'Amartya Sen rushed in on demonetisation': Jagdish Bhagwati says he wasn't foolish enough to do so

Celebrated right-wing professor Jagdish M Bhagwati fired a fresh salvo against Nobel laureate and bête noire Amartya Sen.

Debunking Sen's position (and an audience question) on whether the shock move of demonetisation was (un)democratic, Bhagwati called Sen stupid and a fool.

“The answer is…it (demonetisation) was a democratic move. There were some people, may be I shouldn't say this, like Prof Sen rushed in to say it was undemocratic and…(pauses). I was not a fool (to say what I did to support demonetisation) I mean…and rush in and talk without consulting 10 other people. I mean, you make a fool of yourself (if you speak without speaking to public finance experts) like he did! "

"When a (bank) note says, 'I promise to pay the bearer hundred rupees,' and you take it to a bank, he (the teller) will give you another 100 rupee note. There's no obligation to give you gold or silver or something! So, you have to be rather stupid to be rushing in with comments like that, you know…!”

Jagadish Bhagwati, University Professor of Economics, Law, and International Relations at Columbia University.

Jagadish Bhagwati, University Professor of Economics, Law, and International Relations at Columbia University.

A modern-day Bhishma Pitamah of right-wing Indian economists met Firstpost on the sidelines of the Arun Jaitley lecture at Columbia School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) Tuesday after having the privilege of asking the first question after the FM finished his formal remarks.

Prof Bhagwati's question was on whether Aadhaar, the cornerstone of the Modi government's welfare and digital charge, paid enough heed to privacy.

Jaitley's detailed reply, relying on pronouncements by Bhagwati's elder brother, then Supreme Court judge PN Bhagwati, and the evolution of privacy as also its exceptions, "satisfied me fully," the professor said.

Bhagwati's celebrated students include Prof Arvind Panagaria, the presiding officer of the Jaitley interaction, who until a few weeks back was Vice Chairman, Niti Aayog, enjoying the rank of cabinet minister.

Bhagwati's own defence of demonetisation has been vigorously quoted by its proponents.

Bhagwati granted an email interview to PTI criticising Sen for rushing in and trying to get even with him and Prime Minister Modi at one go, but he had stopped short of calling Sen "stupid" and a "fool."

In a celebrated exchange in earlier years, Bhagwati had sparred publicly over Sen's focus on equity to the possible exclusion of growth. Thus far Sen hasn't retaliated against Bhagwati by name.

Updated Date: Nov 03, 2017 12:00 PM

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