‘The Dead Cannot Speak’


Arup Mallik
Professor Arup Mallik, arguably one of the most brilliant teachers of economics in the annals of economics teaching at the University of Calcutta, passed away in his East Kolkata residence on 25 May at the age of seventy three. Throughout his teaching career that spanned about four decades, he built up a large reputation for teaching as well as for his amiable personality and an ingrained tendency to
help students. But what is more remarkable about him is his defiance of the neo-classical orthodoxy

which usually goes by the name ‘mainstream economics’. To receptive students, he would clearly expose, often in discussions outside class rooms, the hollowness of the so-called mainstream economics. He had a gift of making apparently complicated and mind-boggling theoretical problems look simple and easy. His humane approach to everything made him immensely popular among those who knew him. This writer cannot remember any incident of someone trying to show disrepect to his learning and intelligence.

His political views, never clearly spelled out, lay somewhere between left liberalism and socialism. This correspeondent can clearly recollect that he participated actively in the movement for the release of political prisoners in 1977-78 and in later years, openly lent his support to movements for civil liberties and against police tyranny on many occasions.

It is, however, a matter of regret that he wrote very little and showed a general aversion to the habit of producing papers and books, a practice common among economists. It is not untrue to say that he had a jaundiced eye on all sorts of scholastic fanfare. In some sense, he was something like Sanjib Chandra Chatterjee ( elder brother of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee), about whom Tagore wrote, “His talent was rich, but economical (dhani, kintu grihini nay).” He was an admirer of Samar Sen and Frontier, but, true to his natural apathy for writing, wrote only one or two pieces for this weekly. One noteworthy piece was a review of JR Hicks’s remarkable book Economics and Causality, published in 1980 (81?). Rereading this review about two decades later, this writer came to have a glimpse of his grasp of the epistomological problems of economics. Personally, this correspondent received much help from him during his difficult, both material and mental, days although he would never admit of such help. The dead cannot speak. Had he been alive, he would not have liked this tribute to him.

Biplab Das
Biplab Das, founder of the well-known publishing house CAMP, and a lifelong friend of democratic movements passed away rather unexpectedly on 26 May after midnight in his Central Calcutta residence at the relatively premature age of 65.

When still a teenager, Biplab was attracted towards the communist movement and was influenced by Naxalbari. It was a period of revolutionary turbulence and like many of his generation, he dreamt of revolutionary change and spent many months in prison. After his release, he got associated with the then anti-fascist mass movements and in 1977, joined the united Provisional Central Committee of the CPI(M-L). He even resigned his job in order to serve as a whole-time worker of the party. But successive splits and setbacks depressed him somewhat and after 1984, he stopped active party work. His association with the democratic movements was however not snapped, and he began to work as an activist of the APDR, of which he was a member till death. It was during this period that he set up his publishing house and began to publish quality books. The small room of the College Street area in which CAMP was situated was frequented by visitors from all walks of life and from all sorts of places, from remote Medinipur villages to Oslo and London. This writer, who had worked with Biplab during 1978-80 on the weekly Lal Jhanda, was a habitue of the publishing house whenever he was in Kolkata. He has also benefited immensely from Biplab’s natural kindness and altruistic disposition, but it is not necessary to dwell on that here.

Eldest of three brothers, Biplab was a life-long bachelor and is survived by his next brother and sister-in-law. His youngest brother had predeceased him by about two years.  

Vol. 49, No.49, Jun 11 - 17, 2017