Sunday, March 3, 2024

M Kunhaman (1949-2023)

People from all corners mourn the passing of the renowned economist, academician, and prominent Dalit thinker, M Kunhaman, at the age of 74. He was found dead at his residence here on Sunday evening.

Kunhaman served as an Economics faculty at the University of Kerala, member of the University Grants Commission, and professor at the Tuljapur campus of Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS).

He authored numerous studies on topics such as land reforms, reservation, and the Dalit crisis. Some of his notable works include ‘Development of Tribal Economy,’ ‘State Level Planning In India,’ ‘Globalization: A Subaltern Perspective,’ and ‘Economic Development and Social Changing.’

Hailing from Vadanamkurissi in Kerala’s Palakkad district, Kunhaman was born into the Dalit community of Panan, with his parents working as farm laborers.

In 1974, he achieved the top position in MA in Economics, becoming the second Dalit, following the late President K R Narayanan, to secure the first rank in post-graduation. However, the specter of poverty persisted for the accomplished Dalit rank holder. Soon after receiving the gold medal, he was compelled to sell it the next day to procure provisions for his home.

Following his completion of MA in Economics, he pursued MPhil at the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) in Thiruvananthapuram and later earned a doctorate in Economics from Cochin University of Science and Technology. Despite ranking at the top of the merit list under the general quota, Kunjaman faced initial denial of a teaching position, solely due to his Dalit identity. Undeterred, well-wishers recognized the exceptional academic prowess of the Dalit scholar, leading him to commence his career with the University of Kerala in 1979. He dedicated 27 years of service as a faculty member in the Economics Department. During a brief interval, he also served as a member of the UGC. In 2006, he departed from the University of Kerala and assumed the role of Professor of Economics at TISS.

In 2021, his autobiography ‘Ethiru’ was chosen as the best autobiography by the Kerala Sahitya Academy. However, Kunjaman declined to accept the honor. Within the pages of his autobiography, Kunhaman vividly portrayed the experiences of Dalit life in Kerala.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Kunhaman was an economist with his own perspective towards Kerala’s development.

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