In October of 1960, shortly after the conclusion of India’s Second Five- Year Plan, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru convened a high-level expert panel to investigate whether the fruits of recent economic growth had been equitably distributed across the country, or whether benefits had accrued primarily to the nation’s elite. Triggered by sharp public and parliamentary criticisms of Nehru’s ambitious, top-down economic planning regime, the committee was the first expert body to examine changes in the distribution of economic opportunities and rewards in postcolonial India. P. C. Mahalanobis, who also served as the director of the Second Five- Year Plan and who was the chief architect of India’s experiments in largescale household sampling, headed the panel. The debates and controversies surrounding the work of the Mahalanobis Committee (as it came to be called) expose important tensions in postcolonial expertise. They also help recover earlier framings of inequality, which centered on midcentury concerns about “levels of living” and economic power, rather than the simple distribution of income.

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