After battling ill-health for years, whereas maintaining his engagements, Bihar’s foremost social scientist, its most seen public mental, and the person thought-about to be the one-person financial think-tank for the state authorities of the day handed away on Thursday.
Shaibal Gupta was a exceptional determine in India’s mental life. From his base in Patna, he mixed the native (he was deeply immersed within the politics, society, financial system and funds of Bihar); the nationwide (he paid shut consideration to central politics and labored carefully each with authorities and establishments working in Delhi); and the worldwide (he engaged with universities overseas, was a information to a variety of worldwide teachers who specialised in Bihar, and often hosted conferences that introduced collectively tremendous world minds — the final such mega-conference, displaying Gupta’s mental breadth and pursuits, was to mark 200 years of Karl Marx’s start and his legacy).
Indeed, Shaibal-da, as he was popularly identified, had the flexibility to mix the observe of on a regular basis politics with concept, and in a really interdisciplinary vogue, weave collectively an understanding of statecraft, society and financial system. And he did all of this whereas constructing and sustaining the establishment that remained his true ardour until the very finish — the Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI). It was arguably Gupta’s presence and work that lent Patna a level of intellectually vibrancy and edge usually lacking in different state capitals within the heartland, together with Lucknow.
Gupta additionally made a pioneering contribution in explaining the historic roots and the evolution of Bihar’s politics, which have at present develop into the staple of on a regular basis political evaluation.
Conversations with him — both at his dwelling or the ADRI workplace in Patna — usually started with the debilitating, long-term influence of the Permanent Settlement regime, a severely exploitative technique of extracting revenues in the course of the colonial interval, and the way it set Bihar again. It meandered, in true adda-style over a cup of chai, to the absence of a sub-national id in Bihar — Gupta was really invested in efforts by Nitish Kumar, in his earlier phrases, to bolster a broader Bihari id past caste traces.
And then the dialog swung to the current political arithmetic, the place Gupta’s formulation of a “coalition of extremes” — the dominant castes and probably the most marginalised sub-castes coming collectively throughout the Nitish Kumar-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance — was instrumental in explaining the persisting dominance of the National Democratic Alliance within the state. Returning to his financial roots, Gupta would usually deal with State capability and rule of regulation, the place he thought that Kumar had finished greater than his predecessors in bettering issues. But he would additionally say, wistfully, that until Bihar bought particular standing, it will not have the ability to transfer to the subsequent stage of funding and industrialisation.
Beyond his mental beliefs and pursuits, two qualities of Gupta stood out. The first was his heat, generosity and humour. He was usually the primary cease for anybody in search of to grasp the state of play in Bihar. And Gupta was unfailingly courteous in sharing his knowledge and insights, and curious in regards to the views and background of his interlocutors. In a manner, in addition to his spectacular written work, this got here from his perception within the oral custom of knowledge-transmission. And by it, Gupta by no means took himself significantly, usually participating in self-deprecatory humour.
The second was his dedication to institution-building, which, within the advanced coverage ecosystem in state capitals, additionally requires the flexibility to community and a excessive diploma of pragmatism. Gupta was usually seen as being too near the federal government, particularly with Kumar. But he appeared to imagine that a coverage institute, which used to provide the financial survey for the state authorities yearly and labored with varied departments on tasks, had much more room in making a distinction quietly than by participating in blanket public criticism. This defined his relative reticence to criticise Kumar in public, even when he had apprehensions about his political strikes in non-public.
Shaibal Gupta was rooted and cosmopolitan; idealistic and pragmatic; and an insider and outsider — all on the similar time. Patna’s public life is not going to be the identical with out him.
The views expressed are private