The Reserve Bank of India has instituted a lecture series in memory of late Shri L.K. Jha, who was Governor of the Reserve Bank of India from July 1, 1967 to May 3, 1970.
Shri Lakshmi Kant Jha was a many-sided personality who excelled in several walks of life. He was an eminent economist, a distinguished administrator, an able diplomat and a sage counsellor. As a person of great expertise and mature judgement, his advice was eagerly sought in India and abroad. He served with distinction as Ambassador to the United States and Governor of Jammu and Kashmir. He was a member of the Brandt Commission and at the time of his death, a member of the Rajya Sabha. In recognition of his invaluable services to the Reserve Bank and the nation and in the memory of Late Shri L. K. Jha, the Reserve Bank of India has instituted a lecture series entitled as the L. K. Jha Memorial Lectures.
L. K. Jha played a crucial role in giving shape to the country’s economic policies for nearly four decades. With his fine blend of theory and practice and rare pragmatism, L. K. Jha had an instinctive feel for policies which could work in the Indian context. At the same time, he conceptualised and articulated forward-looking policies for dynamic growth of the Indian economy. He had a significant role in shaping the Industrial Policy Resolution of 1956 which made the concept of mixed economy operational and provided stimulus for the country’s industrial development. As Chairman of the Economic Administration Reforms Commission, he was responsible for changing the direction of economic policy towards controlled deregulation as a preliminary step to full liberalisation. Furthermore, as Chairman of the Indirect Taxation Enquiry Committee, he made numerous valuable and enduring contributions to the improvement of India’s fiscal system. He effectively pleaded the cause of India and other developing countries in many international fora and was a highly respected member of the Brandt Commission which advocated a new world economic order in which the developing countries would have a more equitable share.
Popularly known as ‘LK’, Lakshmi Kant Jha was born in Darbhanga district of Bihar on November 22, 1913. He graduated from Benaras Hindu University and Trinity College, Cambridge, UK. At Cambridge he was a student of renowned economists like A. C. Pigou, J. M. Keynes and D. H. Robertson. He joined the Indian Civil Service in 1936. After serving in Bihar in the districts and in the Provincial Secretariat, he was seconded to the Government of India in 1942. He worked successively as Deputy Secretary in the Supply Department, Chief Controller of Imports and Exports, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and as Secretary, Ministry of Heavy Industry. He was India’s Principal Representative at the meetings of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and was its Chairman in 1957-58. He became Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance in 1960 and was appointed in 1964 to the newly created post of Principal Secretary to the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. Subsequently, he continued in the same capacity under Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi.
From July 1, 1967 to May 3, 1970, L. K. Jha held the office of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. As Governor of the RBI, he contributed towards strengthening the banking sector. He attached more importance to the developmental role of the Reserve Bank in enhancing growth prospects of the economy. He left the Reserve Bank of India in May 1970 to take over as Ambassador of India to the United States. When the Bangladesh War broke out in 1971, L. K. Jha effectively presented the Indian viewpoint. In 1973, he was appointed Governor of Jammu & Kashmir, and in 1977, a member of the Brandt Commission. As its Deputy Chairman, he played a major role in giving shape to its two reports in 1979 and 1982. On return to Delhi in 1981, he was appointed as Chairman of the Economic Administration Reforms Commission. From 1986 till his death, he served as a member of the Rajya Sabha from his native state of Bihar.
L. K. Jha was an ardent supporter of liberalisation, a process which has gained momentum in recent years. He took the view that although liberalisation may temporarily bring in its wake adverse terms of trade, in the long run, it would lead to increase in exports and greater competitiveness in the economy.
Of the several books written by him, mention may be made of ‘Economic Development: Ends and Means’, ‘Shortages and High Prices: The Way Out’, ‘Economic Strategy for the Eighties – Priorities for the Seventh Plan’, ‘The North-South Debate’. ‘Growth, Inflation and Other Issues’, ‘India’s Economic Development: A Critique’, and ‘Mr. Redtape’, a satirical comment on bureaucratic procedures. His writings cover a wide range of topics. Many of them relate to credit, banking, monetary policy and international payments which are of direct concern to a central banker. Besides, they also deal with various aspects of economic development in the Indian context, viz., industrial growth, efficiency in industry, planning process, economic strategies, public sector autonomy, etc.
L. K. Jha’s expertise in the economic field was recognised not only nationally but also internationally. He was the first Indian Chairman of GATT. He was also Chairman of the U.N. Group of Eminent Persons on Transnational Corporations, member of Interim Coordinate Committee of the International Commodity Agreement and a member and later Deputy Chairman, of the Brandt Commission. He argued for a new economic order and laid emphasis on strengthening the international institutions which in his view could contribute immensely to the betterment of development countries.
L. K. Jha passed away in Pune on January 16, 1988 and remained fully committed to his work to the very last.
So far, fourteen lectures have been delivered as mentioned below: