A Prattler's Tale : Bengal, Marxism, Governance

Ashok Mitra, Samya, 2007, x, 474 p, photos, ISBN : 8185604800, $35.00 (Includes free airmail shipping)

"Offering a thought-provoking, incisive analysis of Bengal and India, Ashok Mitra's memoirs, translated for the first time into English from the Bengali original, Apila-Chapila (Ananda, 2003), brings contemporary India alive. Growing up in British India, in Old East Bengal, as a member of the Bengali middle class, he dissects its ideals, foibles, prejudices and flaws. The partition of India found him and his family in the new country of East Pakistan that they were to leave, like millions of other refugees, to a new India where they had to re-build lives. He goes on to analyse the fledgling democracy of India, taking readers through the days of the early Five Year Plans, with which he was involved in the 1950s.

Ashok Mitra's involvement with economic policy continued in his work as Chairman of the Agricultural Prices Commission, and with his appointment as Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India when Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister. Soon after, the political crisis in East Pakistan turned into the war of liberation and the author provides much new insider information.

Highlighting a different aspect of his life, that of his association with writers and intellectuals, Ashok Mitra talks of his friendship with Sachin Chaudhuri and his brothers and the founding of the Economic Weekly and its second coming as the Economic and Political Weekly. Throughout the book, he also weaves in the cultural and literary history of Bengal as his literary interests have been as vital as his political ones.

Mitra's reminiscences are enriched by his analysis of Marxism and Marxists in a poor country, of how the alliance of parties that formed the Left Front that has been elected to power in the state of West Bengal functioned, his story of his stint as the Minister of Finance and Planning in the late 1970s and 1980s, and what lay behind his sudden resignation. He is open about his disagreements with the current worldwide mantra of globalization and liberalization. The memoirs give valuable insights, adding to our understanding of India's past, present and possible future.

Ashok Mitra is an economist, political activist and essayist who writes in both Bengali and English. He was at various times Chairman, Agricultural Prices Commission, Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India, Minister of Finance and Planning in the Left Front Government of West Bengal and a member of the Rajya Sabha." (jacket) 

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