Free Thinker from JNU gets Nobel Prize in Economics

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New Delhi: Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee, an eminent America-based economist shares the 2019 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with spouse Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer, “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.” 

Kolkata born Banerjee (58) was educated at the University of Calcutta, Jawaharlal Nehru University (MA-1983) and Harvard University from where he received his Ph.D in 1988 (Title of Doctoral thesis: Essays in Information Economics).

Banerjee is currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2003 he founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, along with Esther Duflo and Sendhil Mullainathan, and he remains one of the lab’s directors. 

Is it some kind of a coincidence that simultaneously while Banerjee, after completing his PhD from Harvard and till he founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, was treating the world as a laboratory to study the educational output in schools linked with the quality of education, we had this scenario in the central Indian State of Madhya Pradesh, where the then Chief Minister Digvijay Singh, was going the extra mile to promote universalisation of primary education during his two successive terms as Chief Minister between 1993 and 2003?

Significantly, Digvijay Government had also prepared the Human Development Report (HDR) to create benchmarks and identify target areas of work to fill gaps in the social sector. Summing up the State Government’s policy aimed towards filling the vast gaps in the social sector, a senior bureaucrat under Digvijay regime, who later became Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office when Manmohan Singh was Prime Minister, had remarked that the “HDR is the analysis and the Rajiv Gandhi Missions, including the Shiksha Mission, have been especially set up by the State Government to work in the priority areas”. Digvijay Government had launched the Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS), which was described in official circles in the State capital as a major step basically for universalisation of primary education. Under this scheme, if a community of 40 children or parents made a demand for education facilities in any rural area, the Government was bound to provide a trained teacher. Through this scheme, the Government’s plan was to restore the concept of giving the school back to the community. Under this scheme, instead of giving the entire paraphernalia like school building and furniture, the Government was only supposed to provide a trained teacher and the basic inputs that make transaction of education possible and with this scheme, the Government hoped to spread education in the State.

It is a matter of research and investigation whether or not Banerjee’s continuing research in the US, especially outcomes in terms of trained teachers, was backed with partnership and fresh initiatives within the federal framework in India backed with funds rolled out on priority by the exchequer.

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