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India-born Abhijit, wife Esther, Kremer win Economics Nobel

Stockholm: Indian-American innovative Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) economist Abhijit Banerjee, his wife Esther Duflo and Harvard professor Michael Kremer jointly won the 2019 Nobel Economics Prize on Monday “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”.

Banerjee and French-American Duflo, both work at the US-based MIT while Kremer is at Harvard University.

It was “wonderful” to receive the award, 58-year-old Banerjee said. “You don’t get this lucky many times in your life,” he added.

Duflo, the 46-year-old former advisor to ex-US president Barack Obama, is the second woman and the youngest ever to win the economics prize.

“We are incredibly happy and humbled,” Duflo was quoted as saying by the MIT News. “We feel very fortunate to see this kind of work being recognised.”

The prize includes 9 million-kronor ($918,000) cash, a gold medal and a diploma. The winners will equally share the prize money. President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and a host of other leaders congratulated Banerjee on winning the coveted prize.

“Their research has helped economists better understand how to fight poverty in India and the world,” Kovind said.

Prime Minister Modi said Banerjee has made notable contributions in the field of poverty alleviation. “Congratulations to Abhijit Banerjee on being conferred the 2019 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel,” Modi said. He also congratulated Duflo and Kremer for winning the prize.

Congratulating Banerjee, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said he had helped the party conceptualise its ‘Nyay’ scheme  to help remonetise the economy.

Announcing the award, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said 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.” They have introduced a new approach to obtaining reliable answers about the best ways to fight global poverty, it said.

Their “research findings – and those of the researchers following in their footsteps – have dramatically improved our ability to fight poverty in practice,” it said.

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, it added.

“Showing that it is possible for a woman to succeed and be recognised for success I hope is going to inspire many, many other women to continue working and many other men to give them the respect they deserve,” Duflo told a press conference over phone soon after the announcement.

Banerjee was educated at the University of Calcutta, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D in 1988. He is currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at the MIT.

In Kolkata, his mother Nirmala Banerjee said it was a proud moment for her. She said she is also happy as one of the joint winners of the prestigious award is her daughter-in-law.

“I am very happy and proud of his achievements,” said Nirmala, a former professor of economics at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences. Her husband Dipak Banerjee is also a professor and the head of the department of Economics at the then Presidency College (now University). “He did great work in understanding poverty and how the poor survived. At times we used to discuss various topics and issues on economics. He has also spoken on economic issues our country is facing presently,” she said.

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