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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 27 New Delhi June 27, 2015

Nikhil Babu Widened My Mental Horizon

Monday 29 June 2015, by Girish Mishra


It was in late 1959 that I met N.C. (Nikhil Chakravartty). I was sent by Comrade P. C. Joshi to deliver some document to him. At that time he had just started IPA (India Press Agency) and used to sit in the INS Building on Rafi Marg. When I met him, he expressed a great deal of warmth and asked me to meet him off and on. At that time I lived in North Avenue. My meetings with him began and I learnt a great deal from him. My mental horizon was widened. Whenever I came from Patna to Delhi, I regularly visited him.

In 1962 the Sino-Indian war took place and there was a general hostility towards the Communists and Nehru. The RSS people were the main instruments of fomenting it. Nikhil Babu mentioned that he was planning to start a weekly, Mainstream. For a long time, C.N. Chittaranjan’s name appeared as editor and, later, D.R. Goyal took over.

In the second half of 1963, when I went to Varanasi as a teacher, Nikhil Babu asked me to write about Bihar and its various problems. He cautioned me to produce well-researched articles, based on solid facts and figures and not to indulge in sheer demagogy, I followed his advice and whatever I wrote was published in Mainstream. Within a few months, my articles became very popular. So much so that the Searchlight asked me to write a series of articles on Bihar’s casteism. During mid-1960s there was a great deal of turmoil in Bihar—everything from administration to education had collapsed. I was instructed by Nikhil Babu to go deeper in the causes of the collapse. He warned that he did not like superficial analysis.

In 1967, a new SVD Government was formed in Bihar. It included all anti-Congress forces from the Jana Sangh to the Communists. This government proved to be unstable and did not survive for long. The Jana Sangh was opposed to any kind of land reforms and they rose against JP who had insisted on thorough land reforms. On the other hand, the Communists were opposed to the Tatas enjoying zamindari rights so much so that J.R.D. Tata was made to stand in the queue before meeting the Revenue Minister. I was asked by Nikhil Babu to visit areas where famine was more severe. Dr. K. S. Singh wrote a book on the famine-affected areas of Bihar, which was widely read.

Till the demise of Nikhil Babu, he always guided me as to how to write serious yet readable pieces. He was against mere sensationalism, not supported by facts and serious analysis. I switched over to writing on serious economic topics. He appreciated my pieces though he was all along critical of my lapses or superficial arguments.

He trained a whole group of serious journalists through IPA and Mainstream. One may look around and find them both here and abroad.

I have always been grateful to him for heaving provided me guidance. He was a well-educated person, trained in England where, during the Second World War, a great deal of ideological churning was going on. It was the period when Lord Keynes emerged and he, along with others, gave shape to the Bretton Woods institutions and the process of the liberation of the Third World began.

The author, a well-known economist, used to teach Economics at Kirorimal College, University of Delhi before his retirement a few years ago. He can be contacted at

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