In memory of Professor Ashok Kotwal

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Ideas for India’s Editor-in-Chief Professor Ashok Kotwal on 28 April 2022. Prof Kotwal played an integral role in founding Ideas for India (I4I) in 2012, IGC’s key platform for contributing to the policy discourse in India. He also served as the Lead Academic for IGC’s India Bihar programme from 2015-2017, which brought researchers and policymakers together to identify and tackle economic and policy challenges in Bihar.

He will be remembered for his infectious enthusiasm for evidence-based policy and making research accessible to broader audiences, which he shared with fellow members of I4I’s editorial board and staff. He built strong, lasting relationships with I4I and IGC colleagues, serving as an important mentor for many. Prof Kotwal treated anyone who met him warmly and kindly.

At IGC, Prof Kotwal leaves a lasting legacy in the longevity, reach, and influence of I4I. He was integral in growing the platform from the ground up, ensuring that it continued to innovate, attract eminent contributors, and weigh in on India’s most important policy debates.

In addition to his roles at the IGC, he was Professor at the Vancouver School of Economics, University of British Columbia; Senior Fellow at (BREAD) Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis in Development; and an Associate at (ThRed) Theoretical Research in Economic Development.

Prof Kotwal made fundamental contributions to the field of development economics. Much of his early work was theoretical in nature. Often in collaboration with Prof Mukesh Eswaran, Prof Kotwal made innovative use of incentive theory to explain practices that have puzzled economists who study less developed countries. Their work illuminates the reasons why landlords hire a combination of permanent workers and casual labour, why different contractual forms like sharecropping and fixed rental tenancy are often observed to coexist, why capitalists become bosses instead of lenders, and how the pattern of demand for different goods and services can lead to persistent poverty despite economic growth.

Later in his career, Prof Kotwal combined theory with empirical analysis to address important policy-relevant questions. His later work throws light on how clientelist economic relations curb the egalitarian impact of electoral democracy, and whether economic liberalisation in India in the early 1990s affected the country’s growth trajectory. Prof Kotwal has left a lasting impact on his field.

We send our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

If you wish to share a personal tribute to Prof Kotwal, you can do so on the I4I website.