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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Time to give back to country: Nobel Laureate Abhijit Banerjee

Banerjee cited Mahatma Gandhi as an example, emphasising the impact of incremental changes and cautioning against aspiring to immediately change the world.

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad |
Updated: December 5, 2021 6:59:32 am
Piyush Goyal, Congress leader Anand Sharma,Abhijit Banerjee, Maharashtra assembly electionsAbhijit Banerjee

Students need to acknowledge their privileges and give back to society in whatever ways they can as India is at a juncture of “extreme pain”, Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee said in Ahmedabad Saturday.

“We’re in a time of extreme pain in India. The economy is still well below where it was in 2019. We don’t know how much but it is substantially below. I’m not blaming anybody. I’m just saying this is a moment where society demands your abilities, talents, commitment and will to do it in different ways — some will start businesses, some will provide jobs to other people, some will fight for social justice, some will write novels that will uplift (people)… do take into account that because we are in this place of privilege, we can do something,” Banerjee implored as he addressed the 11th convocation ceremony of Ahmedabad University virtually Saturday.

“I just spent some time in rural West Bengal and the stories you hear about the dashed aspirations of the people are very real because a lot of people who migrated had to come back and they had small aspirations which became smaller now. So I think that we are in a moment of great pain,” the Nobel Prize-winning economist further told the 833 graduating students.

Banerjee cited Mahatma Gandhi as an example, emphasising the impact of incremental changes and cautioning against aspiring to immediately change the world. “Things change slowly. Gandhi first came back to India in 1915. Reading him you realise he also didn’t know where he was going… You read him (and you see that) he is changing his mind about everything over time. That’s the greatness of Gandhi. So don’t worry whether you can transform the world, you probably can’t. But what we can do, each of us, is, doing what we are best at doing, what we’re passionate about doing, (which) cumulatively changes the world,” said the MIT economist.

Banerjee reminded the graduating students that they should think of themselves as “supremely privileged” for studying at one of the best institutions in India. It is important to recognise this privilege because it is a society where most people do not get the same opportunity because of the lack of preparation, opportunity and talent, he said.

“You are the winners of an extremely difficult competition in a country with 1.4 billion people and that’s a perspective to keep in mind because that tells you that relative to most people in India, you are in a place to be uniquely influential, effective and able to do things. That’s both a privilege and a responsibility,” he said.

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