An Institution Builder Passes Away
Prof. Baidyanath Mishra was possibly the tallest economist that Orissa produced. He was an institutional builder by creating institutes like NCDS, was a pioneer of Orissa Economic Association, and made a name for himself as VC of OUAT. From a modest background of sweeping school gardens to pay for his school fees to obtaining an AM degree from Wharton (1952) as a Fulbright scholar, he began his professional life as an admirer of Nehruvian socialism but took to market reforms later on. He was a great admirer, the way China could achieve phenomenal spurt in agricultural growth; 7.1% per year during 1979-84 (economic liberalization) compared to 2.7% during 70-78 (communism); due to decollectivization, and readjustment of farm procurement prices. He used to lament that unlike India where the private sector had became vigorous after economic liberalization in the 90s, Orissa has not been able to create any entrepreneur who can change the face of Orissa’s economy. He used to say that “there are traders and no entrepreneurs in Orissa”.
In a wonderful research paper “Dimensions of Poverty and Prospects of Economic Change in Odisha” (2016), he had concluded that “the development debate is mostly concerned with issues of stabilization, fiscal balance and GDP growth. But these really do not help in attaining human development”. He was a firm votary that physical and social infrastructure should be developed to attract entrepreneurs to set up industries in Orissa. He quoted Michael Parenti who wrote in “Democracy for the Few” (2010): ‘Elections come and go, but the life of poverty goes on pretty much as before’. He was concerned that we have created a new monster of democracy, without effective citizenship for large sections of the political community. With an extremely delectable autobiography ‘Pursuit of Destiny’ (2013) to his credit, his death has come at a time in Bhubaneswar when most of the citizens of his city are grappling with the menace of ‘Fani’ and a chaotic democracy where people at large are powerless!
He had a great sense of homour. In a conference where he was to give the keynote address, there were many Vice Chancellors who were to on the rostrum to speak after him. He observed that one of the biggest problems of such conferences is that there are too may ‘Vices’ to hear! A prolific writer like Khushwant Singh, both were wonderful reencounters and missed their centuries by a whisker!
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