Event ReportsPublished on Sep 11, 2018
NITI Aayog chief launches '70 Policies that shaped India'

NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Dr. Rajiv Kumar launched Observer Research Foundation’s new publication, “70 policies that shaped India”, a comprehensive and innovative book written by Mr. Gautam Chikermane.

The book provides a crisp brief and opinion on 70 policies since Independence that have acted as a precursor in deciding India’s future. The book cleverly segues from a peep to a deep dive of the policies that transformed India’s economy.

After the launch, there was a panel discussion on the book, moderated by Mr. Sunjoy Joshi, Chairman, ORF. Besides Dr Rajiv Kumar, the panel included prominent experts, Dr. Shamika Ravi, Director of Research, Brookings Institute, Manish Tewari, former Information and Broadcasting Minister, and Ashok Malik, Press Secretary to the President of India.

The general theme around the discussion was to ascertain certain challenges and archaic policies that have followed into the 21st century holding India back from moving away from a socialist pathway that bottlenecked the economy before 1991. The main issue brought to light was the intensity of the underlying politics leading to policy excesses and the heavy hand of bureaucracy that has been twisted into rent seeking resulting in inefficiencies within the economic system. The author himself claims, “The License Raj might have ended, but Inspector Raj has increased”.

The discussion highlighted that political systems and leaderships play a significant role in determining the circumstances of formulation and implementation of policies in the country. The panelists debated on whether there is a larger logic behind policy making which is directing different political parties. Some of the panelists were of the view that during the readjustment period after 1991, India was driven by an invisible force to follow the global order; a momentous change that could not be reversed by even the most ideologically dogmatic individual. While, other panelists were of the view that the diverse nature of individuals makes everyday a policy choice. Another point of view that came up in the decision of policy making was the mindset of a politician while conceptualizing what is best for the greater good. However, all panelists agreed that in a heterogenous country like India, it is hard to formulate a cohesive policy vision that serves the national interest while also grappling with different scenarios in different states simultaneously indicating that socialism is a part of the Indian ethos.

While the panelists debated whether a reaction to the global order or individual mindsets account for the inflection points in India’s economy, the problem of government capacity is an important point to keep in mind. There is a gap in the intent and execution of a policy because there are yet many concepts that have not been institutionalized. Consequently, policy making in India is seen as a balancing act between being the vanguard of change and the omnipresent rent seeker. Governments most often get this balance wrong due to a lack of accountability and a want of knowledgeable inputs. Therefore, creating the need to democratize the system and link governance to performance is a necessary shift from hesitant reformation.

To achieve this, the author puts forward three recommendations. First, every policy must have a sell by date so that we do not end up having antiquated policies governing processes in modern times. Second, focus on re-engineering the administrative processes so that policy intent is not lost in policy implementation. Third, we need to get rid of irritants in ease of doing business by being more serious about the ‘revolving door’ policy. The book thus encapsulates the timeline of economic policy making and an understanding of the extent of the problems behind this process suggesting paradigm shifts connecting the past, present and future.

This report was prepared by Ruchbah Rai, Research Assistant, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.