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Prof. Rabindranath Bhattacharya, affectionately called Rabin da, one of the first environmental economists in India, passed away on 3 June 2022. He had completed his PhD in natural resource economics from Utah State University, USA, and – like many outstanding economists of his generation – came back to India to help build the economics fraternity in the country. Rabin da was a humble and soft-spoken teacher much loved by all his students and mentees. He had earlier been a faculty member at North Bengal University, followed by Kalyani University, where he continued to teach and mentor students till his retirement. After that, he was an honorary Adjunct Professor at the School of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, and a visiting faculty at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, among other associations.
I got to know him around 1999–2000 when the Indian Society for Ecological Economics (INSEE) and the SANDEE were in a nascent evolutionary stage. Later, we served together on the executive committee of INSEE from 2012 to 2014. He would attend all the meetings and always had valuable suggestions on how INSEE could enhance its activities. He was a regular at many INSEE training workshops.
At SANDEE, his long-standing engagement was teaching the introductory week of the much sought-after annual summer school in environmental economics. He would provide a gentle initiation to environmental economics to a motley collection of young researchers from different parts of South Asia. He shared this course with the (late) Prof. Karl Goran Maler and Sir Partha Dasgupta, among others. The persistent laudatory feedback he got from participants of this course indicated that age had not mellowed his in-class energy. From personal conversions, I know that he too loved the opportunity to interact with young minds from diverse regional backgrounds.
My last meeting with him was at a conference at Kalyani University in February 2019. He chaired a session where I gave a talk. Since we were both headed back to Kolkata, the organisers arranged for us to travel together in the same taxi. The Kalyani–Kolkata journey in peak-hour traffic gave us a good couple of hours to catch up. He was still full of energy, writing papers and engaging with his research scholars. We bid goodbye that evening, hoping to see more of each other in the coming years. However, we lost touch during two years of the pandemic. And just as things were beginning to once again open up for physical meetings, I heard of the tragic news.
His most endearing quality was his politeness. Irrespective of your age and political persuasion, you could have a polite conversation with him. One can only hope that we, as the next generation, would have the same honesty, humility, and enthusiasm that Rabin da carried with him all his life. May his soul rest in peace.
Professor, Goa University
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