Amartya Sen gets top French award from President Hollande

Amartya SenFrench President Francois Hollande on Saturday conferred one of his country's highest decorations on Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen, introducing him into the Legion of Honour.

Sen, brought up in Kolkata, was conferred 'Commandeur de la Legion d'Honneur' by Hollande during a seminar in Delhi.

Conferring the award, Hollande praised Sen lavishly, quoting extensively from his works that speak about the problems faced by the poorest sections of society. He called Sen "the greatest humanist" and a "great thinker" celebrated for his contributions to economics and philosophy.

"His works help improve the lives of people. He was an Indian by birth and was an Indian at heart as well though he travelled and worked in the far-away West," Hollande said.

Sen is known to be slightly left of the centre in his economic philosophy; he was given the Nobel mainly for his explanation of the Bengal Famine during the mid-seventeenth century; at the apogee of the British Raj.

In acceptance, Sen, the 79-year-old Nobel laureate, said, "I am extremely honoured as I have great admiration for French culture and civilisation. The President's connection with socialism is a thrilling part of receiving this honour from him."

Sen received a standing ovation twice during the ceremony.

In his speech, Sen spoke of his admiration of French civilisation and recalled former president Nicolas Sarkozy's move to appoint a commission headed by him and another Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz.