Book Review: Swadesh Ranjan Bose Edited by Jaseem Ahmed
Khan, Tanvir A.
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Swadesh Ranjan Bose Edited by Jaseem Ahmed, Collected Works Volume 1, Regional Cooperation for Development in South Asia and Volume II, Essays on Economic Policies, Inequality and Problems of Development (The University Press Limited, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2011, Vol 1 xxxiv + 178, Hardcover Tk. 300, Vol II pp xlviii +550, Hardcover Tk. 600), ISBN 978 984 506 001 1, & 978 984 506 002 8 The collected works of the late Dr. Swadesh Ranjan Bose are brought together in these two volumes which represent a variety of issues ranging from his pioneering work of regional economic development to the classic works on the consequences to Bangladesh of the Government of Pakistan’s distortionary policies that at the expense of East Pakistan favored the industrial development of West Pakistan. Both the volumes contain a number of articles which are pioneering in nature and seem to retain its classic character as when they were first published reflecting its freshness and relevance even today. Noorjahan Begum (later Bose) conceived of publishing these collections and Jaseem, her son along with two daughters, Anita and Monica Bose were essential to the success of this ‘book-project’. Nooijahan never lost heart or her belief in the value of this book which was her late husband’s harvest. And what a harvest! Young Ranjan entered the PhD program at Cambridge in the early sixties in the Department of Economics with a Ford Foundation scholarship. His scholarship grew fruits in the tree of ‘regional economic cooperation’ which was his PhD dissertation topic. What we call SAARC nowadays was Ranjan’s thoughts of yesteryears which proved to be a landmark in regional studies. His mentor, Dr. Nurul Islam visited young Ranjan at Cambridge number of times and his chest expanded number of inches to have heard from his supervisors glowing words about his research subject. Uncannily perceptive and extremely farsighted was the Indo-Pakistan trade subject which although popular in the 1960s was under cover for sometime because of the Indo-Pak war of 1965. It arose from the ashes of the war to gain a new footing in the post-1971 period in Bangladesh. Beyond the call of duty were a number of scholars who lent a hand to their mentor. Dr. Nurul Islam when he was heavily immersed in the autonomy movement of East Pakistan. Ranjan and other Bangladesh colleagues at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) gave their valuable advice to the leadership on East-West Pakistan economic relations. The major contribution of this group was towards the economic provisions of the 1970 election manifesto of Awami League. PIDE was in the process of being shifted to Dhaka from Karachi and during those days of transformation, the West Pakistani staff seemed to have formed an impediment to the process. A few senior Bangladesh economists namely Swadesh, Kholiquzzaman and Hasan Imam were instrumental in this emergent move and rescued the operation with great determination. PIDE transformed itself organically into BIDS (Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies) and the search for a leader did not take much time. The mentor, Dr. Nurul Islam was called upon in the line of duty to form the first Planning Commission. The onus of leading BIDS fell on the shoulders of Dr, Swadesh Bose. The very idea of extending the ToR of Development Economics to Development Studies to incorporate multi-disciplinary thinking was also a milestone of the thought process of these visionaries. Dr. Bose assisted in framing a new constitution for an autonomous organization formalized by an Act of Parliament. Not only was he leading BIDS but Dr. Bose was also called upon to give his valuable feedback in the agricultural sector since his great expertise and deep knowledge in this field assisted in etching out the First Five Year Plan document. Dr. Bose left BIDS for Oxford in 1973 to pursue research at Queen Elizabeth House. World Bank opened a window' for him in 1974 where he anchored till his retirement. The person who was refused a US student visa based on his previous leftist student activities to go to Harvard University to the PhD program in the Department of Economics in 1962 finds a place in a Bretton Woods Institution nearly a decade later was a bit startling. His associations with people who mattered such as Mark Leiserson, who was Director of PIDE during 1962-64, might have helped him in climbing the stairs of meritocracy. Obviously his close friendship with Professor Austin Robinson along with Keith Griffin of Oxford University, Professor Brian Reddaway, Pranab Bardhan, Amya Das Gupta to name just a few had a catalytic influence on his career. Losing the Ford Foundation Scholarship in 1 962 was a great depression but the balancing factor in his life was marrying Noorjahan Begum, the widow of his political friend Mohammad Imadullah in 1963, He didn’t have to look back since the trajectory of higher education coupled with career advancement was a meteoric rise. Dr. Bose took his spouse and his son Jaseem to Karachi to join PIDE only to be catapulted to the Cambridge University, thanks to the Ford Foundation Scholarship, The Foundation did not give up on him even though the two Governments (US Vis a Vis UK) acted diametrically on opposite poles. Dr. Bose was a man not only of intellect and social commitment but as his mentor had observed, his zest for life and capacity for the enjoyment of the good things of life were the other important characteristics he possessed. This observation was a conclusion that Dr. Nurul Islam arrived at where the two families jointly spent | holiday in the Hawaii Islands during the early 1990s. Dr. Bose not only drove them to the interesting tourist sites but was also the main adviser and guide. A wide area was covered by Dr. Bose in his life ranging from an analysis of agricultural development issues to those of trade, poverty, labour market and employment, His PhD dissertation at Cambridge titled ‘Regional Economic Cooperation Among South Asian Countries, With Special Reference to India and Pakistan’ was a landmark in regional studies and regional economics. It could not be published after the 1965-67 war between India and Pakistan. The Collected Works, Part 1 of Dr. Swadesh Bose has seven chapters to its credit. Each chapter has focused on micro-specific elements of regional cooperation and neatly tied the various facets into one organic whole at the end. The salient features of these chapters deal with the possibilities of a more efficient allocation of resources for development through specialization (Chapter 2). The last three chapters (4, 5 & 6) have been tied to Chapter 2 by magnifying the great possibilities that existed in cost saving through specialization and trade between India and Pakistan. A Large number of industries could not be covered. However, advantages were indicated in the case of some industries. Dr. Bose was confident in his opinion that had wider studies been conducted could show that not only would it help the two countries but also advantageous for both East and West Pakistan. Dr. Bose also opined that had Myanmar (then Burma) and Srilanka (then Ceylon) been covered, the possibilities of inter-regional specialization would have expanded within the entire region through economic development, There was scope to expand the development of existing and new industries if mutual trade could be realized through specialization. In the case of India and Pakistan, significant diversion of trade with other countries was not necessary if considerable expansion of mutual trade took place. It would also not render idle any existing capacities in these countries.