Nobel winners, poverty and Right Wing on mute mode

By TN Ashok. Dated: 10/19/2019 12:33:05 AM

The Nobel Prize, named after Alfred Nobel who invented the dynamite TNT, is perhaps the most prestigious award in the world, not because of the money it brings in, but the global recognition it brings to one's life time work. Every country feels proud when one of its citizens win the Nobel Prize whether its literature, peace, physics or chemistry or economics.
The Nobel Prize was established in 1968 and it carries a citation besides a cash prize of 90 lakhs SEK and is presented by the monarchy of Sweden on behalf of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The Nobel prize for economics is currently held by Paul Romer, William Nordhaus (2018)
So this year's Nobel prize for 2019 that went to Abhijeet Banerjee, his wife Esther Dufflo of the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, the Mecca of learning, and Michael Kremer of Harvard University for their Economic theories "for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty", has apparently ruffled feathers among extreme right wing politicians in the western world , both in Europe, USA and even in India.
Appreciation for the award has not been wholehearted but muted , except in the City of Joy, Kolkatta ruled by a middle of the road politician Mamta Bannerjee, constantly at war with the right wing RSS dominated BJP led NDA government , a hit with the western world , thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose multiple visits to the western world has brought the powers that be much closer to him. The City has been ruled by Marxists CPI-M for over for over three decades by its strongman Jyoti Basu.
Prime Minister Modi undoubtedly expressed his happiness at an Indian American getting the Nobel price , but Kolkata was over joyed because Abhijeet is the fourth Kolkattan or simply Bengali to win the Nobel prize . First Rabindranath Tagore, who penned the national anthem jana gana mana...., won the prize for his immortal work "Gitanjali", which today forms the bhagvada gita on poetry in India for all literature students in the post graduation course in English literature. Bose for his work on sciences especially in microbiology, the frontier science of the world today, again in the late 30s. Then after a hiatus of about nearly 30 years or more Prof Chandrasekhar, a student of Nobel Laureate Sir CV Raman, won the Nobel prize for his immortal work on black holes, where he prescribed more popularly known as the Chandrasekhar limit, that is a point beyond which all matter collapses into thick dense mass of a black hole due to intense gravitational pull that even light cannot escape. Today based on his theory, scientists have actually found scientific evidence of the existence of black holes and even propounded mind boggling theory that they can open out into another universe. This is yet to be proved. And this is up for another Nobel Prize.
Prof Venkatraman of Cambridge also won the Nobel Prize for his work on the basics of evolution of life focusing on the bio chemistry aspect. It went right down to the level of the DNA, RNA and protoplasm , all building blocks of life. Especially when NASA scientists are wanting to establish that life existed on another planet Mars because of the presence of water and Nitrogen, the essence of life.
So a total of about six Indians have won the Nobel Prize in the last more than 100 years of its foundation. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences decided to award the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2019 to, Abhijit Banerjee, his wife Esther Duflo, both from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA. Michael Kremer of Harvard University, Cambridge, USA, who also wins the prize forms the triology for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty". Their research is helping us fight poverty. 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, claim welfare economists.
Despite recent dramatic improvements, one of humanity's most urgent issues is the reduction of global poverty, in all its forms. More than 700 million people still subsist on extremely low incomes. Every year, around five million children under the age of five still die of diseases that could often have been prevented or cured with inexpensive treatments. Half of the world's children still leave school without basic literacy and numeracy skills.
This year's Laureates have introduced a new approach to obtaining reliable answers about the best ways to fight global poverty. In brief, it involves dividing this issue into smaller, more manageable, questions - for example, the most effective interventions for improving educational outcomes or child health. They have shown that these smaller, more precise, questions are often best answered via carefully designed experiments among the people who are most affected.
In the mid-1990s, Michael Kremer and his colleagues demonstrated how powerful this approach can be, using field experiments to test a range of interventions that could improve school results in western Kenya. Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, often with Michael Kremer, 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.
Even as India was agog with the news of another Indian winning the Nobel Prize, 58 year old Abhijit Banerjee (MIR), said the Indian economy is "doing very badly" even as the government is increasingly recognising that there is a problem. Much to the consternation of the powers that be, he openly and fearlessly said: "The economy is doing very badly in my view". At a press conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after winning the prize, he said of questions on the status of Indian economy and its future: "That's a statement not about what will work in the future but about what's going on now. That I'm entitled to have an opinion about."
Referring to the numbers put out by the National Sample Survey that come out every 1.5 years and give estimates about the average consumption in urban and rural areas in India, Abhijit Banerjee said, "the fact that we see in that is that between 2014-15 and 2017-18, that number has slightly gone down. And that's the first time such a thing has happened in many many years so that's a very glaring warning sign." "There is an enormous fight going on in India about, which data is right and the government has a particular view of (that) all data that is inconvenient to it is wrong. But nonetheless, I think that this is something that I think even the government is increasingly recognising that there is a problem. So the economy is slowing very fast. How fast we don't know, there is this dispute about data but I think fast," he said.
Abhijit Banerjee added that he does not know exactly what to do. "The government has a large deficit but right now it's sort of at least aiming to please everybody by pretending to hold to some budgetary targets and monetary targets. Abhijit Banerjee said that in his view when the economy is going into a "tailspin", its the time when "you don't worry so much about monetary stability and you worry a little bit more about demand. I think demand is a huge problem right now in Índia's economy."
Actually, Finance Minister Ms Nirmala Sitharaman had last week in Mumbai evaded a direct reply to a question on whether the government admitted there is an economic slowdown, and said the government is giving relief to all sectors who need help. She said since the Budget in July, she has been meeting representatives of various industrial sectors, and sector-wise intervention is being made regularly.
In 2003, Abhijit Banerjee founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), along with Duflo and Sendhil Mullainathan, and he remains one of its directors. He also served on the UN Secretary-General's High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. J-PAL, a global network of antipoverty researchers that conducts field experiments, has now become a major center of research, backing work across the world, foreign agency reports say.
To a standing ovation at the press conference, Abhijit Banerjee remarked it is "wonderful" to get the Nobel Prize "because it's a prize not, I think, for us, but also for the entire movement." He said about 400 professors are associated in some way with J-PAL's work and are doing randomised control trials on issues as diverse as US school in the Appalachia to governance problems in Indonesia, getting children immunised in India and getting children under bed nets in Sub Saharan Africa.



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