Ahmedabad: People in India are in “extreme pain” and the economy is still below the 2019 levels, Nobel laureate economist Abhijit Banerjee said on Saturday.
He was virtually addressing students of Ahmedabad University during the varsity’s 11th annual convocation which was also held online.
Sharing his observations from a recent visit to West Bengal, Banerjee, speaking from the US, said “small aspirations” of people have become even smaller now.
“You (students) are in a place where you can give back. Society really needs it. We are in a time of extreme pain in India.
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“I just spent some time in rural West Bengal and stories you hear about, you know, all the aspirations that have been a little bit dashed are very real….small aspirations which became smaller now,” he said.
“I think that we are in a moment of great pain. The economy is still well below as against what it was in 2019,” Banerjee said.
“We don’t know how much below, but it is substantially below. And I am not blaming anybody, I am just saying,” said the economist who won the Nobel Prize along with Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer in 2019.
He also urged the students not to succumb to pressure from family or society in choosing their career paths, but have the “courage” to do what they really want to do in life.
He also informed the audience that he had spent 10 days in Tihar jail during his student days at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.
“When I was about to leave JNU and go to Harvard, I was in a student demonstration and then I was taken to Tihar jail, and kept there for ten days. When I came out, lots of elders told me that I have ruined my career, and Harvard or the US will never let you in. They thought I should be regretful,” he said.
To make his point about choosing careers, Banerjee pointed out that two of India’s great film-makers – Satyajit Ray and Shyam Benegal – were economics graduates but chose to walk a different path.
“Yet, they did fine in life. So, instead of specific training, what is really important is that you are a lively, thoughtful and open human being. That’s the most important part,” he said.
During the convocation, 833 students, including four doctoral students, of the private varsity were conferred degrees.