Dec 10, 2011, ANS Institute of Social Studies, Patna
The seminar, ‘Think Tanks in India: Public Policy and Challenges,’ was jointly organised by India Policy Foundation (IPF) and India Centre for Public Policy (ICPP) of Birla Institute of Management Technology (BIMTECH), Greater Noida, at AN Sinha Institute, Patna, Bihar, to discuss the role of think tanks in India’s policy making. The discussion was attended by dignitaries from various academic institutions, media, political thinkers, and representatives of Think Tanks.
Highlighting the need of a high purpose debate on the existence of Think Tanks in India and their role and influence, Prof. Rakesh Sinha and Dr. Shettigar invited a debate on definitional understanding of Indian Think Tanks, their role in making of public policy, evaluating the impact of Think Tanks on public policy, defining future trajectory and likely role of these institutions, and identifying challenges faced by the Think Tanks for attaining growth and excellence.
In the welcome note, Prof Sinha expressed his gratitude to all the dignitaries, and specified that there is not as such any platform in India which could bridge the gap between the India’s Think Tanks and the policy makers, therefore IPF in its joint initiative with BIMTECH is working in the direction to create a platform. Opening the discussion, Prof. Shettigar expressed his concern for the ineffectiveness of Think Tanks in India to contribute to policy level debate. However, he also underlined the challenges.
Prof. Janak Pandey identified the contextual definition, structural issues, funding and research influence of Think Tanks as some of the major issues. The entity is still not much effective as a policy tool for creating popular acceptance of or giving legitimacy to regimes, both at the Central and State levels in governance. Policy formation is also highly centralized, dictated by the concerns of political agendas which leaves very less space for Think Tanks in India. Dr. DM Diwakar raised issues of credibility of the organisations and also the issues of funding and providing the appropriate space to do independent research. Dr Shaibal Gupta, Member Secretary, Asian Development Research Institute, discussed the dominance of elite class in Think Tanks and asked for a real field work by the Think Tanks in India and to raise the voice of the common man. The inputs of Think Tanks have been sensitive to the capacity of human resources in the domain, funding on the researches by national and international organisations, influence by other methods of researches or presentations to policy makers, creating credibility which can be disassociated with funding, and the larger issues like absence of a defined mechanism of making the public policy. The critical instances of nuclear policy, reservation policy, education policy, environmental issues and associated economic policies were offered as examples during the discussion by Fr. Dr T Nishaant, Dr Sunita Roy, Dr. V Mukunda Das and Dr BL Mishra.
Sh. Anil Thakur, commenting upon the intellectual climate of the country, observed that there is need to change the intellectual climate of the country. Intellectuals are passing through a state of ‘selective amnesia’. They refused to correct their understanding of society and history despite the unravelling of facts by scientific investigations. P P Ghosh said that the biggest tragedy of our intellectual tradition is we go by reputation of the person, then we consider logic and facts remain at the bottom of the ladder. He emphasised the need to reverse the ladder, first we should give importance to facts, at second place logic and lastly the reputation of the person.
Dr. Sanjay Paswan said that Think Tanks should come forward to give a direction to governments and other policy makers based on critically important and relevant research and also assimilating the voice of the public at large which favours Indian establishment in a globalised era. Memen Matthew indicated towards research-based outcomes of the Think Tanks and ability to stand up to in times of conflict for higher purpose. The losing grounds for Think Tanks are also due to the invisibility of the bodies and global pressures and diplomacy for visibly invisible purposes by international institutions and governments on negotiations of funding. The fine balance is still not found in our country, he added. Sh. Arun Ojha opined that we are getting more into knowing about outside, and less aware about own country/State. Think Tanks need to understand and listen more than the advocacy, we need to review that Think Tanks and researchers do not become slave of money bags, i.e., donors, and brand petitioners.
The initiative by IPF and ICPP was appreciated as there has not been such debate in such a diverse group. IPF Hon Director Prof. Sinha said that there is a need to critically study the Indian tradition of thought process and the Western model of Think Tanks. He said that Indian Thinkers had influenced policy making by articulating social concern effectively and scientifically. He also said that the emergence of India as an important global player increased the exigency of effective, efficient and committed Think Tanks. The discussion was joined by several eminent people of national and international repute from academia, media, social organisations, government and other initiatives.
Chaired by: Prof. J. Shettigar, Chairperson, ICPP (BIMTECH), Prof. Rakesh Sinha, Hon. Director, IPF
The Panel Members of the programme were: Prof. Janak Pandey, Vice-Chancellor, Central University, Patna, Dr. D M Diwakar, Director, AN Sinha Institute, Dr Shaibal Gupta, Member Secretary, Asian Development Research Institute, Dr. V Mukunda Das, Director, Chandragupt Institute of Management, Dr T Nishaant, Director, Xavier Institue of Social Research, Dr Sunita Roy, Patna University, Dr B L Mishra, Chandragupt Institute of Management, Shri P P Ghosh, Asian Development Research Institute, Shri Arun Ojha, Swadeshi Jagaran Munch, Shri Mamen Matthew, Resident Editor, Hindustan Times, Shri Anil Thakur, Social Group, Prof Rakesh Sinha, Hon Director, IPF, Shri Sanjay Paswan, Former Union Minister
Project Lead: Dr Rahul Singh, Prof N N Sharma