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All you need to know about Abhijit Banerjee: The Indian-origin economist who won the Nobel Prize in 2019

Tuesday, October 15, 2019 • Tamil Comments

Indian-American economist Abhijit Banerjee, his French-American wife Esther Duflo, who was a former advisor to USA's ex-president Barack Obama, and Micheal Kremmer from the US won the 2019 Nobel Prize for Economics on Monday for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.

Mumbai-born Abhijit Banerjee, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA, becomes the second person of Indian origin to win the Nobel Prize for Economics after Amartya Sen in 1998. The research conducted by this year's Laureates has considerably improved our ability to fight global poverty. In just two decades, their new experiment-based approach has transformed development economics, which is now a flourishing field of research, a press release from The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences read.

During his days as a student at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Abhijit Banerjee spent ten days in Delhi's Tihar jail after he participated in a protest. A group of students from JNU was arrested and beaten up in 1983 for "gheraoing the vice-chancellor in his house for the umpteenth time" for expelling the president of the student union, according to a report.

"It was the summer of '83 and we, the students of JNU, had gheraoed the vice-chancellor in his house for the umpteenth time. The pretext was the expulsion of the president of the student union, the Kanhaiya Kumar of the day, for reasons that escape me now," Banerjee had written in an article published by a news agency in February 2016. "We were beaten (I was) and thrown into Tihar jail, charged not quite with sedition, but attempt to murder and the rest. The charges were eventually dropped, thank God, but not before we spent 10 days or so in Tihar. What it undoubtedly was is an attempt by the State to establish the lines of authority. We are the boss they were telling us, shut up and behave," the article further read.

Abhijit Banerjee, after being awarded the honour, reportedly said at a news briefing at the MIT, "It's wonderful to get this prize. The prize is not for us, but for the entire movement (poverty alleviation). It's a movement that we happened to be at the beginning of." His wife Esther Duflo, who is also a professor at the MIT, is the second woman in history to win an Economics Nobel, following Elinor Ostrom in 2009, and is also the youngest person to ever be awarded the honour. Stating that the tribute is extremely humbling, Duflo said, "I didn't think it was possible to win the Nobel Prize in Economics before being significantly older than any of the three of us."

"Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, often with Michael Kremmer soon performed similar studies of other issues and in other countries. Their experimental research methods now entirely dominate development economics. The Laureates' research findings – and those of the researchers following in their footsteps – have dramatically improved our ability to fight poverty in practice.

"As a direct result of one of their studies, more than five million Indian children have benefitted from effective programmes of remedial tutoring in schools. Another example is the heavy subsidies for preventive healthcare that have been introduced in many countries. These are just two examples of how this new research has already helped to alleviate global poverty. It also has great potential to further improve the lives of the worst-off people around the world," the press release from The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences added.

Leaders from across the country, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind, Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal, and M Venkaiah Naidu, among others, showered the three Nobel laureates with praises.

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