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|December 28, 1998||
Amartya to fund education and health trust with prize moneyArup Chanda in Calcutta
For Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, charity begins at home. Professor Sen will use his prize money to set up a trust that will focus on education and healthcare. The trust will be named Pratichi Trust, after his home in Shantiniketan. He made the announcement at a public reception to honour him in Calcutta on Sunday.
While delivering a speech which drew thunderous applause many times, Professor Sen said,"Education and healthcare have been my major concerns over the last few decades." Initially, the activity of the trust will be confined to India and Bangladesh.
"In view of the enormity of the problems faced, a trust of this kind can make only a little difference but I must try to do what I can," he said. Referring to the West Bengal government, he added, "I will count on your good wishes in this regard."
Professor Sen spoke about his life and ideals and the influences that shaped his work. Praising Calcutta, he said the city had imbued in him the ability to feel equally at home in other parts of the world. "I can claim with real pride that the culture of this city, Calcutta, militates against that uncritical exclusiveness. Indeed, a part of Calcutta's greatness lies in the fact that its absorptive traditions train one for feeling at home in a deeply diverse world," he said. He also mentioned that he considered Shantiniketan as well as Dhaka as his home too.
Quoting Satyajit Ray, Professor Sen explained that his pride for Calcutta was for its cosmopolitanism. Quoting Rabindranath Tagore, he scorned propagandists of isolationism. He said the poet had argued that the idea of India itself militates against a culturally separatist view, against the intense consciousness of the separateness of one's own people from others.
Describing West Bengal Finance Minister Dr Asim Dasgupta, as "my friend, the finance minister," he explained at his request the work for which he was awarded the Nobel prize in economics.
Professor Sen mentioned economists with whom he disagrees. "Perhaps the most important change of thinking that is needed concerns the necessity to think afresh about what is sometimes called interpersonal comparison of well-being and advantage," he asserted and mentioned Lionel Robbins, the economist methodologist who had said, "every mind is inscrutable to every other mind and no common denominator of feelings is possible. I do not accept this."
The economist asked, "But is it really so absurd to compare the misery of the thoroughly deprived with the pleasures of the thoroughly affluent? Is not an economic destitute, or a political prisoner, or a subjugated housewife, or a precarious landless labourer, in some objective way much more deprived than others more favourably placed?"
Among the audience were Professor Sen's wife, Emma Rothschild, his ailing mother, Amita Sen, who came because of a special request from West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu and his daughter Antara Dev Sen. He took the dais wearing a white dhoti and kurta and a silk angavastram on his shoulders.
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