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Kolkata awaiting Abhijit's arrival

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Abhijit Banerjee and his wife and co-Nobel Laureate Esther Duflo

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Kolkata: You read any newspaper, watch any news channel or follow the social media and you will not find any Bengali untouched by the glory that the Bengali Indian-American International Professor of Economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee has fetched for India.

“It is a moment of collective pride” says Shaumya Banerjee,  a Bachelor’s student of economics at the Presidency University, the alma mater of  the newest Bengali Nobel Laureate. That the Nobel Laureate gave up his Indian citizenship in 2017 does not matter to anyone. Neither does his extensive work in India for alleviating poverty nor his extremely critical take of government and social policies in the country matter. What matters at this moment is his Indian connect, from friends to critics who all seem to know him and bask in this new found national moment of glory.  In fact there has been very little reaction deciphering his experiments in India at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) in South Asia that adds greater value to the research study other than the prize itself.

Monday morning when the MIT administration organized a press conference,   the Nobel laureate chose to speak also in Bengali displaying his Bengali connect from the U.S. He said the “Economy in India is in a tailspin” while identifying some of " the major concerns and issues that needed immediate rectification by the government”.

Yet public reaction as usual is endemic, relishing the glory than the hard work.  Even former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan congratulated him while acknowledging his Indian connection and crediting his values to his education in India. “India will be especially proud of the honor that Abhijit has received - he is largely a product of India's educational system, including Presidency College and Jawaharlal Nehru University (with finishing touches at Harvard). What he has accomplished is the outcome of the Indian education system” Rajan had tweeted.

“He will be in India next week”, informs his seventy something mother Dr. Nirmala Banerjee whose phone does not stop ringing ever since the elder son won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with his wife and colleague Esther Duflo of MIT and Michael Kremer from Harvard University, "for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty."  He along with Esther Duflo are the sixth married couple ever to jointly win a Nobel Prize.  They work extensively in India and South Asia and have been experimenting extensively in the region for poverty alleviation.

“Much happier that they have jointly won the prize” says his mother who cannot hide her glee, from her high end apartment in Ballygunj Circular Road. It is a great …great honor, I miss his dad”, says Nirmala Banerjee also a professor of economics at the Center of Studies for Social Sciences in Kolkata. Professor Banerjee’s father Dipak Banerjee was also a professor of economics at Presidency University where the son studied Science as an undergraduate. For the Master’s degree he went on to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and then completed PhD  from Harvard University. “Yet he remains indeed a Kolkata boy,  grew up here and comes back every year”, says his mother. “We plan to have a celebration when he is here in India next week”. Professor Banerjee is expected to release his second book, “Good Economics for Hard Times - Better Answers to our Biggest Problems” that he has co-authored with Esther Duflo in New Delhi on October 19. “The event was planned much before and there has been no change in his plans”, informs his younger brother Anirudha Bhaskar Banerjee.

“It is a team work, and we knew they deserve.  But yes, I did not expect them to win so soon”, adds the mother regarding the two decade work of “randomized controlled trials” as a research tool for poverty alleviation.  Professor Abhijit’s book co - authored with Duflo “Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty” is a pioneering  methodology for policy intervention to address poverty.

Most of his experiments studying poverty have been in India and around.  Presently most Bengalis are counting the number of Nobel winners from Kolkata as they wait for the newest member of the Nobel Laureate family to reach home next week. While the Bengal government has planned a public reception for him along with Amartya Sen the other Nobel Laureate from Kolkata, Presidency University Alumni Association will honor him separately and the South Point School that he attended plans to present him a collage and album signed by their current students. The family too has plans for a big private party.

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