As India celebrates the Nobel Prizes of economists Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, Tamil Nadu has its own reasons to celebrate the couple. For the last five years, the lab founded by Banerjee and Duflo along with Sendhil Mullainathan, has been involved in several policy-making studies in Tamil Nadu.
According to reports, J Jayalalithaa, the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu initiated a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Abdul Latif Jameel - Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and the government of Tamil Nadu. The MoUs were signed in November 2014 by O Panneerselvam, the then Chief Minister, as a part of Jayalalithaaâ€™s approach of â€˜Evidence-based policy makingâ€™ and Dr Esther Duflo had attended the event of signing in the secretariat back then.
The lab has collaborated with seven departments of the state government so far -- health, labour and employment, education, housing and urban development, social welfare and nutritious meal programme, MSMEs, and commercial taxes -- and taken up 15 studies across various subjects in the state. At present, the two Nobel Laureates are working on a study on the socio-economic status of the elderly in Tamil Nadu in which former Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan is the third Principal Investigator. Another study on alleviating anaemia through improvement in food is also ongoing.
The JPAL team has also conducted studies on primary education, employment of youth and non-communicable diseases. Based on one of the suggestions of the team after studying the ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme) Programme, the government of Tamil Nadu approved interventions like hiring an additional worker solely for pre-school activities and including a glass of milk for the students who attend the ICDS Programme.
Dr Esther Duflo is also associated with two other studies in the state -- strengthening the implementation of Dr Muthulakshmi Reddy Maternity Benefit Scheme and evaluating interventions in Primary School education in northern Tamil Nadu.
Dr Abhijit Banerjee, Dr Esther Duflo and Dr Michael Kremer were announced as the winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics for 2019 for their research on alleviating poverty.