August 6, 2011, India International Centre, New Delhi
The brain-storming session on ‘Think Tanks in India: Public Policy and Challenges,’ organised by IPF and India Centre for Public Policy (ICPP) of Birla Institute of Management Technology (BIMTECH) at India International Centre (IIC), suggested that the Think Tanks should critically articulate people’s aspirations and should play a vital role in policy discourse.
The primary objective of the session was to exchange views and ideas among the leaders of Indian Think Tanks and their members. The discussion was also meant to familiarize with the problems and challenges before the Think Tanks. The session received overwhelming response from the Capital’s prominent research organisations, scholars and Think Tanks. The discussion was attended by thought leaders and representatives of various academic institutions, media, as well as former bureaucrats, fellows from the international bodies, and the representatives of Think Tanks like Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Institute of Dalit Studies etc.
The session was jointly chaired by Prof. Rakesh Sinha, Hon. Director, IPF, and Prof. Shettigar, Chairperson, ICPP, and the discussion started with the welcome note of Dr. Chaturvedi, Director, BIMTECH. Highlighting the need for a debate on the Think Tanks in India and their role and influence, Prof. Sinha and Dr. Chaturvedi invited a debate on the definition of Indian Think Tanks, 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.
The following questions were posed before the participants:
1. How to define the contours of Think Tanks in India?
2. How does it differ from its counterparts in the West?
3. What are the challenges before it?
4. What are the basic problems before it?
5. How does and how much the sources of resources influences policy articulation?
In his welcome note, Dr. Chaturvedi pointed out that there is no platform as such in India which could bridge the gap between the Think Tanks and the policy-makers. Therefore, BIMTECH, in its joint initiative with IPF, is working in that direction to create such a platform, he said.
Opening the discussion, Prof. Shettigar expressed his concern over the ineffectiveness of Think Tanks in India to contribute to policy level debate. Some of the experts identified lack of financial independence as the prime cause of the ineffectiveness. Nonetheless, over the period there has been an increasing role of Think Tanks in policy-making. The intellectuals should be free from biases and they should give their advice independently.
Chapal Mehra, Global Health Strategies, presented his views and identified definition, structural issues, funding and research influence as some of the major issues. The entity is still not much effective as the policy is used as a tool for creating popular acceptance of or giving legitimacy to regimes, both at the Central and State levels. Policy formation is also highly centralized, dictated by the concerns of political agendas which leaves very little space for Think Tanks in India.
Dr. Abu Saleh Shariff, Chief Economist of NCAER, raised issues of credibility of the organisations and funding and providing the appropriate space to do independent research. Baldevbhai Sharma, Editor, Panchjanya, referred to the dominance of elite class in Think Tanks and asked for a real field work by these bodies in order to help raise the voice of the common man.
The participants were of the view that the inputs of Think Tanks have been about the capacity of human resources in the domains, 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 from 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 and associated economic policies were offered as examples during the discussion by the participants.
The initiative by IPF and ICPP was appreciated by all participants as there have not been such debates in such a wide-ranging format. Prof NN Sharma and Prof Rahul Singh presented the background of the research project on Think Tanks. Two more such brain-storming sessions on Think Tanks were being planned, in Bangalore and Patna.
Chaired by: Prof. Rakesh Sinha, Hon. Director, IPF, Prof. Shettigar, Chairperson, ICPP, Bimtech
The Panel Members of the programme were: Dr. H. Chaturvedi, Director, BIMTECH, Prof. Rahul Singh, BIMTECH, Dr. Abu Saleh Shariff, Chief Economist of NCAER, Dr. Rajendra Mamgain, Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, Dr. P.K. Chaubey, IIPA, Sh. Nandan Unnikrishnan, ORF, Sh. Avanish Kumar, MDI, Dr. Rajiv Nayan, IDSA, Sh. Milind Oak, Social Activist & Thinker, Dr. Karl Grischow, American Foundation, Prof. N.N. Sharma, BIMTECH, Sh. Chapal Mehra, Global Health Strategies, Sh. Baldevbhai Sharma, Editor, Panchjanya, Ms. P.N. Vasanti, CMS, Sh. Samir Saran, ORF, Sh. Milind Chakravorty, Sharda University, Sh. Harsh Singh, Writer, Sh. Gopal Agarwal, Economic Analyst, Dr. A.K. Roy, Economist.