sarthak Agrawal (Indian Administrative Service (IAS))

It is with sadness that I read of the passing of Ashok Kotwal. Apart from his academic work, which was widely recognised, his role in the launching of a forum for the free exchange of ideas on India's economy was invaluable.Pulapre Balakrishnan (Professor of Economics, Ashoka University and Senior Fellow, IIM Kozhikode)

In the past two years that I have been a part of I4I, it became clear that Ashok's unwavering commitment to ensuring I4I remained a portal that encouraged healthy debate and remained accessible to a larger audience, was the primary reason it was a mainstay of several economists' – both budding and seasoned economists' – daily reading. He was a very proactive Editor-in-Chief, and always reiterated how much he valued us and what we brought to the table. He also encouraged us to think bigger and better, in terms of what we could do with the platform we have with I4I, and also in terms of our personal growth. He nudged me to explore my own research interests and work on furthering them in whatever way I could. However, what I will remember most distinctly about Ashok was how kind and considerate he was in every interaction I had with him, and how valuable his mentorship has been to my journey in economics. I will miss him very much and I'm very grateful for having had the chance to work with him. – Michele Mary Bernadine (Deputy Managing Editor (2020-2022), I4I)

I have known Ashok from the time I4I was launched. I will always remember his ever-smiling face. He was a gentle and jovial person, considerate towards all he met. Will greatly miss him.Freeda D'Souza (Logistics Manager, I4I)

I have known Ashok for the last few decades. I have benefitted a lot from his research articles, particularly on agriculture, rural development, and poverty and inequality. Research articles by Eswaran and Kotwal such as “A theory of contractual structure in agriculture”, “Why poverty persists in India”, and “Role of Agricultural in Development” are excellent papers. I invited him to an international seminar on 'Development' organised as part of IGIDR’s (Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research) Silver Jubilee celebrations in 2012/13. He visited Mumbai in December 2013 and participated in this seminar. He also contributed a paper jointly with Bharat Ramaswami for a book on 'Development' edited by me and P.G. Babu. At the Mumbai conference in 2012, he also announced I4I and requested researchers to contribute papers to this site. I had been in touch with him till recently. It is a great loss to the academic community, particularly for I4I. I will miss him. S Mahendra Dev (Professor, IGIDR)

Ashok Kotwal was a deeply committed and caring person. He was committed to social justice, to better evidence, to make a difference in society and he deeply cared about everyone around him. He believed that open debate and better communication of academic ideas would change public policy for the better. To that end, he almost single-handedly made Ideas for India (I4I) the platform it is today. He did so with scarce resources. He put all his energy into growing I4I and making I4I more relevant in the Indian public policy space. He thought about I4I almost every day and had most of his morning coffees while speaking to the I4I managing editor on phone. A lot of academic economists would attest to Ashok’s brilliance as an economist and his contribution to the field. But he was a lot more than a phenomenal academic. He was a brilliant human being– humble, caring, thoughtful and graceful. It was a privilege to know him and watch him in action over the past decade and be around him. We are at deep individual and collective loss today. Vikas Dimble (Content Editor, I4I; Associate Director, IDinsight)

I am deeply shocked and saddened by this news. Professor Ashok Kotwal was a great economist, making many great research contributions and then a fantastic policy and public discussion contribution with the Ideas for India venture. It is an amazing achievement to establish this must-read website for academics and policymakers interested in economic ideas. He will be greatly missed, but his legacy of ideas and actions will inspire us all. Lakshmi Iyer (Associate Professor, University of Notre Dame; Editorial Board Member, I4I)

Ashok had a deep impact on his students and he was a thoughtful and kind mentor for me. His approach to policy and research in India, and his deep knowledge and views on life were an inspiration and guide for me as an undergraduate student. He moulded our life as the director of our program, and gave me wonderful opportunities along with his trust and support even at difficult times. This news has caused great sadness for me, he will be fondly remembered. - Karan Kedia, Alumni, Bachelor of International Economics, University of British Columbia.

The world has lost a great social scientist and public intellectual. And Ideas for India has lost its single parent. For Ashok was I4I’s father and mother rolled into one. Right from birth he nursed it during its infancy, helped it take its first steps, introduced it to the world, nourished it through childhood and adolescence, then watched it emerge as a young adult with a voice of its own that reaches far and wide. Those of us on the editorial board have watched on as eager uncles and aunts, proud of what I4I has become and witness to the myriad sacrifices Ashok made. He was father and mother rolled into one, combining guidance and intellect on one hand with warmth and love on the other. I4I has lost its parent, and we are all in mourning. We owe it to Ashok to ensure that it will continue to grow and cement the rich legacy that he has left behind. – Dilip Mookherjee (Professor, Boston University)

I am very sad to hear that Ashok has passed away. My early research focused on agrarian institutions and Ashok's work (with Prof. Mukesh Eswaran) played an important role in shaping my ideas. He was one of the pioneers in the literature that uses rigorous micro models to explain complex features of agriculture in developing countries. After my Ph.D., during my stints in Canada and India, I used to meet him in conferences. I always found him to be very friendly and insightful. In recent years, he has been focusing on more policy-oriented issues in the Indian context. Again, I found this work to be very useful and it influenced my views on the problems associated with India's growth trajectory. His death is a huge loss to the economics profession, particularly to the community of economists interested in addressing the serious problems that India confronts today. - Sripad Motiram, University of Massachusetts

Unfortunately, I never had a chance to truly work with Professor Kotwal – but just from the few occasions on which I interacted with him, his passion for I4I and ideas and research in the sphere of development economics was evident. Having heard his colleagues speak about his kindness and generosity, I wish that I had had a chance to experience his mentorship. Instead, I hope that I can help carry his vision for I4I forward in the coming years. – Nikita Mujumdar (Deputy Managing Editor, I4I)

Very sad Ashok has left us. Many of us knew he has been suffering from cancer for quite some time, and was frequently in and out of hospital. I kept getting updates about his health status from my son who is in UBC. Last I heard from Ashok was on April 6 when he said, “My cancer is always going to take me through these ups and downs. I am grateful for whatever time I have.” Pity, I didn’t hear from him again. In 2006, Ashok (and Mukesh Eshwaran) had organised a very productive and well attended conference on India. That was when I got to know his warm personality. In the recent years, he was kind enough to invite me a few times to contribute to I4I, for which I am grateful to him. My heart-felt condolences to Ashok’s family. – R Nagaraj (Visiting Professor, Centre for Development Studies)

It is indeed shocking to know about the sad demise of Prof. Ashok Kotwal, a global economist of repute who guided and nurtured I4I for over a decade. The script of transformation of I4I engineered by him with the involvement of Ms. Nalini Gulati and team in over a decade could draw the global attention of policymakers and academicians alike. The diversity brought to the blog has been able to provide insights to many sectors of the economy. The blog has transformed itself into a tool kit for policymakers. We will miss Prof. Ashok and his way of directing the blog. I pray for his soul to rest in peace. The best tribute to him will be to continue to adhere to the principles and standards set by him in steering I4I. Let us try to strive to shape his vision in a more visible way. – K Srinivasa Rao (Adjunct Professor, Institute of Insurance and Risk Management (IIRM))

Shocked and devastated by the news of the passing away of Ashok Kotwal. A dear friend whom I have known for over 4 decades, Ashok’s contributions to the Economics profession through his scholarly writings and by taking the lead role in setting up the Ideas for India platform have been immense. Above all, Ashok was a very nice person always willing to help. He left us too soon and will be dearly missed. Rest in peace, Ashok. –  Ranjan Ray (Professor, Monash University)

My memories of Ashok go back almost 40 years to a brief period while he was finishing his Ph.D. at Boston University before he was offered a job at the University of British Columbia. Ashok had come to teach for a year at Tufts University where I was a young Assistant Professor. Truus and Ashok became our friends. Ashok had the same impish smile and the same unrelenting curiosity that remained with him for the rest of his life. May his memory be a blessing - Saul Schwartz (Professor, Carleton University)

It is with great sadness that I heard about Ashok's death. I have read some of Ashok's papers. Recently, I interacted with him on my post for Ideas for India and found him to be very supportive. I reminded him that we had met over lunch (possibly two of those) at the LSE (London School of Economics and Political Science) in the early 1990s. Tony Venables was the host and I guess Ashok was his friend from UBC (University of British Columbia). The other person, other than me, was Paul Krugman – Tony and he were working on their economic geography papers. I was the outsider invited by Tony, since I was working on monopolistic competition trade models. Ashok and I parted, promising to see each other either in Delhi or UBC. That, unfortunately for me, never happened. – Partha Sen (Retired Professor, Delhi School of Economics)

I will really miss Ashok very much. My heartfelt condolences to his family and to the team at Ideas for India. It is all very sad. I have very fond memories of him. Even though the interaction in person was actually hardly there, the conversations on email (and sometimes even on phone) were rather frequent and at times even intense. This is particularly true of 2020-21 when the economy was hit by Covid-19 and we were desperately and urgently looking for solutions. This was the time that I contributed to the Ideas for India nine times in a span of one year. And on each occasion, there was much to discuss. He took keen interest and he was very willing to try out new ideas. That was really giving meaning to the name of the portal, which is Ideas for India. Gurbachan Singh (Visiting Faculty, Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi Centre)

The news of Ashok's passing is devastating. He embodied the best of the economics profession, always harnessing ideas and data to the task of understanding how to better the lot of the worst off in society. He was a warm, caring and generous human being in every respect. He dedicated enormous time and energy to making I4I successful, and it will always stand as a testimonial to his caring and commitment. He will be missed deeply by all of us. - Nirvikar Singh (Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz)

I am shocked and deeply saddened to hear the news of Ashok Kotwal's passing. My sincerest condolences to his family, and to his innumerable friends and colleagues. – Sreenivasan Subramanian (Independent Researcher)

Prof. Ashok Kotwal, the gentle colossus of development economics, will be greatly missed. He never let on how much he was struggling with his health and continued to put efforts till his very last days in steering the transition that has been ongoing in the editorial team at Ideas for India. He has been endlessly kind and gracious to all. As one of the latest additions to the team, I have had the chance to interact with him only this last month and feel fortunate to have been enriched by my limited time with him. Yet I feel the weight of his passing, as I was hoping to tap into his guidance and wisdom in taking I4I forward for the years to come. I4I has lost its greatest champion! – Ishita Trivedi (Managing Editor, I4I)

If you would like to share your messages of remembrance for Prof. Ashok Kotwal, please send them to managing.editor@ideasforindia.in and we will post them on this page for you.

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