ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Speaking Truth to Power

Ashok Mitra (1928–2018)

A fellow economist reminisces about the personality traits and contributions of Ashok Mitra, a towering intellectual of his time, thereby revealing his powerful and multifaceted persona.

Ashok Mitra spoke truth to power. Among the many attributes of this extraordinary man—his fierce intelligence, his passionate and continuous engagement with politics and society, his literary flair in writings of vast erudition and variety, his restless energy, his profound sentimentality, and his engagement with a veritable ocean of friends and acquaintances—this particular one may well turn out to be the one with the most lasting impact.

The truth, as he spoke it (very much his own truth, of course, and deeply felt), was usually unvarnished and could be expressed in extreme, even acerbic, terms. And, he spoke this truth to power of all sorts, unafraid of the consequences: the mighty state, whether at the central, state, or local government levels; large corporations of national and global provenance; international organisations that saw themselves above the doubts and concerns of mere individuals; political parties, whether of other or his own persuasion; his own “superiors” in age, rank, or experience in work situations; close colleagues; and even dear friends. Not everyone could take it; there was often resentment, in some cases even a parting of ways. But, even those who had experienced the most devastating of his assessments would be forced to acknowledge the sincerity, commitment, and lack of malice in them, and some would, internally or subsequently, also admit to the veracity of his critiques.

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Updated On : 29th May, 2018
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