Prof BR Shenoy was India’s most prominent liberal economist, in the years after Independence. His was a lone voice, against the then-dominant Soviet model of economic planning and state-owned heavy industries. As a member of the planning commission, in a celebrated Note of Dissent to the Second Five Year Plan, he argued for employment-generating investment in agriculture and light industry. He advocated free enterprise, reliance on a market economy, and a sweeping away of what he called the Permit-Licence Raj, a phrase that gained public currency. An old freedom fighter, he was deeply patriotic and against sectarian divisions, and foresaw that economic reforms could create a country that embodied the ERC Vision Statement.
Biographical Note on PROFESSOR B.R. SHENOY (1905-78)
Born on June 3, 1905 near Mangalore, Karnataka, Bellikoth Ragunath Shenoy was educated at Benares Hindu University (where he secured a first class first at the MA Economics Exam in 1929) and later at the London School of Economics (LSE). As a student he actively participated in the freedom struggle and was jailed at Nagpur where he came under the close contact and immense influence of Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya. At LSE he was inspired by the ideas of Professor Friedrich Hayek who later won the Nobel Prize in Economics. During this period two of his papers, "An Equation for the Price Level of New Investment Goods" (1931) and "Interdependence of Price Levels" (1933) appeared in Quarterly Journal of Economics which established him as an upcoming monetary economist. He was the first Indian economist to have a paper published in a leading scholarly journal.
After returning to India Professor Shenoy taught at Wadia College (Pune), Gujarat College (Ahmedabad) and University of Ceylon. He was associated with various Government Bodies of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) including the Commission on Currency and Department of Commerce. In 1942 he was appointed Principal, L. D. Arts College, Ahmedabad and then joined the Reserve Bank of India in 1945. During his RBI days he was the Far Eastern Representative of the IMF (1948) and an Alternate Executive Director of IMF as well as of the World Bank (1951-53).
In 1954 Professor Shenoy joined Gujarat University as the first Director of its School of Social Sciences, a position which he retained till 1968. During this period he made substantial contributions to Indian Economic Policy debates mainly contained in his "Note on Dissent to the Second Five Year Plan" and Madras University Lectures entitled "Problems and Indian Economic Development." His notable contributions to various policy issues like the PL480 food imports, deficit financing, inflation and economic development were marked by technical competence and analytical ability. After leaving Gujarat University in 1968, he founded the "Economic Research Centre" in Delhi and tirelessly espoused the cause of liberalism in India till he passed away 8 February 1978.
He was President of the Indian Economic Association in 1957, Visiting Professor at his alma mater, LSE in 1966 and a member of the internationally prestigious Mont Pelerin Society, (which boasts of various Nobel laureates as members).
His publications include Ceylon Currency and Banking (1941), The Sterling Assets of the Reserve Bank of India (1953), Problems of Indian Economic Development (1956), and PL480 and India's Food Problem (1974) apart from various articles in scholarly journals, both Indian and international.
A collection of his writings Planned Progress or Planned Chaos edited by Professors Mahesh Bhatt and S. B. Mehta was published in 1996.