Amartya Kumar Sen
Amartya Sen’s contributions on welfare economics and definition of poverty in relation to development have offered a new philosophy and an alternative way to solid economic development. He was of the opinion that the World Bank system of ranking countries according to the GNP and saving rates was not enough and he helped to create the United Nations Human Development Index.
Amartya Kumar Sen, son of Amita Sen and Ashutosh Sen, was born on 3rd November 1933 in Manikgonj, Bangladesh. Sen’s first wife was Nabaneeta Dev Sen, a much loved Indian writer and scholar, with whom he had two children: Antara and Nandana. Their marriage broke up shortly after they moved to London in 1971. His second wife was Eva Colorni, with whom he lived from 1973 onwards. She died from stomach cancer quite suddenly in 1985. They had two children, Indrani and Kabir Now living in Cambride, Massachusetts with his third wife, an economic historian Emma Rothschild, this genius has spent a lifetime fighting poverty with analysis rather than activism.
Amartya’s Career in Literature Grounds:
Amartya Sen’s seminal papers in the late sixties and early seventies helped develop the theory of social choice, which first came to prominence in the work by the American economist Kenneth Arrow. Sen’s contribution to the literature was to show under what conditions Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem would indeed come to pass as well as to extend and enrich the theory of social choice, informed by his interests in history of economic thought and philosophy. In 1981, Sen published Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation, a book in which he demonstrated that famine occurs not only from a lack of food, but from inequalities built into mechanisms for distributing food. Sen’s interest in famine stemmed from personal experience. As a nine-year-old boy, he witnessed the Bengal famine of 1943, in which three million people perished. In addition to his important work on the causes of famines. Sen’s work in the field of development economics has had considerable influence in the formulation of the Human Development Report, published by the United Nations Development Programme. This annual publication that ranks countries on a variety of economic and social indicators owes much to the contributions by Sen among other social choice theorists in the area of economic measurement of poverty and inequality.
Sen’s revolutionary contribution to development economics and social indicators is the concept of ‘capability’ developed in his article “Equality of What.” He argues that governments should be measured against the concrete capabilities of their citizens.
He wrote a controversial article in the New York Review of Books entitled “More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing”, analyzing the mortality impact of unequal rights between the genders in the developing world, particularly Asia.Welfare economics seeks to evaluate economic policies in terms of their effects on the well-being of the community. Sen, who devoted his career to such issues, was called the “conscience of his profession.” His influential monograph called Collective Choice and Social Welfare (1970), which addressed problems such as individual rights, majority rule, and the availability of information about individual conditions, inspired researchers to turn their attention to issues of basic welfare. He devised methods of measuring poverty that yielded useful information for improving economic conditions for the poor. A vigorous defender of political freedom, Sen believed that famines do not occur in functioning democracies because their leaders must be more responsive to the demands of the citizens. In order for economic growth to be achieved, he argued, social reforms, such as improvements in education and public health, must precede economic reform.
Awards and Recognition:
Sen is the sixth Indian to get the Nobel and the first Asian winner of the Economics Prize. Some other awards to his name are:
- 2003, Lifetime Achievement Award by the Indian Chamber of Commerce.
- 2000, Companion of Honour, (UK)
- 2000, Eisenhower Medal, for Leadership and Service, (USA)
- 2002, International Humanist Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union.
- 1999, Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India.
- 1998, Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, for his work in welfare economics.
- 1994, Indira Gandhi Gold Medal Award by the Asiatic Society.