India gifts $4.5 mn for Amartya Sen Harvard fellowships

December 11th, 2008 - 10:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 11 (IANS) India has gifted $4.5 million to Harvard University to establish a fund for “India Fellowships given in honour of Amartya Sen” for Indian students at its Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.The agreement on the establishment of the fund was signed by India’s Ambassador to US Ronen Sen and Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, President of Harvard University, at a ceremony at Harvard University Wednesday in the presence of India-born Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on his 75th birthday.

The gift was made in recognition of the extraordinary accomplishments of Amartya Sen, distinguished Lamont Professor at the university, and his much-acclaimed work for social and economic justice across the world.

Consistent with the University’s policy, the fellowships will at a later date be formally designated as the Amartya Sen Fellowship Fund and the recipients of the fellowship as Amartya Sen Fellows, an Indian embassy release said.

Amartya Sen said: “I am delighted that the gift will help bright Indian students to come to Harvard. The students receiving the India Fellowships will have the opportunity of studying at what is perhaps the best university in the world, and Harvard too will benefit from having wonderful students who could not otherwise afford to come here.”

“Since I see myself mainly as a teacher - and only occasionally as a researcher - I am very happy that the kind gift of the government will be used for the education of Indian students,” he added.

Thanking Harvard University for accepting the gift on Amartya Sen’s 75th birthday, Ambassador Ronen Sen described Professor Sen, a recipient of the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, as a great son of India and one of the world’s foremost contemporary thinkers.

He expressed confidence that the fund will further deepen the strong bonds between Harvard University and India, expand the university’s impressive scholarship on India, especially at the university’s South Asia Initiative, and open new opportunities for gifted scholars from India to study at one of the world’s premier universities.

Harvard University president Drew Faust said that Amartya Sen not only symbolised Harvard’s outstanding academic standards but was also a deeply valued link between India and the University.

Apart from being a renowned economist, Amartya Sen was a respected philosopher and champion of democracy and human rights, she added. Hence it was appropriate that the agreement on establishing the fellowships was being signed not only on the occasion of his 75th birthday, but, coincidentally, also on the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Universal Human Rights.

The South Asia Initiative (SAI) of the university, headed by Prof. Sugata Bose, has since its establishment five years ago, significantly raised the profile of studies on India and South Asia at Harvard, and internationally.

In its first four years, it sent nearly 300 faculty members and students to India and South Asia, conducted high profile seminars and conferences, supported new websites, and conducted other research activities.

In 2007, Harvard president Drew Faust authorised the raising of endowed funds of $20 million for a South Asia Institute and $16 million for endowed Chairs. In 2007-2008, there were 288 South Asian students at Harvard University, of which 216 were from India.

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