Essay on Amartya Sen and the Nobel Prize

Nobel-Laureate Amartya Sen was born on November 3 in 1933. He is the grandson of Pandit Kshiti Mohon Sen. His father Dr Asutosh Sen was a reputed figure in agricultural science and his mother Amita Sen was a disciple of Rabindranath Tagore.

At Santiniketan, he studied up to the Intermediate examination and then in Presidency College, Calcutta University and Cambridge having Economics as his favourite subject. Later on the became the professor of Economics in Jadavpur University (1956-1958), Delhi University (1963-1971), London School of Economics (1971-1977), Oxford (1977-80). He has been holding the prestigious post of Master of Trinity College since 1997. He has also been appointed the Human Development Advisor to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). He is reputed for his vast knowledge in Economics and Philosophy all over the world. Some of his best books in the field of Economics are ‘Choice of Techniques’ 1960; ‘Growth Economics’ 1970; Poverty and Famines’ 1981; ‘Choice Welfare and Measurement’ 1982; ‘On Ethics and Economics’ 1987; “The Political Economy of Hunger 1990-91; ‘India: Economic Development and Social Opportunity 1995.

Honours and awards have been showered on him from different corners of the world. He obtained Hon. D. Lit. from a number of universities of India and abroad. He received Agnelli Internet Prize and World Hunger Award in 1990. He was awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize in Economics on October 14 in 1998 for his contributions to Welfare Economics.

Amartya Sen received the award at a glittering ceremony in Stockholm’s Concert Hall. The 64-year-old Amartya Sen was presented the diploma and the medal Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel by the King of Sweden. Amartya Sen, the first Asian to win the Nobel for Economics, received the prize along with other laureates – Six Americans, three Britons, a German and a Portuguese. Each award carries a medal and diploma, as well as a check worth 7.6 million Swedish kronor. When the prize was booked in October 1998, the Royal Swedish Academy found that Amartya Sen’s contributions ranged from the axiomatic theory of social choice to definitions of welfare and poverty indices to empirical studies on famine.

Harking back to the legacy of Rabindranath Tagore, Amartya Sen drew on the humanist ideals of Bengal’s first Nobel Laureate to make a powerful case for more proactive effort to eradicate poverty. At a public reception to honour him, Amartya Sen set a personal example in this effort by announcing that he would share his prize money, approximately Rs.4 crore, with a charitable trust he wants to set-up. The Pratichi Trust – named after his house in will focus on education and health-care which have been his major concerns over the years. Initially, the activity of the trust would be confined to India and Bangladesh. Amartya Sen follows in the footsteps of Rabindranath Tagore who used his prize money to develop Viswa-Bharati.

At a public reception given to Amartya Sen at the Netaji Indoor Stadium on December 27, 1998, the state finance minister said the government had also set a goal to reduce the state’s child mortality rate from 55 per thousand to 40 by the end of the year. He said the national average of infant mortality was 72 per thousand.

Normal ‘Amartya’ by Rabindranath Tagore, the future Nobel Laureate spent his early childhood under the shadow of maternal grandfather and Tagore Associate Kshitimohan Sen, a noted scholar who taught at Viswa-Bharati. Amartya Sen who read in Santiniketan and Presidency College, and has been abroad since the late sixties, still returns almost every year to Santiniketan, where his mother lives. Nearly, 20 years after an Albanian run won the Nobel, discovering in the crushing poverty of Calcutta the ideal bedrock for her work, Sen has won his award for research on welfare economics, which has the Bengal famine as its leitmotif.

He is the sixth Indian to get a Nobel Prize and the first Indian winner in the field of Economics. He has made a good many noteworthy contributions to the central field of economic science and opened up a new field of study — especially on famine and poverty — for subsequent generations.