New Delhi: Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee has said that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was his contemporary in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and they both stood on "similar" lines on "certain" issues during their academic years in the university.

Speaking in a television interview, he said that it was not as if the two had deep disagreements. "(Sitharaman was) One of the people whom I knew well... We were even often on similar sides on certain issues. She was my contemporary in JNU. She knew me, I knew her," he said.

"I would not say we were close friends, but we were friends. And it's not that we had deep disagreements," Banerjee added.

The statement gains significance as Banerjee, one of the three Nobel Prize winners in economics this year along with his wife Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer, has faced flak from several quarters in the government, including Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, after he said that Indian economy was in a "tailspin".

When "the economy is going into a tailspin is the time when you don't worry so much about monetary stability and you worry a little more about demand, the demand is a huge problem right now in the economy," Banerjee said during a news conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US last week after he was named for the coveted award.

Piyush Goyal said that it was the claim of a "left-leaning" economist. Banerjee later expressed unhappiness over the Union Minister questioning his "professionalism". He has also been known for the criticism of demonetisation as he described the move as not being "well considered".

"You have to take it seriously that the economy is in crisis. If you look at that one number that jumps out at me from the analysis of the NSS (National Sample Survey) data, it is the average consumption in India. We are slightly lower today than it was in 2014-15. That's an unprecedented event," Banerjee said in the interview regarding the slowing economy.

Regarding the recent issues in JNU, the economist said that the events were "unfortunate" and that JNU has been an institution that provided the opportunity for diverse opinions and there should be an environment for discussion with "civility" among the people with diverse and different views.

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