Renowned economist Isher Judge Ahluwalia passed away Saturday after a 10-month-long battle with brain cancer. She would have turned 75 on October 1 and is survived by husband Montek Singh Ahluwalia and two sons Pavan and Aman.
Ahluwalia served as the director and then the chairperson of Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) for a total of 15 years and built ICRIER into a leading global think tank.
Last month, she had stepped down as ICRIER chairman due to her ill health. “The ICRIER family is profoundly saddened at the passing away of Chairperson Emeritus Dr. Isher Judge Ahluwalia this morning,” news agency PTI quoted the think tank as saying. ICRIER director and chief executive Rajat Kathuria said, “I can say without an iota of doubt that ICRIER was in her DNA.”
After starting her career at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Ahluwalia returned to India where she authored two books — ‘Industrial Growth in India: Stagnation since the Mid-Sixties’ and ‘Productivity and Growth in Indian Manufacturing’. She was also a professor at the Centre for Policy Research. Her last book ‘Breaking Through: A Memoir by Isher Judge Ahluwalia‘ was published last month.
Former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh took to Twitter to pay tribute to the departed soul. “Isher Ahluwalia who just passed away was one of India’s distinguished economists, an MIT PhD, and author of an influential book ‘Industrial Growth in India’. She built up ICRIER, a fine economic think tank. She had her own distinctive identity apart from being Montek’s wife,” he wrote.
Isher Ahluwalia who just passed away, was one of India’s distinguished economists, a MIT PhD, and author of an influential book ‘Industrial Growth in India’. She built up ICRIER, a fine economic think tank. She had her own distinctive identity apart from being Montek‘s wife.
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) September 26, 2020
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh too expressed his condolences towards Ahluwalia’s family. Taking to Twitter, Amarinder wrote: “Saddened to learn of passing away of Dr Isher Judge Ahluwalia. She was one of India’s most distinguished economists & we had privilege of having her as Vice-Chairman of State Planning Board in my last term. Heartfelt condolences to Montek ji & their family in this hour of grief.”
Saddened to learn of passing away of Dr Isher Judge Ahluwalia. She was one of India’s most distinguished economists & we had privilege of having her as Vice-Chairman of State Planning Board in my last term. Heartfelt condolences to Montek ji & their family in this hour of grief.
— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) September 26, 2020
After passing her West Bengal Higher Secondary Board examination in 1962 from Shri Shikshayatan Vidyalaya, ranking eighth in the state, Ahluwalia went to Presidency College, Kolkata, to study economics with a scholarship of Rs 35 per month, which paid for her college fees and the tram ride from home and back. She then joined the Delhi School of Economics for her Master’s degree. Armed with a high first division in a year when seven of the eight ‘first-divers’ were women, Isher applied to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she was accepted with a fellowship.
Her research was focused on urban development, macro-economic reforms, industrial development, and social sector development issues in India.
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