Professor Asok Sen


Asok Sen (1927-2015), a noted professor of economics and founder-editor of the well-known Bangla periodical Baromas passed away in his sleep at his residence in South Kolkata. A bright student of economics, Professor Sen worked at Indian Statistical Institute, University of Burdwan and Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata (CSSC). While a professor of the CSSC, he concurrently taught at the University of Calcutta. This correspondent had the opportunity to attend to his lectures during 1974-75. One particular feature of lectures was his impeccable language and fluency of speech.

But evaluating him only as a noted teacher of economics is certainly uncharitable. His range of interests was polymathic, as is evidenced by his monopraphs on Vidyasagar and Tagore. The work on Vidyasagar (Iswarchandra Vidyasagar and his Elusive Milestones), first published in 1977, was a throught-provoking one and no later study of the subject could dispense with it. The work on Tagore, entitled Rajnitir Pathakrame Rabindranath (Rabindranath in the Study of Politics) is a relatively recent publication. Being a firm believer in socialism as the destiny of mankind, he was shaken by the developments in the Soviet Union and China, and felt compelled to apply his mind to these phenomena in the broader context of the history of human evolution.

The result was the book Itihaser Thithikana (Passages and Corridors of History). His first important work A Case of Pre-British Economic Formation : Tipu Sultan's Mysore has, unfortunately remains unpublished in book-form till date.

Professor Sen's avid interest in history, literature and art drew him closer to personalities like Jamini Ray, the celebrated painter and Bishnu Dey, the celebrated poet of the post-Tagore era. He was an admirer of Samar Sen too. In fact, it is this polymathic range of interests that made him bring out the journal Baromas, which, first published in 1978, continues to be brought out, although less regularly at present. This small piece of posthumous tribute to his memory will not be complete without a reference to his active attitude to the cause of people's movements. Although broadly a leftist, he could not endorse the Left Front Government's pro-corporate policy of industrialization and strongly disapproved of their forcible land acquisition drive in Singur and Nandigram. Although already an octagenarian, he joined the protest march against state repression in these two places. He explained his views in a seminar held in the Renaissance Hall, College Street, Kolkata in March 2007. There were many eminent persons including Sankha Ghosh and many others listening to Prof Sen's speech, which was hardly burdened with any technical term unintelligible to non-economists.

Prof Sen's wife predeceased her husband by about a year. Prof Sen is survived by his daughter and son-in-law.

Vol. 48, No. 26, Jan 3 - 9, 2016