Born: 8 July 1908, Kanchipuram
Prof. Vijayendra Kasturi Ranga Varadaraja Rao was a multifaceted personality – Economist, Educationist, an Administrator, and an Institution builder. After collegiate education in Bombay, he obtained a Ph.D. in Economics from Cambridge in 1936. Commencing from his first Professional employment as Lecturer in Economics at Wilson College, Bombay, VKRV Rao held various prestigious academic and administrative positions such as Vice-Chancellor, Delhi University, Planning Commission Member, Union Cabinet Minister first for Shipping and Transport and then Education and Youth Services. He was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 1974. He was the founder of the Delhi School of Economics, Institute of Economic Growth, and Institute for Social and Economic Change.
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.
V K R V Rao would have been 100 years old in 2008. By establishing three renowned institutions – The Delhi School of Economics, The Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, and the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore, Rao provided a solid foundation for social science research in India.
Vijayendra Kasturi Ranga Varadaraja Rao was born on July 8, 1908 at Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu to Kasturirangachar and Bharati Bai. He had his early schooling in Tindivanam and Madras (Chennai). He passed B.A (Hons.) and M.A (Economics) from Bomaby University, and a second B.A (Hons.) and Ph.D from Cambridge University, with consistently outstanding academic records. . His first professional employment was as Lecturer in Economics, Wilson College Bombay (1929-32), which was followed by other distinguished positions such as
- Special Temporary Professor of History and Political Economy, Karnataka College Dharward (1934-35)
- Senior Lecturer in Economics, Andhra University, Waltair (1936-37)
- Principal and Professor of Economics, LD. Arts College, Ahmedabad (1937-42)
- University Professor of Economics, Delhi University (1942-61)
- Director of Statistics, Food Department (1944-45)
- Planning Adviser., Food Department (1945-46)
- Food and Economic Adviser, Government of India at Washington (1946-47)
- Director, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi (1948-57)
- Vice Chancellor, University of Delhi (1957-60)
- Director, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi (1960-63)
- Member, Planning Commission (1963-66)
- Union Cabinet Minister for Transport and Shipping (1967-69)
- Union Cabinet Minister for Education & Youth Services (1969-71)
- Director, Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore (1972-77)
- National Professor, Government of India (1985-1990).
Notable among the learned bodies and conferences with which he was associated are: Corresponding Member, Institute de Science Economique, Paris; Correspondent, Royal Economic Society, London; Hon. Member, Japan Economic Research Centre, Tokyo; 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; etc. etc. He was member of several Commissions and Committees, prominent among which being Member-Secretary, Bombay Economic Industrial Survey Committee; Chairman, U.N Sub-Commission for Economic Development (which led to the establishment of the soft loan window of the World Bank, the IDA;
Member, Taxation Enquiry Commission, Member, National Income Committee; Member, Planning Advisory Board, Government of India; Chairman, U.N Sub-Committee on Experts on Levels of Living; etc.
Notable academic awards that came his way include Cobdon Club Medal in Political Economy (1927); Lord Minto Scholarship (1927-29); Dakshina Fellowship (1927-29); Madan Memorial Lecture in Indian Currency, Bombay (1931); Sir Mangaldas Nathubhai Traveling Fellowship, Bombay University (1932-35); Carton Studentship in Social Sciences, Great Britain (1934-36); Sir Thomas Greshan Research Studentship, Caius College, Cambridge (1934-36) Adam Smith Prize, Cambridge; and Dadabhai Nauroji Memorial Prize (1934). Academic Honours include Honorary D.Litt. from Delhi, Jabalpore, Indore, Andhra, and Nagpur Universities; Hon D.C.L. from Oxford University; Honorary Professorship of Osmania, Andhra Universities; Hon. Fellowship of Conville and Caius College, Cambridge. He was Professor Emeritus in Social Sciences, Delhi University (since 1965) and Professor Emeritus in Social Sciences at the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore (since 1979).
He was awarded PADMA VIBUSHAN by the Government of India in the year 1974.
In the 1930s, when bright Indian students usually opted for the natural and physical sciences, VKRV Rao preferred to go into social science, specifically Economics, at that time considered a vague and imprecise subject. He was a trailblazer, providing example and inspiration to generations of Indians to study social sciences. . This he did first by being an institution by himself whether in teaching or working within the Government as Advisor or as Minister, and secondly by nurturing a corpus of bright social scientists and through the establishment of three noted institutions: Delhi School of Economics, Institute of Economic Growth and the Institute for Social and Economic Change. He was also instrumental in establishing the Indian Council of Social Science Research which is the umbrella organization outside the University system, mandated with the task of monitoring and fund-administration to over 25 Social Science Research Institutions in the country. The Institute of Economic Growth has developed wide international contacts, and is in a position to assimilate worldwide societal trends into the fabric of Indian society and economy, and is now a leading research body with a strong involvement in providing policy inputs to the Government of India. Delhi School of Economics is now the post-graduate studies and research wing of Delhi University. The Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore, though an all-India Institute, has been, in a significant manner into the social and economic problems of South India – a logic of its location. He was also instrumental in the establishment of Agro-Economic Research Centers and Research Units in Demography in different parts of the country. He was a force behind the creation of the international center for Population Sciences in Bombay. The current prominence of the National Council of Educational Research and Training owes much to the new thrust given during VKRV Rao’s stewardship of the Ministry of Education and Youth Services. Informal education, dietary and nutritional requirements, etc. also received major fillip during his tenure. His tenure as Minister for Transport and Shipping was also highly productive with significant addition and expansion to ship-building, acquisition of new fleet, ports, and road-network expansion, etc. Ports at Mangalore, Tuticorin, and Cochin owe their expansion and prominence to the untiring work of VKRV Rao.
V K R V Rao’s literary output was prodigious: 39 books and monographs, 210 learned articles, 68 addresses, and seminar papers as well as edited works and innumerable popular writings in the media. Notable among his works are: Taxation of Income in India (1931), An essay on India’s National Income -1925-29 – (1936); The National Income of British India (1940); India and International Currency Plans (1945); Post-War Rupee (1948); Gandhian Alternative to Western Socialism (1970); Values and Economic Development – The Indian Challenge (1971); the Nehru Legacy (1971); Swami Vivekananda – Prophet of Vedantic Socialism (1978); Many Languages and One Nation – the Problem of Integration (1979); India’s National Income 1950-80 (1983) Food, Nutrition and Poverty (1982); Indian socialism: Retrospect and Prospect (1982), etc.
V K R V Rao passed away on July 25, 1991, at the age of 83, leaving behind his wife Kamala (who retired as Vice-Principal of Miranda House in Delhi, the late Madhav Rao who retired as Professor of Economics at the Institute of Rural Management in Anand, Sudha Rao who retired as Professor at the National Council for Educational Research and Training, and Meera Ramakrishnan whose husband is the Bhabha Professor in Physics.
For more biographical information, see VKRV Rao: His Life and Times, Kiren Mishra, Vikas Publishing House (P) Ltd. New Delhi – 1966 and Partial Memoirs of V K R V Rao (Ed.), S. L. Rao, Oxford University Press, New Delhi (2002).