Nobel Prize-Winning Economist Receives Chakra Award at Calit2 Luncheon

By Doug Ramsey, 858-822-5825,

San Diego, CA, October 8, 2006 -- At a luncheon organized by the UCSD Division of Calit2 and the San Diego Indian American Society (SDIAS), Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen accepted an award from an influential group of San Diegans involved with India.

Sen Group
Honoring Sen (l-r): SDIAS founder M.C.
Madhavan, venture capitalist Mukhesh Assomull,
Irwin Jacobs, Amartya Sen, Calit2 UCSD
director Ramesh Rao, and Sanjay Jha, SDIAS
president and QUALCOMM EVP.

Sen, a Harvard economist who received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1998 for his groundbreaking work on social choice theory and welfare economics, was presented with the Chakra Award by QUALCOMM founder Irwin Jacobs on behalf of SDIAS.

After noting that Sen and he were both born in 1933, Jacobs put his own company's work in the framework of Sen's writings. "One of his books, Poverty and Famine, maintains that the root cause of famine is not a lack of food production but rather a lack of distribution," noted Jacobs. "At QUALCOMM we keep pressing on not just providing voice communication but data communications as well, so they can get the information to improve distribution systems and the sources of food."

"I will say I frankly think I don't deserve the award," said Sen modestly in accepting the silver-and-gold statuette in the shape of a Konark wheel. The honor has previously gone to dignitaries including Bose Corporation founder Amar Bose, conductor Zubin Mehta and music legend Ravi Shankar.

"In many ways this part of California has things the other parts do not have," Sen told the audience, more than half of whom were of Indian extraction. "It's not just the climate, but also that it owes so much to the diversity from immigration."

Chakra Award
Chakra Award

Issues of identity and diversity are explored in Sen's 2006 book, Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny , on which he based his public lecture, "The Illusion of Identity," later in the day to an overflow audience at the Institute of the Americas. But he gave his luncheon audience a glimpse of the topic, pointing out that India was a mixture of ethnicity and religions "right from the beginning."

"That's why so many of us are so upset with India today being portrayed as monochromatic," he said. "Yet our President is Moslem, our Prime Minister is a Sikh, the leader of our largest political party is Christian. I think there is something to be proud of there, that race and religion are not seen as an issue. President Abdul Kalam is seen as a scientist and as an economist, as a remarkably good political leader, not as a Moslem political leader."

Sen Dutia
Amartya  Sen greeted by QUALCOMM senior
VP Anil Kripalani (far left) and TIE San Diego
founder Suren Dutia (far right)
If Sen needed any evidence of the diversity of San Diego and the success of Indian Americans in the region, he needed look no further than Sanjay Jha, SDIAS president and executive vice president of QUALCOMM. Jha introduced Irwin Jacobs, who pointed out in turn that Jha runs the division that accounts for roughly 65 percent of all QUALCOMM revenues. "It falls on me to introduce Dr. Irwin Jacobs, but I was thinking, who will I introduce him to?," joked Jha. "I was outside and all of you, one by one, came up and shook his hand, so all of you seem to know him already!"

Sen's visit to UC San Diego was organized by the university's Center for the Humanities and the Dean of Arts & Humanities, Michael Berstein. Calit2 was invited to host the luncheon because of its ongoing engagement with Indian research and government institutions, since hosting the U.S.-India Education, Research & Technology Summit in late May. "There has been tremendous interest in Professor Sen's visit, in part because his ground-breaking work on everything from development economics to the economics of war and peace, which resonate with a wide audience," said Ramesh Rao in his remarks opening the luncheon in Sen's honor. Rao also noted that "San Diego is not a city known in India as widely as it perhaps should be, but there clearly have been a handful of very remarkable men from India who have made San Diego their home, including Ravi Shankar today."

San Diego City Council president Scott Peters presented Sen with a commendation from the City Council. "Dr. Sen has been recognized time and time again for his altruistic efforts as one of our world's finest masters of modern economics," said Peters. "Today we get an opportunity to recognize his unique perspective and to thank him for continuing to lead an intellectual life of esteemed service."

Ramesh Rao
Calit2's Ramesh Rao welcomes visitors to UCSD
In his remarks, Congressman Bob Filner (Dem-San Diego) recalled his first campaign for office in San Diego, after a career teaching history at San Diego State University. "When I first ran for office, I ran for the San Diego school board, and my mentor on the board was Judy Fisher, who happened to be the daughter of the first Indian American congressman, Dalip Singh Saund," recalled Filner. "She educated me in politics. Now with redistricting, I have been given a part of Imperial County to the east of us to represent -- an area that, by coincidence, Congressman Saund used to represent."

After Sen accepted his award, M.C. Madhavan -- who founded the San Diego Indian American Society in 1984 -- provided the luncheon's final remarks. "Dr. Sen is a person who belongs to a handful of people in India, in the sense that he is one of the few to have received the highest honor in the country, the Bharat Ratna," said Madhavan, a former professor at San Diego State University. "It is my personal privilege to honor a very precious jewel of India."

Sen with Calit2 Staff

Some of the dozen Calit2 staffers who helped
make the luncheon a success, with Ramesh Rao
(third from right) and honoree Amartya Sen
(second from right)

Amartya Sen is the Lamont University Professor as well as Professor of Economics and Philosophy, at Harvard University and was until recently the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. He also taught at Harvard from 1988-'98, and previous to that he was the Drummond Professor of Political Economy at Oxford University, as well as Professor of Economics at Delhi University and at the London School of Economics. Professor Sen has served as President of the Econometric Society, American Economic Association and International Economic Association, and was Honorary President of OXFAM.

Related Links
San Diego Indian American Society
Amartya Sen Website