The famed Indian-origin economist and a Nobel Economic Laureate, Abhijeet Banerjee, has walked on the streets of Mumbai, probably rested his back on one of the pillars of the University of Calcutta while reading, and definitely protested on the grounds of the famed Jawaharlal Nehru University. Banerjee, now 58, studied in different parts of India before heading to Harvard University in 1988 for a PhD.
Banerjee, along with his spouse Esther Duflo and another economist Michael Kremer, have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for their research on poverty alleviation and income inequality.
A renowned name in development economics, Abhijeet Banerjee is living a simplistic yet extraordinary life. He currently serves as one of the Directors for the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), which he co-founded with Duflo and Sendhil Mullainathan.
Some interesting facts about Abhijeet Banerjee and his life are:
The first and last Tihar inmate to win the Nobel Prize
Yes, the economist has actually spent time incarcerated in Delhi's infamous Tihar jail in the year 1983. He was arrested with a bunch of other students for gheraoing the vice-chancellor of the university at that time.
In an article authored by Banerjee for Hindustan Times in 2016, he said, “[I was] and thrown into Tihar jail, charged not quite with sedition, but attempt to murder and the rest. The charges were eventually dropped — thank god — but not before we spent ten days or so in Tihar.”
Banerjee, the Director
Abhijeet Banerjee is not always in front of the camera, a couple of times, he has been behind the camera as a Director. Banerjee has co-directed two documentaries,
The Name of the Disease (2006)
The documentary explored the healthcare landscape of India and how the poor and unhealthy can have access to the services.
The Magnificent Journey: Times and Tales of Democracy (2019)
Ranu Ghosh and Banerjee co-directed the documentary which was released before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The documentary sheds light on the pressure faced by the commoners, for choosing the right person or party as their government.
Banerjee’s spouse shares the Noble prize with him
Esther Duflo is a French-American, and the youngest person and the second woman to win the Nobel Prize in economics.
Duflo has worked with Banerjee on several research papers, including a landmark study on remedial tutoring. The research directly benefitted millions of Indian children. Duflo also serves as a professor at the MIT, and in 2013, Duflo along with Banerjee co-founded the J-PAL ( Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab).
The Balsakhi Program
Banerjee and Duflo worked on an educational intervention programme along with the NGO Pratham that has helped over 5 million Indian children.
The programme involved pairing a local tutor (Balsakhi) with weaker students from the standards 2, 3 and 4. The instructors then helped the children with basic numeracy and literacy skills in a special two-hour tutoring session along with the daily school hours.
The intervention significantly improved the overall performance of students in tests by 14 per cent in the first year and by 28 per cent in the second year. The biggest improvement was noted in math.
Banerjee’s interests except for Economics
Except for Economics, Banerjee is a food lover, and a great person to indulge in 'Adda'.
In an interview with the Telegraph India, Banerjee confessed his love for cooking food. He said that he can be found in the kitchen, cooking something almost every day.
He is also very fond of Adda, the name given to an informal intellectual dialogue, prominent in Bengali culture. He said, “I think the extent to which I indulge in adda is much more than most of the people around me”.