Amartya Sen

Chair of Pratichi

Pratichi owes it all – its vision and formation, its design, its work, its goodwill and its reach – to the dynamic multifaceted scholar-activist of the highest standards who has taken interest in the poor and the downtrodden since his schooldays and has earnestly ensured the steady progress of his convictions about improving their lot through people-centred education strategies, efficient healthcare policies, profound procedures to facilitate gender parity and consequential programmes to promote democratic rights. Born in Santiniketan (in present-day West Bengal, India) on 03 November 1933, Professor Amartya Sen spent his childhood and did his schooling initially in Dhaka (in Bangladesh now) and in Santiniketan at Rabindranath Tagore’s open-air school. It was then that he had the ever-haunting exposure to certain horrific truths of human existence: poverty, famine, numerous inequities and even war. Professor Sen completed his initial college education from Presidency College, Kolkata.  Thereafter, he went on to study at the Trinity College, Cambridge from where he earned a PhD in 1959. He taught economics at several institutions in India and the United Kingdom – Jadavpur University, Delhi University, the London School of Economics, the University of London and the University of Oxford. Then, he shifted to Harvard University – where he remains even now as Thomas W. Lamont University Professor as well as Professor of Economics and Philosophy – although he had come back to England as the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge between 1998 and 2004. This staunchly Indian economist and philosopher was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998 and the Bharat Ratna by the Indian government in 1999. More recently, in 2020, Professor Sen received the prestigious Peace Prize of the German Book Trade from the German Publishers and Booksellers Association. 

All these and several other honours have come to him as recognition of his pioneering work pertaining to the evaluation of economic policies in terms of their effects on the well-being of communities and human society overall. Professor Sen has dedicated his entire life and career to concerns related to improvement of economic conditions of the poor. He has formulated processes to measure poverty. He has addressed problems of individual rights, majority rule, and the availability of information about individual conditions inspiring academics to turn their attention to issues of basic welfare.  

Professor Sen’s academic investigations have emphasized that eventually market outcomes and government actions need to be appraised in the light of the value they add to the human condition. His research findings have triggered crucial paradigm shifts in economics and development – essentially distinct from methodologies concentrated on income, growth and utility – with an enhanced focus on individual entitlements, capabilities, freedoms and rights. His consistent championing of political freedom has boosted the general mindfulness regarding the necessity of respect for human rights to accomplish effective socio-economic growth – challenging the hypothesis about development having priority over civil and political rights – while showcasing the role of human rights in promoting economic security and the limitations of development without human rights guarantees. It is not for nothing that Professor Amartya Sen has been called the “conscience of his profession.”

After receiving the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1998, Professor Sen established a trust named after Pratichi, his ancestral residence in Santiniketan, probably to celebrate his roots and acknowledge this home as the essential energetic entity for constantly nurturing and stimulating his evolution as a globally celebrated intellectual-cum-campaigner who “works on the most fundamental problems that lie at the crossroads of economics and philosophy. He brings to those problems imaginative, brilliant analytic power and a moral vision that keeps him focused upon matters of equity as well as functionality.” Pratichi, as the legacy venture of Professor Amartya Sen, endeavours to uphold and actualize his unique formula for facilitating social change and development through empathy, research, community engagement, advocacy and direct action.