List of top twelve Indian economic thinkers:- 1. Kautilya 2. Thiruvalluvar 3. Dadabhai Naoroji 4. Mahadev Govind Ranade 5. Romesh Chandra Dutt 6. Gopal Krishna Gokhale 7. Radhakamal Mukerjee 8. C.N. Vakil 9. D.R. Gadgil 10. Dr. Rammanohar Lohia 11. Jawaharlal Nehru 12. V.K.R.V. Rao.

Indian Economic Thinker # 1. Kautilya:

The main source of information regarding the economic thought in ancient India are the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Epics and treatises like Kautilya’s Arthashastra. Thiruvalluvar’s Thirukkural throws light on the economic thought in ancient South India.

The Vedas depict the life and work in the early Vedic period. Kautilya’s Arthashastra gives details of the political, social, economic and military organisation of the Mauryan Empire. Kautilya’s Arthashastra is the chief source of information. He was the Chief Minister of Chandra Guptha Maurya.

He was responsible for getting Chandra Guptha the Kingdom of Land. Kautilya has given a vivid description of the administrative procedures, duties of Kings, Ministers and Government officers. Kautilya’s Arthashastra is based on earlier treatises and is divided into fifteen chapters covering 430 pages.


The treatment in his book is quite comprehensive and systematic. It covers almost every aspect of theory and practice of Economics. It also deals with the Government of towns and villages, law courts, rights of women, maintenance of the old and helpless, marriage and divorce, public finance, maintenance of Army and Navy, diplomacy, agriculture, spinning and weaving and a number of other subjects. His book contains ample ideas on a welfare state.

Indian Economic Thinker # 2. Thiruvalluvar:

The economic ideas of Thiruvalluvar are found in his immortal work, Thirukkural, a book of ethics. Even though scholars differ widely over the estimation of the period of Thiruvalluvar, it is generally believed that, he belonged to the Sangam Age in Tamil-Nadu, around 3rd century A.D. Thiruvalluvar’s work is marked by pragmatic idealism.

Thirukkural contains three important parts, viz., Aram, Porul, and Inbam which literally means Dharma (Ethics), Artha (Polity) and Kama (Bondage or love), which are the aims of life of a Hindu. The fourth aim of life was Moksha or Veedu (Liberation). Thiruvalluvar deliberately excluded this fourth division in his book, as it is the exclusive area of spiritual literature. Thus Thiruvalluvar did not mix spiritualism with earthly things.

A large part of Valluvar’s economic ideas are found in the second part of Thirukkural the Porutpal. It deals with wealth.


Thiruvalluvar was a pragmatic thinker and his porutpal shows three characteristic features of the author:

Firstly, Thirukkal has certain elements of classicism. So he can be identified as a classical economist.

Secondly, his economic ideas were based under ethics and hence he can be called as normative economist.

Finally, his treatise speaks about general welfare and hence he can be identified as a welfare economist.Thus he had in him, classicism, normatism and welfare ideal.


Thiruvalluvar was a fundamental thinker. He believed that rains were the basic support of life. Since rain furnishes food, it forms the basis for stable economic life. Agriculture which is the most fundamental economic activity depends on rain, “It is rain that both ruins and aids the ruined to rise”.

Indian Economic Thinker # 3. Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917):

Dadabhai Naoroji, “The grand old man of India” was one of the founders of Indian Nationalism. His teacher called him “The Promise of India”. Born in a Parsi family of Bombay, Naoroji became the first Indian Professor in Elphinston college, Bombay, the founder of the East India Association (1886), the first Indian to be elected as member of British Parliament (1893), the first Indian member of the Royal Commission, and above all, first Indian economist of the I9th century. He was elected President of the Indian National Congress thrice in 1886,1893 and 1906.

Naoroji’s economic ideas are contained in his book; “Poverty and Un-British Rule in India” (first published in 1901 and reprinted in 1962). Naoroji analysed the effects of the British rule on the Indian economy. He pointed out how the Britishers were responsible for causing drain on the Indian resources and generating poverty in India. He also suggested some remedial measures for the improvement of the Indian economy.

Indian Economic Thinker # 4. Mahadev Govind Ranade (1842-1901):

Mahadev Govind Ranade has been called as the father of Renaissance in western India. He influenced everyone who came in his contact. Ranade was born at Nasik on 18th January, 1842. After taking his M. A. Degree from Bombay University in 1865, he qualified himself for the degree of Law.

He taught economics at the University of Bombay for some time. Later on, he entered judicial service and became the judge of the Bombay High Court. Since then, Ranade was popularly known as Justice Ranade. He was in that post till his death in 1901.

In 1878, Ranade started the publication of the ‘Quarterly Journal’. In 1884 he helped in founding the ‘Deccan Education Society’. The aim of this society was to provide western education to the rising generation without exposing it to the antinational bias of English educators. From this, it is deduced that while recognising the merits of western education, Ranade wanted to adopt it without losing the spirit of rationalism. The economic ideas of Ranade are found in his most important works: “Essay on Indian Political Economy” (1898) and “The Rise of Maratha Power” (1900).

Indian Economic Thinker # 5. Romesh Chandra Dutt (1848-1909):

R.C. Dutt belonged to an eminent educated Bengal family. He was born in 1848 in Calcutta. He joined the Indian Civil Service in 1869 and served in many capacities. In 1899, he was elected as the President of the Indian National Congress. In his later years, he was appointed as a lecturer in Indian History at the University of London.

The economic ideas of Dutt are found in his two important books:

(1) The Economic History of India – 2 volumes and


(2) Famines in India – 2 volumes.

Gadgil described Dutt’s Economic History of India as “almost the first history of a colonial empire.” Thus while the first book deals with the economics of colonisation, the second one deals with the conditions of agricultural population in India and the causes and remedies of famines on India.

R.C. Dutt’s another book “Famines in India” provided such a vivid description of the conditions of agricultural population in India that Prince Kropotkin of Russia wrote to Dutt that, “the conditions of your agricultural population are awfully terribly similar to those of the Russian peasants, and I now will often think that whatever we do in Russia for awakening the consciousness of the agrarian evil—and anywhere in Europe as well will be in an indirect way for hundreds of millions of people whom we cannot approach without feeling love for them.”

Indian Economic Thinker # 6. Gopal Krishna Gokhale (1866-1915):

Gopal Krishna Gokhale was born at Kolhapur in Ratnagiri district on 9th May, 1866. He had his higher education at Rajaram College, Kolhapur, Deccan College, Poona and Elphinstone College, Bombay. He taught history and economics at the Ferguson College, Poona from 1866 to 1902. He was elected as a member of the legislative council of Bombay in 1899.


He became a member of the viceroy’s council in 1901. In 1905, he was chosen as the president of the Indian National Congress. He founded the “Servants of India Society” in the same year. He visited England several times to give evidence before the Welby Commission, Decentralisation Commission and for other purposes. He died on 19th November, 1915.

Though short-lived, the life of Gokhale was a brilliant one. He became a graduate at 18, professor at 20, secretary of the provisional conference at 22, editor of the Quarterly of the “Poona Sarvajanik Sabha” at 24, secretary of National Congress at 29, one of the witnesses of the Welby Commission at 30, member of the Provincial Legislative Council at 34, Imperial legislator at 36, president of the Indian National Congress and founder of the “Servants of India Society at 39, and member of a Royal Commission on Public Services at 46.

Gandhi was very much impressed with the personality of Gokhale and wrote, “He seemed to me all I wanted as a political worker – pure as crystal, gentle as a lamb, brave as a lion and chivalrous to a fault.”

Indian Economic Thinker # 7. Radhakamal Mukerjee (1889-1968):

Dr. Mukerjee began his career as a lecturer in 1910 and studied in Calcutta University. He served as Professor in Economics in various Indian Universities, viz., Calcutta University in 1917, University of Lucknow in 1921, and became Vice-Chancellor in 1955-57 in the same University. He served on several committees and commissions as Chairman and participated in many international conferences and lectured on different economic problems.


He published number of books like the Foundations of Indian Economics (1916), Principles of Comparative Economics (1923), Land Problems in India (1933), Regional Balance of Man (1938), The Political Economy of Population (1942) and The Economic History of India (1946).

Indian Economic Thinker # 8. C.N. Vakil (1895-1979):

Prof. Vakil was born at Hasot (Gujarat) on 22nd August 1895. He has done pioneering work in research training in Economics for over a generation. He is specially known for the large number of distinguished economists that he has trained.

A look at the Bibliography will convince any one of the vast amount of solid work that he was instrumental in producing, in almost all branches of Economics, by inspiring a band of devoted workers to a new field of activity. Several of his works were the first research contributions in their respective fields and have stimulated further work on the subject. He died at Bombay on 26th October 1979.

Indian Economic Thinker # 9. D.R. Gadgil (1901 -1971):

Dr. Dhanajay Ramachandra Gadgil, M.A., M.Litt., D. Litt., was a notable economists in the Indian scene for nearly five decades. He was educated at Nagpur and Cambridge Universities. He served the country in various capacities. He was Additional Secretary, Finance Department, Government of Bombay during 1924-25 and served as Principal M.T.B.College, Surat from 1925 to 1930.

He occupied the position of Director, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics for a long time from 1930 to 1966. He was Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission from 1967 to 1971. He had served on several Committees including the ALL INDIA RURAL CREDIT SURVEY. He died on May, 3,1971. He had published 24 books and many articles. In him, we can see the rare combination of academic pursuit with practical wisdom.

Indian Economic Thinker # 10. Dr. Rammanohar Lohia (1920-1967):

Dr. Rammanohar Lohia, a great leader of 20th century, saw the first ray of the sun on 23rd March 1920 at Akbarpur in Faizabad District (U.P.) in a Vaishya Family. His ancestors had acquired the surname of ‘Lohia’ for their dealing in the business of Lohia (Hardware). His father, Hiralal was a nationalist and from his father Lohia inherited the feelings of Nationalism, love and affection for the poor and needy. The environment in which Lohia spent his childhood was free from caste feelings. Even as a child, Lohia took keen interest in helping the poor, the needy and downtrodden and the weaker section when they were exploited.


Lohia completed his primary education at his native place Akbarpur, passed Matriculation in 1925 from Marwari Vidyalaya, Bombay, Intermediate in 1927 from the Kashi Vishwavidyalaya, Banaras and B. A. in 1929 from Vidyasagar College, Calcutta, He did his Ph.D. from Berlin in 1932, since his very childhood Lohia took active part in public life.

In 1920 on the death of Lokmanya Tilak, Lohia at the age of 10 years, took initiative in organizing a strike in school. His major passion was to free India from the foreigners rule. He, therefore, became a freedom fighter at a very early age and played a magnificent role in organizing the Quit India Movement in 1942.

After the achievement of Independence Lohia took active part in organizing many movements which he thought were beneficial for the Country. He struggled throughout his life for human freedom. He went to Goa and fought for the establishment of democracy in Nepal. He not only defeated the western imperialism but also Vehemently opposed the forceful entry of Soviet Union troops into Hungri in 1956 and Chinese troops into Tibet.

Though he was a political opponent of Nehru, he had love for him and had no hesitation to accept that Nehru was a veteran politician and the Congress had great need of his. While Gandhi was a dream for him, Netaji Shubhash was a brave leader in his eyes. He after independence, fought for many years to establish non-Congress governments in the states. His long cherished political desire could be fulfilled in 1967 when there was non-Congress government in eight states of Indian Union.

He was an eloquent speaker, a great freedom fighter, a brave soldier of democracy and socialism, a courageous critic and independent ideologist, thinker and above all a great humanist. He left this earthly world for heavenly abode in the year 1967. After his death the socialist movement got divided into many factions.

Dr. Lohia’s contributions to economic thoughts and action came out of this single-minded preoccupation with the need to free the individual from the shackles that chained him all-around.

Indian Economic Thinker # 11. Jawaharlal Nehru (1989-1964):


Jawaharlal Nehru was born on I4th November 1889 at Allahabad. His father, Pandit Moti Lal Nehru, was a famous lawyer and rich man and as such Jawaharlal was brought up like a prince. He received his primary education at home but after passing his Matriculation Examination went to England for higher studies.

After taking his degree in Law he came back to India in 1912 and started practice at Allahabad. In 1916 he was married to Kamla. He came under the influence of Mahatma Gandhi and left his practice in 1921 to join the National Movement started by Gandhiji. He was sent to jail several times and was elected president of the Congress four times.

He was undoubtedly very hardworking, courageous and bold, scholarly as well as a believer in truth, non-violence and universal brotherhood. During his lifetime he was loved and respected by all and became a great leader. He became the first Prime Minister of the Indian Republic after independence and died on 27th May, 1964.

The auto-biography of Jawaharlal Nehru and the two other important books—The Discovery of India’, the ‘Glimpses of World History’ as well as many historical speeches and writing give a clear impression of this great man of destiny of history’, a man of action and of thought and the master spirit of an epoch in India History.

Indian Economic Thinker # 12. V.K.R.V. Rao:

Dr. V.K.R.V.Rao, a father figure among the 20th century Indian economists, was one of those rare intellectuals who sincerely cared for national interests in general and economists in particular. Dr.Rao has an active work span of about six decades.

During this period, he presided over most of the professional conferences and served as an active member in various governmental committees and accepted various assignments, as Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University, as member of the Planning Commission and a Cabinet Minister of the Government of India. He founded and nursed a leading Research Journal, “The Indian Economic Review”.


Professor V.K.R.V.Rao was an internationally renowned economist. In the economic literature, his contributions will always be remembered. His pioneering research contributions include development and planning, employment and unemployment, essays in economic development, food, nutrition and poverty, national income, socialism, values and economic development, deficit financing for capital formation and price behavior and freedom and development. Needless to say, his contributions helped in shaping the economic planning in India.