Nobel Prize-winning economist Abhijit Banerjee on Tuesday said he would not make controversial statements when asked about his criticism of the Indian economy, ANI reported. Banerjee met Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier in the day.
“Prime Minister started by cracking a joke on how the media is trying to trap me to say anti-Modi things,” Banerjee said at a press conference in New Delhi. “He has been watching the TV and he has been watching you guys. And he knows what you are trying to do...so i think stop.”
Banerjee spoke about the crisis in the banking sector. “The crisis is critical and frightening and we should worry about it,” he said. “We need some important and aggressive changes.”
He criticised the Central Vigilance Commission, and said the government’s stake in public sector banks should be reduced to less than 50% so that they do not interfere in banks, NDTV reported. “Check and balances are required but [the CVC] is spoiling and allowing a rot in public sector banks and making them further lend until it collapses,” he added.
The Indian-American economist refused to comment on India’s low human development index score. “I have had no contribution to the HDI,” he said. “It is doing quite okay without me. So, I don’t want to get into something I am not involved in it.”
Earlier, after this meeting with the prime minister, Banerjee praised Modi’s “unique way of thinking”. “One hears about policies but one rarely hears about the thinking behind it,” he told ANI. “He talked about the way he sees governance in particular, why in some sense, may be the mistrust of the people on the ground colours our governance and how it therefore, creates structures of elite control over the governance process...not a responsive government. And in that process, he very nicely explained how he is trying to reform the bureaucracy to make it more responsive, to understand the ways in which people’s views need to be taken into account.”
Modi also praised Banerjee after their meeting. The prime minister said India was proud of his accomplishments.
The meeting came amid criticism of Banerjee by several Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, including Union minister Piyush Goyal. Last week, Goyal questioned his work for the Congress’ NYAY scheme proposal. He claimed the economist’s views were Left-leaning, and said people had rejected it.
The Nobel laureate has described the personal criticism as upsetting and talked about his work with parties across the political spectrum. “I feel what’s not helpful in that kind of comment is more the questioning of my profession or our professionalism,” he said in an interview to a news channel. “I think the reason we were given this prize is partly because we are professionals.”
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