Narratives that we believe in and live by are often not true since they are rarely backed by studies, said Nobel laureate Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee in Kolkata on Tuesday.
Delivering a convocation address on ‘randomized control’ after receiving a DLitt from Calcutta University at Nazrul Mancha, the economist said the starting point of the study for which he won the Nobel prize along with his wife Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer came from the simple fact that “our intuitions about the world are often wrong”. Earlier in the day, Banerjee visited the South Club where he played tennis for a while and met chief minister Mamata Banerjee at Nabanna in the evening.
Even as the CU convocation was delayed by a noisy student protest against CAA, Banerjee, who wore a dhoti and kurta, waited patiently at the VIP room. According to sources, he told vice-chancellor Sonali Chakravarti Banerjee that he had no qualms about receiving the DLitt in the midst of the agitation.
“This is a very special moment for me. Thank you Kolkata. Thank you for the honour. This is a kind of homecoming for me since I have been a student in Kolkata and now I have come back to get this. Receiving this at this 150-year-old university…it’s a little difficult for me to comprehend,” said an overwhelmed Banerjee after receiving the honour.
Referring to a study on randomized control that he had conducted in Rajasthan with an NGO, Banerjee said adding an extra teacher to a village school yielded nothing extra. “It is normal to assume that if you have an extra teacher, students will learn more. But we found out that it was not the case and the students didn’t learn anything additional,” said Banerjee.
He mentioned another study in Udaipur where an NGO offered villagers a kilo of dal as an incentive to get their children immunized. It was compared with another village where the government was doing the immunization and there was no incentive. “We found that while the rate of immunization was just 6% at the government-run programme, the NGO village recorded 36% immunization,” said Banerjee.
Earlier in the morning, Banerjee walked into the South Club and played tennis for around 45 minutes. “I love playing tennis and play two-three days a week. It helps me to concentrate and has taught me to walk,” he said.
At around 4pm, Banerjee reached Nabanna along with his mother Nirmala Banerjee. The two spent around an hour with Mamata Banerjee. “The state government has offered me opportunities to work here. There are areas where a lot of work can be done and we must explore those,” said Banerjee while leaving Nabanna.
Source: Times of India