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Obituary: Passion to serve his beloved country -India brought renowned economist Prof Autar Singh Dhesi back from UK- Prof BS Ghuman

Obituary: Passion to serve his beloved country -India brought renowned economist Prof Autar Singh Dhesi back from UK- Prof BS Ghuman

Professor BS Ghuman/ May 2,2024

Professor Autar Singh Dhesi -a renowned economist passed away on April 24, 2024 at Chandigarh and was cremated on April 29, 2024 at his native village Kahna Dhesian, district Jalandhar.  His passing away evoked waves of sadness and sorrow among academic circles of Punjab. His bhog ceremony will be held at his village on May 3,2024.

Professor A S Dhesi was born to Sardar Milkha Singh Dhesi and Sardarni Bakhshis Kaur Dhesi on   July 9,1936 at his village. He completed his primary education at his village school and matriculation from Khalsa High School, Bundala, district Jalandhar in 1953 and B. Sc. in Natural Science from Panjab University, (Hoshiarpur) in 1957.

Professor Dhesi’s thirst for knowledge motivated him to migrate to the United Kingdom in 1958 for pursuing higher education. In 1966 he completed a post graduate diploma in Development Administration from Leeds University. In 1968 he earned an M.Sc. degree in International Economics from Surrey University. He was awarded Masters in Social Sciences degree by the Birmingham University in 1971.He was Research Council Scholarship (Social Sciences) holder while pursuing his course. He successfully completed his Ph.D. degree in Economics from Birmingham University in the year 1974. Being an active scholar, Professor Dhesi was elected as member of Faculty Board, Faculty Development Committee and Senate of the University.   He also taught at Coventry University.

During his time in the UK, Professor Dhesi was also deeply involved in community affairs. He was amongst the founder members of the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination. He was Secretary of Southall Indian Workers’ Association. He worked for his beloved country while in the UK. He was joint secretary of the National India Defence Fund Committee. He also worked as free-lance journalist.

Passion to serve his beloved country India and Punjab State brought him back to India in 1975 leaving behind green pastures. On his return hejoined Guru Nanak Dev University as Reader (Associate Professor) in Economics. Professor Dhesi’s illustrious career spanned decades of dedicated service and remarkable achievements in India.

Professor Dhesi got a break through in his career in 1982 when he was appointed as consultant to World Bank, Washington DC which was rare honour to a teacher of only 7 years of standing. The GNDU recognised expanding frontiers of his talent and promoted him as Professor in 1983. Subsequently he was appointed Head, Punjab School of Economics in1984. During his headship he took lot many initiatives including starting of new courses such as M.Sc. in Industrial economics, founding a new journal, namely, the Indian Journal of Quantitative Economics.  He also served as Dean, Faculty of Economics and Business at GNDU. He was member of governing bodies of GNDU.

His major areas of specialisation include economic development and planning, public policy, sustainable development, human and social development, higher education and NGOs.

Professor Dhesi was a very popular teacher, strict disciplinarian and hard task master. I have had the honour of reaping the benefits of his scholarship as my M.Phil. and Ph.D. supervisor. He honed my academic credentials so meticulously that straight way I got selected as lecturer at Panjab University and later on throughout my academic career his mentorship paid me handsome dividends.

Obituary: Passion to serve his beloved country -India brought renowned economist Prof Autar Singh Dhesi back from UK- Prof BS Ghuman
Prof Autar Singh Dhesi


Professor Dhesi’s services were extensively used by the governments. He was Member of Punjab State Planning Board besides consultant to the Bureau of Industrial Costs and Prices, Government of India and the Central Water Commission, and he was on the Panel of Industrial Economics, Planning Commission of India.

Professor Dhesi was very actively involved in the development of Punjab especially rural areas. In addition to his contribution in this regard as member Punjab State Planning Boardand extensive writings in print media, he set up Punjab Development Society (PDS) in 1997 with a mandate to promote scientific, economic, social and cultural development of North-west India with special focus on Punjab.

Retirement from active service in 1996 did not dampen Professor Dhesi’s commitment to serve the society. In November 1997, he along with four academicians wrote to Sh. Inder Kumar Gujaral the then Prime Minster of India to revive the shelved Chandigarh -Ludhiana rail project and the project finally saw the light of the day in 2013 when rail service between Chandigarh and Ludhiana started.

Professor Autar Singh Dhesi was appointed as the University Grants Commission Visiting Professor of Economics from October 1998 – October 2000 at Punjabi University. Recognising his seminal contribution, he was awarded   the Honoris Causa Degree by the University of Surrey in 2011. He was also Honorary Visiting Research Fellow at the Coventry Business School, Coventry University, England. He was also appointed as member of Senate of Punjabi University. He published extensively in professional journals, even after superannuation.

Professor AS Dhesi transcended intellectual arena. He was firm believer of blending of theory and practice advocating that whatever we teach in the universities should be applied in one form or other to solve societal problem. He was also a champion of policy research suggesting bridging the dichotomy between intellectuals and policy makers. While serving as member Punjab State Planning Board he tried to bridge thisgap. He had a passion for the development of Punjab especially rural development which he pursued through the activities of PDS and writing popular articles in print media, in addition to his research publications.   During his teaching days his endeavour was not only to make students employable but also to educate them to eradicate economic and social evils including drug menace from Punjab. His passing away has marked a profound loss not only for academia but also for broader community. His students like me inspired by his dedication and vision will make sincere efforts to take forward his legacy for pursuing excellence in research and publishing socially relevant articles in print media.

Obituary: Passion to serve his beloved country -India brought renowned economist Prof Autar Singh Dhesi back from UK- Prof BS Ghuman
Prof BS Ghuman

NOTE: The vies expressed are personal . The writer Professor BS Ghuman is a Former Vice Chancellor, Punjabi University, Patiala.



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