The Delhi School of Economics (DSE) was established in 1949 as a centre for excellence and advanced learning and research in the social sciences with Professor VKRV Rao as the Founder - Director and the Department of Economics of the University of Delhi as the nucleus.
Guided by his vision of India's future and support from India's first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Professor VKRV Rao wanted to create an institution devoted to research and teaching in economics and allied areas in the social sciences which would produce students who would play an important role in the economic development and social progress of the country. Such students were to be not only well trained in rigorous theory with a quantitative orientation but also have a wider perception of important social issues facing the country. Professor VKRV Rao wanted to make “…economics useful for the nation's economic growth and the welfare of its masses.” He also wanted to uplift the rural poor of India “…who deserve to be…truly served through education, investment, development and social and economic progress directed to their welfare, and improvement in their quality of life.”
Professor VKRV Rao was deeply inspired by a well-known prayer of Swami Vivekananda to serve the poor and downtrodden which is inscribed in the Swami Vivekananda Hall in the Delhi School of Economics.
“May I be born again and again, and suffer thousands of miseries so that I may worship the only God that exists, the only God I believe in, the sum total of all souls – and above all, my God the wicked, my God the miserable, my God the poor of all races, is the special object of my worship.”
This prayer is a reflection of Professor VKRV Rao's conviction that God is one, but wise men describe him in different ways.
In pursuing his mission “…to build an independent school of research and training…in India that would compare with the London School of Economics.” Professor Rao had to search for talent and commitment. He got in touch with Professor KN Raj at Cambridge well before independence and other reputed academicians over the subsequent years. Soon, a dedicated team comprising Professors BN Ganguli, KN Raj, PN Dhar and AM Khusro joined him in taking the mission of setting up the Delhi School of Economics forward.
Professor VKRV Rao guided the development of the School as Director from 1949 to 1957 before becoming the Vice Chancellor of the University of Delhi in 1957. Professor BN Ganguli was appointed Director in his place.
The Delhi School of Economics Society was registered in 1952, for the promotion and development of an all-India centre for training and research in Economics, with Honourable Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru as its President. The Society, in turn, appointed a Governing Body for the School, with Sri VT Krishnamachari as its Chairman.
For some time, the School operated in the barracks near the Vice Chancellor's office and later shifted to the Arts Faculty Building.
On January 18th, 1956, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru inaugurated the main DSE building (which currently houses the Department of Economics) that had been built on University land. In recognition of a generous grant from the Birlas which was used to build it, the DSE Society named the building as Birla Bhavan. The Tata enterprises came forward to build a library which is today the best library in social sciences in the country and is known as the Ratan Tata Library.
Until 1957, the Delhi School of Economics functioned simultaneously as a Department of the University of Delhi as well as an autonomous body. At that point, a choice had to be made - to either retain its autonomous status or be fully absorbed into the University of Delhi. Ultimately, the Delhi School of Economics merged with the University of Delhi system and the DSE building that had been made with immense dedication and passion by Professor VKRV Rao, was handed over to the University in 1957.
While the initial impulse for its creation came from the challenges of planning and policy making in India and other newly independent developing countries, the academic activities of DSE soon came to encompass a wider canvas. It was also Professor Rao's belief that “...in order to make good policy– the social sciences have to learn from, and speak to, each other.” Thus, under his Vice Chancellorship, the idea of adding more Social Science disciplines in the University of Delhi was implemented in 1959 with the establishment of the Departments of Sociology and Geography.
The Department of Sociology was established under the leadership of internationally renowned sociologist, Professor MN Srinivas. He was able to put together an excellent team of eminent sociologists including Professors MSA Rao, Andre Beteille and AM Shah. Professor JPS Oberoi joined the reputed team a decade later.
The Department of Human Geography was added to the DSE family of departments in the same year under the leadership of Professor George Kurian. Reputed geographers, Professors VLS Prakasa Rao and R. Ramachandaran joined him later. The name of the Department was changed to Department of Geography in 1976.
In 1958, a few units which had formed part of the School -- the Rural Development Section (financed by the Ministry of Health of the Government of India) and the Orientation Centre for Foreign Technicians in India (financed by the Ford Foundation and the United States Technical Cooperation Mission), were separated and transferred to the Institute of Economic Growth (which was established by the Delhi School of Economics Society in that year as a completely autonomous institution). Another unit in the School, the Agricultural Economics Research Centre (financed by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture of the Government of India), was also administratively separated and placed under the direct charge of the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Delhi.
In the 1950s, courses in Commerce, Business Management, Economic Statistics, and Economic Administration were organized as part of the programme of the Department of Economics. Reorganization since then has been a continuous process. Management Studies acquired the status of an independent Faculty in 1967. Commerce grew to become a full-fledged Department in 1967 and has been a full-fledged Faculty since 1993. Therefore, currently the Delhi School of Economics comprises the Departments of Economics, Geography, and Sociology which are part of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Delhi.
The association of the Department of Economics with DSE is, of course, as old as the School itself although post-graduate teaching in Economics at the University started much earlier with the help of a few college teachers. In 1942, Prof VKRV Rao was appointed as the first University Professor and for a while Economics was a one-man Department. On this basis, the Department of Economics has entered its 74th year in 2016. The Departments of Geography and Sociology have entered their 57th year in 2016.
Tradition of Excellence
The Departments of Economics and Sociology have the distinction of being the earliest departments in their respective disciplines to have earned the recognition of Centres of Advanced Study by the UGC. The teaching and research focus of all the three departments of the Delhi School of Economics has evolved over the years to reflect changing economic and social needs of India and their respective disciplines.
All three departments support M.A., M.Phil. and Ph.D. programmes and have maintained what was envisaged by Professor VKRV Rao as “…a marriage between theory and practice and a balanced mixture of both…” which makes these disciplines “…useful for policy purposes and the promotion of human welfare.”
Faculty members of the three departments actively carry out research in diverse fields and continue to publish in top-notch journals in their fields. Their specializations span a wide spectrum of sub- disciplines. Faculty members also continue to influence the planning process and policy making through involvement in various national committees and bodies.
Thus, the tradition of excellence continues. The Delhi School of Economics is considered to be a premier centre for excellence in post-graduate teaching and research in Economics, Geography and Sociology. This is indeed reflected in the recognition garnered by its distinguished alumni the world over. The School has inspired generations of students to excel in their career goals in diverse streams such as academia, research, and involvement in the social, government and corporate sectors. Undoubtedly, the Delhi School of Economics has made a distinct mark both in the Indian as well as the global economy, fulfilling the conviction of the Founder-Director:
“After all there are many universities, but only one Delhi School of Economics.”