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Economics Nobel winner Abhijit Banerjee a Modi govt critic, saw no logic in demonetisation

Abhijit Banerjee’s Nobel in Economics makes him only the second person of Indian origin after Amartya Sen to get the reputed award in this field.

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New Delhi: Economist Abhijit Banerjee, 58, one of the three winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize for Economics, is a Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) alum who has been a critic of the Modi government’s demonetisation policy.

Speaking to News18 in January 2017, two months after demonetisation, Banerjee said he never understood the logic behind the move.

“For one, why introduce Rs 2,000 notes? And I suspect the pain is much greater than is being currently anticipated,” he added.

Although based abroad, Banerjee has been an avid observer of the economic situation at home.

As recently as last week, speaking at the Watson Institute at Brown University, US, Banerjee said India’s current economic situation is potentially worse than even the last days of the UPA government.

He added that the Indian economy is in a “crisis” as growth has slowed massively, investment has collapsed and exports are not growing.

Banerjee said the Modi government’s way of handling “pesky” institutions was to either change the law or appoint people who will agree with the government. He was also critical of the role of the Prime Minister’s Office in all manner of decision-making.

He said the Modi government should be more open to criticism and also suggested selling public sector banks rather than trying to fix them.

Earlier, he was critical of the government’s ban on exports of agricultural commodities to curb inflation at the cost of farmer incomes, and doesn’t support quotas for government jobs.

He was one of the 108 economists who criticised the Modi government for blocking the release of unfavourable jobs data. In a joint statement, the economists had urged the government to restore the integrity of statistics.

Late last year, Banerjee was one of 13 economists brought together by former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan to prepare a vision for the economic agenda India should follow over the next five years. His academic pursuits include a paper on how India can improve its access to healthcare.

Son of economist parents

Banerjee was born in India to economist professors, and is now a US citizen.

He pursued his post-graduation in economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and got a PhD in the field from Harvard University.

Banerjee’s Nobel in Economics makes him only the second person of Indian origin after Amartya Sen to get the reputed award in this field.

Banerjee has won the prize with his wife Esther Duflo, a French-American MIT professor who, at 46, is the youngest winner of the Economics Nobel and only the second woman to get it, and American Michael Kremer. The three have been recognised for “their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”.

Banerjee, who is also a professor at MIT, served as a consultant to the Congress on its NYAY scheme, a poll sop promised by the party ahead of the Lok Sabha polls that assured a minimum income of Rs 6,000 every month to the poorest Indians.

Banerjee’s work

Banerjee is currently the Ford Foundation International  Professor of Economics at MIT and was one of the founders of the Abdul Latif Jameel poverty action lab or J-Pal, where he continues to be a director.

J-Pal has been conducting randomised clinical trials to understand the impact of certain measures to reduce poverty.

Banerjee has authored numerous papers and seven books. His most recent book — Good Economics for Hard Times — is co-authored with Duflo and slated for a November release.

He has worked extensively on poverty in India, focusing on microfinance, healthcare and education. Some of his papers centre on the Indian electorate, the delivery of public programmes and demonetisation.

After Banerjee’s Nobel win was announced Monday, historian Ramachandra Guha wrote on Twitter that the award was “richly deserved”. He went on to add that Banerjee was a “superb cook and connoisseur of Hindustani classical music”.

Also Read: Economist Abhijit Banerjee is the sixth Nobel winner with a Kolkata connection


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  1. Among many things, Prof Abhijit criticized was also the idea of reservation in government jobs. why this is not made a headline but only a politically convenient point for ThePrint is made the headline of the article? Did RBI issue 2000 rupee note or Modi asked to them issue it as he was going for demonitization? Why don’t you say that his Nyaya scheme was rejected by Indian electorate who instead voted for Modi rather for than his scheme and in effect, India rejected brilliant ideas of a Nobel laureate ? This tendency to present every comment as criticism is causing all sorts of bad blood in the press. It is indeed a great achievement by Abhijit Banerjee to get Noble prize and he richly deserves it. We should be proud of his achievements. If JNU produces today tudke tudke gang, when it once produced Abhijit, then we should be indeed worried about its falling standards.

    • Maharashtra now has 68% reservation. Which means, one third merit, two thirds identity. Does anyone honestly believe this will not undermine standards of excellence.

    • You would be more worried when A Banerjee also stands with Tukade Tukade gang and repeat the slogans to break India. A Banerjee or A Sen are least bothered about India as they are happy after leaving India. Equally India doesn’t need them as well.

    • Mr Surendra Barsode: Do you really believe that a few students who shout “tukde tukde” are enough to break up India ? And again, it is the BJPO that claims that these students shouted these words, nobody has been indicted for having said so, But of coursem, bhakths like you will believe in anything the BJP IT cell spews out.

      Tell me one more thing Mr Barsode: If you had gone to Kashmir, you would hear far more angry, anti-India slogans than that. Nobdoy would stand up when the national anthem is being played, anti India slogans are daubed on walls and Indian soldiers are stoned and shot at. What do you suggest be done in Kashmir ? Why don’t you vent your anger against something real that is happening in Kashmir as opposed to something imagined happening in JNU?

      Gaurakshaks controlling your thinking Mr Barsode ?

  2. Poverty alleviation in practice was done by Chinese most in human history.As usual Indians are always best at theory and talks.

    • Every things falls in line when leadership of the country is determined to achieve some thing. Even if China had not been a dictatorship, it would have developed as democracies is USA and Europe had done. After long time after independence India has got the leadership that is determined and leaving no stone unturned. Irrespective of leg pulling by the opposition, current India’s leadership will produce results in coming decade. As China has followed USA, India will follow China.

      • Mr Ak. Dev: When you pontificate:

        “Irrespective of leg pulling by the opposition, current India’s leadership will produce results in coming decade”

        you forget that the results produced so far have been terrible. Every macroeconomic indicator spells distress and danger, in particular unemployment levels. And even a simple extrapolation from the past 5+ years of BJP (mis)rule would have revealed that your prediction is utter nonsense.

        Indeed, when Bangladesh and Nepal are pulling ahead of India in terms of economic growth and even HDI, India is lagging behind, thanks in no small measure to the harebrained “economics” policies emanating from the PMO. Leave alone Dr Abhijit Banerjee’s criticism, the autocratic tendencies of the PM have ensured that most qualified, professional economists have quit their jobs and refuse to work for PM Modi. Dr Raghuram Rajan, Dr Urjit Patel, Dr Arvind Subramanian and others see no point in working for a man who prefers to listen to the advice of quacks like Anil Bokil and Baba Ramdev to run the economy. Even Modi friendly economists like Dr Surjit Bhalla and Dr Jagdish Bhagwati have come to realise that BJP policies reflect the majoritarian, Hindutva ideology of the BJP and not what the profession per se teaches you. No wonder, a complete dud and a yes man called Shaktikanta Das now heads the RBI. Shaktikanta Das would probably be better suited to doing calisthenics at an RSS shakha or being a mid-management gaurakshak rather than an RBI governor.

        Your post reveals that you do not understand even basic economics. Although that does not prevent you from making silly predictions in a domain you understand zilch. Your rant is the rant of a typical Modi bhakth than a rational, thinking man. Leave alone an economist.

  3. Chokidar chor hai Bharatiya Jumla Partys leader chokidar mahachor hai PM & its chokidar mahachor leaders will dispatch Banerji to PSK althoigh he is US citizen.Jai ho chokidar mahachor hai!

  4. To criticise demonetisation, one need not be an economist and nobel prize winner. Every Modi haters has been doing it any way. If A Banerjee follows the foot steps of A Sen, another economist and nobel winner, he will end up only criticising the government and nothing else. The truth is that knowledge of nobel prize winners is not suitable for Indian political environment. Let them be happy criticising India and living in USA. India doesn’t need them.

      • Baba you have showed that you are a Sanghi. Looks like you want to control what Dev eats. Everybody should have the right to eat what they want. In Saudi and Pakistan you can freely order pork pizza. India should reach that level atleast.

        • No no… I just want to know what he eats so that he developed such an amazing thought process to call a noble laureate economist is unwarranted to India

    • Mr Ak.Dev: Demonetisation has been criticised by almost everyone except ardent, brainwashed bhakths like you who have outsourced your thinking to the semi-literate quacks who run the BJP propaganda machine. Today, India’s harebrained, ill-thought demonetisation is taught in many economics courses all over the world as a classic study in foolish policy making and the cruelty it delivers to vulnerable people. Indeed, once it was evident that demonetisation was going to hell, PM Modi cunningly distanced himself from the fiasco and let the blame fall on others. But what is truly pathetic is that bhakths like you are so brainwashed into believing that Modi can make no mistakes that you continue to defend his follies even when he himself does not do so !!!

      PM Modi sought the advice of 2 quacks in economics when he did his demonetisation:
      1. Anil Bokil of a dubious outfit called Artha Kranti ( . Needless to say, Mr Bokil is not an economist
      2. Baba Ramdev who wanted to ban all Rs 100 notes

      It is interesting to note that then RBI Governor Dr Rajan advised the government of the dangers of demonetisation. More importantly, he informed the PM that the objectives of demonetisation could be attained by other, more effective measures. But then, like you, the PM prefers to listen to quacks, Hindutvadis and the Nagpur gang.

      During the course of the last few years of BJP’s economic (mis)rule, the country has lost the services of many world class economists like Drs. Raghuram Rajan, Arvind Subramanian, Urjit Patel, Jagdish Bhagwati, Sujit Bhalla, Nobel prize winner Amartya Sen etc. etc. Now your post too suggests that India should not use the services of Dr Abhijeet Banerjee. Or as you eloquently put it:

      “truth is that knowledge of nobel prize winners is not suitable for Indian political environment”.

      Clearly, in your opinion, Anil Bokil, Baba Ramdev and Shaktikanta Das are surely better replacements for getting India to attain the much ballyhooed USD 5 trillion GDP level ! Good luck !

    • Abhijit had the good luck to interact and learn from Rahulji. the IIT Ian’s generally tend to follow Modi. That’s the reason why Abhijit got the Nobel and IIT Ian’s nothing.

    • That is a nonsensical comment. IIT is not a science institute but an engineering institute. How many billion dollar companies have been created by JNU alums?. Also the nobel memorial prize in economics ( it is not the nobel prize) is not for any work done at JNU.

      • This is an equally nonsensical comment. By this logic you cannot commend IITs either as the IIT-ians created their ,”billion dollar companies” after leaving IIT. Any educational institution can be justifiably proud of a successful alumnus. Or are the rules different just because it is JNU?

      • You’re too cute to handle. Get out of your Hermione days. Meanwhile it’s Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. So what was your point exactly?

    • If am not wrong JNU has got just one Nobel Laureate – Dr. Abhijit Banerjee. Even this is just an incidental connection. JNU stands nowhere in comparison to Presidency College, Calcutta.
      In Dr. Banerjee’s case, the credit goes to his alma mater Presidency College, Calcutta. This college has an exceptional tradition of scholarship and the Dept of Economics (once headed by Dr. Banerjee’s father Dipak Banerjee) is considered amongst the best in the world. Both Prof. Sen and Prof. Banerjee are alumnus of Presidency College. Most of the distinguished names in economics from India are from Presidency College Calcutta. Please give credit where it is due. Prof Dipak Banerjee was a legendary professor of economics and as HOD of the department made it a centre of excellence.
      As for IITs, their purpose was to produce quality engineers and technologists. They have done quite well. However, they can certainly do better. Unfortunately, there is no Nobel Prize for Computer Science or Electronics.

      • The connection isn’t “incidental” at all. He did his MA in economics at JNU and the institute would be justified in celebrating the success of its former student. Saying that the credit only goes to Presidency College is downright silly. I guess anything goes when one’s goal is to target the sanghi’s favourite whipping boy ‘ JNU !!

      • 1) It is disheartening that people like you don’t read newspapers. You may appear cute by posting such comical comments but this is in fact harmful for India. Dude? Go through today’s paper and see Mr Banerjee’s comments on his days in JNU.

        2) You’re so ignorant a fellow that you have no idea that IITs do have departments in basic sciences as well as engineering physics. Oh I forgot, they also give degrees in Economics.

        But where are the Nobels my dear? You’re so dumb that you don’t even care that it’s taxpayers money that is being drained into these IITs/NITs with cipher results

  5. Very impressive credentials. These outstanding economists who have made their place in the world are no longer Indian citizens. However, they would be happy, even honoured, to offer their expertise and advice, in a purely honorary capacity, to help improve the lives of the poorest Indians. Political polarisation and partisanship should not get in the way of India making use of their knowledge.

    • As Amartya Sen’s contribution to India has been negative, A Banerjee is not going to be different. Both of them has used poverty to achieve fame but non of them has experienced poverty themselves. I can say both of them are good for nothing to India.

      • Bhakts tying themselves into knots trying to defend the indefensible is the most amusing sight on the internet these days.

        • Bhakts of Rahulji are not trying knots as you are saying. They are not marrying multiple times. Infact Rahulji is unmarried and has never tied a knot. So it will be better if you stop spreading canards like tying multiple knots and getting amused by it.

        • Bhakts of Rahulji are not tying knots and trying to defend it as you are suggesting. Rahulji has never tied a knot in his life. Please stop getting amused by imagining things

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