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The importance of B.P.R. Vithal

On June 19, Y V Reddy, the former governor of the RBI, released a book "Centre-State Relations in Indian Fiscal Context - Essays in honour of B P R Vithal".

twitter-logo E Kumar Sharma        Last Updated: June 23, 2015  | 13:48 IST

E Kumar Sharma, Associate Editor
On June 19, some of India's leading economists, former bureaucrats and regulators led by Y V Reddy, the former governor of the RBI, gathered in Hyderabad to release a book "Centre-State Relations in Indian Fiscal Context - Essays in honour of B P R Vithal". The 553-page book was brought out by the Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS), a 35-year-old autonomous body registered under the Societies Act by the united Andhra Pradesh government. At the event and in the book, Y V Reddy and others talked of the influence that Vithal had on them all along in their professional lives. Many of them worked closely with him, with some reporting directly to Vithal, an economist and a former civil servant who has been on several official committees. Vithal is also the father of Sanjaya Baru, the former media advisor to former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh , who was in the news last year for his much talked about book, "The Accidental Prime Minister."
Calling himself a 'shishya' (disciple) of Vithal, (who incidentally was also involved in the Indian freedom movement and still has a note that Mahatma Gandhi sent him) Reddy, who worked under Vithal soon after he joined the IAS in 1964, writes: "I look up to his guidance, wherever I happen to be-with the government of India, Reserve Bank of India, World Bank, International Monetary Fund or the Finance Commission." In an article in the book on what he learnt from Vithal, he says that his career been influenced by Vithal "not only in terms of the way I conduct my official duties but also the manner in which I equip myself intellectually over the entire career."
In another piece, C S Rao, the former chairman of the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA ) writes that Vithal has been his mentor and says: "if I had any success in my career, it is entirely due to his training, wise counsel, and good wishes." Rao mentions that it was as an assistant collector in Hyderabad in 1968 that he had for the first time listened to Vithal speak at a collectors conference.

C H Hanumantha Rao, the economist who was awarded Padma Bhushan in 2004, points to Vithal's grip on the state finances and how he was held in great regard by people like prominent Indian economist and institution builder V K R V Rao. He also talks of K Rosaiah, the current governor of Tamil Nadu pointing to Rao that it was because of Vithal's expertise in planning and finance that successive governments (in Andhra Pradesh) of diverse political persuasions found it comfortable to work with him.

The editors of the book, in the preface say, Vithal was, "in his time, the longest serving planning secretary in the country....He was then the longest serving state finance secretary and a pioneer in wiping out the revenue deficit of Andhra Pradesh state." The bureaucrats of the two new states of Telangana and Andhra stand to gain substantially if they could reach out to Vithal and seek his views on how to manage the state finances today.

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