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'I grew up playing with slum kids,' says Nobel Prize winner Abhijit Banerjee

BusinessToday.In     October 15, 2019

Indian-American Nobel prize winner Abhijeet Banerjee Monday said he got a first-hand experience of poverty through his early years when he grew up playing with the slum kids in Kolkata.

In an interview with Rajdeep Sardesai of IndiaToday TV, Banerjee elaborated on how his younger years shaped a lot of his belief and eventually led him into his detailed research on poverty. The Nobel prize winner said although his parents were not poor, his grandfather had constructed the house alongside Kolkata's largest slum. This gave him a personal experience of poverty as he grew up playing with the slum kids.

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"My parents were not poor, I mean we were a very average middle-class family of academics, but my grandfather happened to have built house literally next to one of Kolkata's largest slum. So, in our previous book, we actually write about the fact that I grew up playing with the slum kids. I had a first-hand experience of poverty. I was very jealous of them as they (slum kids) did not have to go to school," he said.

"We had a discussion of things like poverty at home all the time -- what its consequences are, what its causes are and they would often be based on discussions on the lives of the poor at home and the facts were pretty evident to us," he added.

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Banerjee who is a noted professor of Economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA has been awarded the Nobel Prize (2019) for his efforts to alleviate global poverty. He has won the award along with his wife Ester Duflo and Michael Kremer for their "experimental approach to alleviating global poverty."

The Indian-origin economist is the second person of Indian origin to have won the prestigious award in Economics. The first one was Amartya Sen who won the coveted award in the year 1998.

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