Wednesday 10 December 2014

The Nobel Peace Prize to an Indian

Many Indians are elated by the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to an Indian. I would like them to reflect on this.

The awardee is said to have done a lot for abolition of child labour in India. Now it is all very well to say that children should be sent to school and not allowed to work. But has anybody thought what the child will eat? 

I went recently to Nepal, and went with my hosts to a restaurant for lunch. There a boy who appeared to be about 10 years of age came to serve the food. I asked him why he was working instead of going to school. He said because his father who was a labourer could not afford it, and was not earning enough to feed the family. So he had to work to eat.

Abolition of child labour is therefore a farce unless financial arrangements are made to feed the child, provide him with clothes, school fees and school textbooks etc., which is rarely done in our country. 

It is just like telling a prostitute to give up prostitution. She is in this sex trade so as to fill her stomach and due to poverty. Has any arrangements been made to provide for her if she gives up prostitution ?

Similarly, in my opinion all this talk of abolition of child labour is just farcical because at least by working the child is able to fill his stomach. 

Of course, we would all wish that the child goes to school instead of working but then what will he eat?

In this connection I would also like to mention that many of the Nobel Peace Prizes are farcical, and some of them were even given to war mongers. But Mahatma Gandhi was never awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, obviously because he was fighting against British Imperialism. 

The Nobel Prizes in Literature are even more farcical and controversial. Out of the over 100 winners of Nobel Prizes for Literature, even the names of over 90 are forgotten today, whereas great writers like Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Chekhov, Maxim Gorky, Upton Sinclair, Subramania Bharti, Sharad Chand Chattopadhyay, Premchand, Faiz, Manto, etc were never given Nobel Prizes.

The Nobel Prize for Economics have also been very controversial. Also, there have been repeated allegations that Nobel Prizes are Western oriented. Swedes have won more prizes than all Asians put together.

The genuine Nobel Prizes are in the science subjects of Physics, Chemistry, and Medicine, though it may be pointed out that Dr. Chandrashekhar, who discovered the well known Chandrasekhar Limit in Physics was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics only in about 1983, while he made the discovery of the Chandrashekhar Limit' in about 1930.

I am sorry to pour cold water over all this jubilation and hoopla, but I feel that the truth must be told.


  1. Unlike the science nobles. the peace prize is adjudicated by the Swedish parliament. In other words a bunch of western politicians chose the winners. And people who descended from Vikings give sermons based on religion. Completely hypocritical

  2. Dear Justice Katju,

    Are you being critical of the Nobel prize in general, or this specific instance of Satyarthi's work for which he is being awarded? I think you should clarify this in your article. If you are being critical of Satyarthi's work, then you offer no evidence whatsoever, as to why his work does not deserve this award, and so your article deserves its place in the trash bin.

    If you are being critical about the Nobel prize in general, then I think it is highly inappropriate that you paint everyone in the same brush. A lot of them might have been given prizes, though, there might have been others more deserving. But your article suggests that none of the ones who have received the price have done anything worthwhile. I recall that in an earlier article you mentioned a story about your uncle being upset about a newspaper report in which it was mentioned that your father became judge of that Allahabad high court because your grandfather was an influential person. Your present article seems to me to be in a similar tone. I am sure that in our country a lot of people in high places are there thanks to their background, however, to be dismissive of everyone in one stroke is stupid. In the same spirit, a lot of people might have received awards because of vested interests, but to say that none of their work is worthwhile and to be dismissive and critical of all of them, without presenting an inch of evidence, is plain stupidity.