The Value of a Prize

The Nobel Peace Prize was announced a couple of days ago. Pakistani child education activist Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian child rights campaigner, have jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize. I have heard about Malala a few times, but have never heard of Mr Satyarthi.

While I am still trying to understand why these two folks deserved the most important peace prize in the world, it is apparent that the prize given to Malala was a bit premature.

I am not discounting the good work that she has been doing over the past couple of years. Nobel Prizes have always been awarded after a very long time to deserving people around the world. Many key discoveries have taken a rather long time to be recognized as such, after measuring their impact on sciences and humanity. It is probably the right thing to do, as it does take a long time to verify matters when these pertain to revolutionary discoveries for instance.

I agree “Peace” is a softer matter when compared to the harder sciences and economics. However, I do not think that just two years of great humanitarian work by Malala are enough to justify a Nobel Peace Prize.

Just think about it – I am not, for a moment, questioning her nationality or her contributions to child education and rights. It is the sustained longevity that proves one’s long term commitment to a cause. Malala has been well-positioned in the world stage after her dramatic survival, and she has been very lucky at that. And, she has received family support to carry on her dreams. All told, her story is a rather remarkable one. However, there are many remarkable stories which are similar to hers.

What gives ?

It is the Nobel Committee which is highly influenced by publicity factors. It forgot that the principle of continued and sustained contributions is a critical one to be always kept in mind before coming to a conclusion on the award. If the decision was made based on publicity, referrals and the very young age of Malala, then that could set a wrong precedent.

In any case, I wish to congratulate both Malala and Mr. Satyarthi for winning the Nobel Peace Prize jointly. The win is more important when one recognizes that they come from enemy countries which have stayed as enemies from 1947, with very less chance of a rapprochement happening any time soon.

I have not commented on Mr. Satyarthi as I am yet to understand his philosophy and contributions to society, and why he deserves the Peace Prize.


Vijay Srinivasan
12th October 2014


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