The literary facet of his personality endeared Mitra to lovers of the English language.
The country has lost a great economist and intellectual in Ashok Mitra. May Day was to be the nonagenarian’s last and he leaves the world poorer. As chief economic adviser to Indira Gandhi, he was a member of the then PM’s inner circle. Intellectually, he was so honest that he became her government’s biggest critic. He was under watch during the Emergency and his articles were banned, but that never stopped him from articulating his views freely. He held a variety of significant posts in academia, but remained a down-to-earth personality, dressed in a dhoti and carrying himself with the sheer weight of his intellectual prowess. As West Bengal’s finance minister after the Left came to power in 1977, he was a fierce critic of the Centre though he was closely associated with Indira Gandhi’s “Garibi Hatao”.
The literary facet of his personality endeared Mitra to lovers of the English language. There was, perhaps, no more lyrical a person to bring out the nuances and semantics of great writing in Bengali, which would have been lost to a great many people if not for Mitra giving them a flourish with his admirable command of English. It’s moot whether his political economics is relevant at a time when it’s fading worldwide as the 200th birth anniversary of Karl Marx looms (May 5). But when it comes to conviction in his beliefs there was possibly no man more steadfast in adhering to his intellectual integrity. Those of today’s generation who may not be familiar with his accomplishments as an economist would be well advised to read his articles and translations to understand literary greatness.