September 9, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether Indian think tanks have been effective. We also look at the smart government schools in Punjab, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Have Think Tanks In India Been Effective?
The think tank ecosystem in India goes way back, starting nearly a century ago in the pre-independence era. Even today, these organizations are heavily involved in the political sphere, supporting government bodies when introducing public policies.
But have they been effective in India? In a country with such a convoluted political history, think tanks have had some wins, but they also come with some shortcomings. In view of the recent tax raids conducted by the Income Tax department on think tanks like the Centre for Policy Research, we thought of looking at the effectiveness of think tanks in India.
Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) defines think tanks as “Public policy research analysis and engagement organizations that generate policy-oriented research, analysis, and advice on domestic and international issues, thereby enabling policymakers and the public to make informed decisions about public policy.” Due to India’s expanding global footprint, the country has seen its think tanks boom more prominently over the past decade.
Many think tanks that have a compelling presence today were established in the early 1950s. The primary task of these research institutes at the time was to provide clarity and information on economics and development issues to policymakers. In the latter half of the1950s, however, the Indian government ran into some issues with international foundations. In an attempt to exercise more control over foreign institutions, the government refused to take support from international organizations.
Fast-forward to the early 1990s, the rapidly changing political scenario in the country encouraged the growth of action-based think tanks. Against the backdrop of shifting global power after the fall of the Soviet Union, the role of these organizations increased, especially since India was projected as an emerging power. In recent years, the private sector has also got involved in funding think tanks. With the rise in coalition governments, the democratic process has been fragmented. To combat this, international agencies have posed as dispassionate sources in the form of liberalised think tanks.
There are currently five broad categories of think tanks. First are those that are funded by the State and operate independently, the second type is supported by political parties, third category is supported by national and international corporate houses under public-private partnerships. Another category is think tanks funded and guided by international agencies and governments, and the last one is those supported by prominent thought leaders.
VIEW: Think tanks are effective
The primary function of a think tank is to provide policy alternatives and well-researched policy critiques allowing the government to do its job better. Unlike the Opposition, it is independent and credible with the sole purpose of pushing the government to implement policies that will benefit all the communities in the country. Many think tanks in India have contributed greatly to every facet of the government.
The Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), for instance, was set up after the 1962 war with China to get outside expertise on defence and security affairs. It played a key role in settling the debate over whether India should go nuclear by backing this choice and shaping larger opinions. Another major think tank, the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) was conceived by Reliance founder Dhirubhai Ambani as a platform for policymakers, scholars and journalists. It is employed by the Ministry of External Affairs to conduct research on BRICS, climate, and other such issues.
The Centre for Policy Research is another influential think tank that functions as a research institution. It receives support from the government and was a part of the team that drafted Non-Alignment 2.0 in 2012. This document was a huge contributor to deciding the direction Indian foreign policy should take. CPR is also known for its expertise in climate change policy.
The formation of NITI Aayog marked a significant change in how think tanks worked with the government. In its work with the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), NITI is looking at the formulation and implementation of framing clean energy technologies, supporting the rollout of electric buses and the smart cities initiative.
COUNTERVIEW: Think tanks are not effective
While the principle on which think tanks are established is beneficial, the practical application of the same can be tricky. There have often been concerns about the agenda of these organizations based on how they are funded. Some argue they cannot be completely apolitical and independent as some have political backing and affiliations.
On one hand, think tank organisations cannot escape this as funding sources are one of the major challenges faced by them. As articulated by Amitabh Mattoo and Rory Medcalf in one of the chapters of The Oxford Handbook of Indian Foreign Policy, the overarching reason for the poor performance of think tanks in India is due to the government’s determination to hold the policy reins. On the other hand, think tanks funded by the government are never seen as completely objective.
Another issue regarding think tanks is the skewed geographical distribution in the country. Capital cities tend to attract more think tanks as is evident with the number of these organizations concentrated in Delhi. Additionally, think tanks need to take into consideration the demands of the stakeholders as they can influence what kind of research the organization carries out.
- Indian think tanks: the challenges they face (On Think Tanks)
- The growing tribe of think tanks in India (Livemint)
- Who Funds Think Tanks And How Effective Are They in India (The Quint)
- Building effective think tanks (Millenium Post)
- Indian think tanks: a view on their journey (On Think Tanks)
- India’s most influential think tanks (Hindustan Times)
- Indian think tanks are growing in big numbers under Modi. But impact, influence questionable (The Print)
What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) Indian think tanks are effective.
b) Indian think tanks are not effective.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Why Nepalese Gorkha Recruits Deserve Better Than Agnipath Scheme
For the Left:
Will A United Opposition Bloc Make A Dent In BJP’s Efforts To Return In 2024?
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Making government schools smart (Punjab) – While people have an idea of what a government school usually looks like, with sub-standard infrastructure, those in Sural Kalan village and a couple of other districts are breaking the mould. It’s because village panchayats converted them into smart schools with well-constructed buildings, ventilated classrooms, and green lawns. Classrooms are equipped with advanced audio systems and screens.
Why it matters: In 2020, Education Minister Vijay Inder Singla said the government converted more than 6,800 schools into smart schools in the state. The goal was to remake all government schools into smart schools. At the time, the government had spent ₹700 crores on this undertaking. Nawanshahr-based social activist Parvinder Singh Kittna said Punjab had shown the way in sprucing up school infrastructure.
Rise in crimes against women and Dalits (Tamil Nadu) – Data published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) showed an increase in crimes against children, women, and scheduled castes (SCs) between 2020 and 2021. In two years, crimes against women increased by over 43% to more than 8,500 reported cases. Crimes against children increased by more than 31%, and against Dalits and other SCs, there was a nearly 17% increase.
Why it matters: Last year, data from the Home Ministry showed 37 of the state’s 38 districts were identified as atrocity prone for crimes against oppressed Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities. Last month, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) President Thol Thirumavalavan blamed the previous AIADMK government for disturbing data on crimes against Dalits. He urged Chief Minister MK Stalin to take action.
House Allotment scheme launched (Odisha) – The state’s Housing & Urban Development Department launched its Housing for All Policy for economically weaker sections. The Odisha Urban Housing Mission (OUHM) developed a web-based software and an android app called House Allotment System. The policy has seven modes of intervention to create affordable housing and redevelop slums. The goal is to have transparency and social auditing right from the registration phase.
Why it matters: Previously, the state lured realtors into investing more in the sector for affordable housing. It established new rules under the Odisha Development Authority (Planning and Building Standard) Rules, 2020. The government wanted realtors to work with them to build affordable houses for economically weaker sections. The new Housing Allotment Scheme will also help identify which cities and districts have a housing shortage.
Cinematic Tourism Policy (Gujarat) – The state wants to develop its tourism sector and hopes the Cinematic Tourism Policy (CTP) will do just that. The policy will provide a 25% rebate on the total cost of production of completed films and events based on the size of the project. These include those that create content for streaming platforms and those that promote the state’s tourism potential. It’ll be launched on September 10, with Bollywood stars invited.
Why it matters: Last year, the state launched a single-window system that provided end-to-end solutions for filmmakers, promoting film tourism. The online system provides fast and easy permissions for film shoots. Films like Guide and Lagaan were filmed in the state, and the government wants to use future films as an opportunity to show off the state’s tourism potential.
Cabinet clears Ropeway Bill (Meghalaya) – The state cabinet cleared the Meghalaya Ropeway Bill to help set up ropeways for tourism. One of the projects sanctioned was the Shillong Peak Ropeway, for which a ₹140 crore tender will soon be floated. The Bill will provide details on how applications should be filed, safety measures, and guidelines to be followed to set up ropeways. The new policy will be tourism-specific. However, the government might consider ropeways for public transportation in the future.
Why it matters: The government has been working on the ropeway project for almost two years. If the ropeways were installed for public transportation, it would help ease traffic congestion. The first passenger ropeway will operate from Shillong to Lawsohtun. In 2020, the government announced the state would get its first ropeway. In August that year, India’s longest ropeway over a river was launched in Guwahati.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
₹26 lakhs – The total amount collected as fines by the Chennai Police in two days from motorists driving the wrong way. The police registered more than 2,600 cases as they’ve been enforcing measures for the free flow of traffic.