The State of Law Public Policy in India’s Politics 

Session Report
Riya Rajvanshi

LPPYF Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship is an Online National Summer School Program, a Two-Month Online Immersive Legal Awareness and Action Research Certificate Training Course and Internship Program, from June-August 2023 by IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute. An informative and interactive panel discussion on “The State of Law Public Policy in India’s Politics ” was held by Dr. Ajay Gudavarthy, Associate Professor, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Public Policy as Mediating the Relationship  between Capital Accumulation and Maintaining Politics 

Dr. Ajay discussed public policy as meditating on the relationship between capital accumulation and maintaining politics. A society’s intricate interplay between capital accumulation and the upkeep of political stability is mediated crucially by public policy. Public policy, at its foundation, includes the choices, laws, and rules made by governments to address societal problems and direct economic activity. It acts as a vital link in this situation between a country’s social and political demands and commercial objectives in terms of the economy. Governments can affect the distribution of wealth, economic opportunity, and social well-being through taxation policies, laws, and social programs.

Achieving an environment that encourages capital growth while also guaranteeing that the ensuing affluence is distributed fairly throughout the population is the delicate balance that effective public policy aims to strike. By doing so, it helps prevent extreme disparities in wealth and power that could destabilize the political landscape, ultimately contributing to a more inclusive and sustainable society.

Post Independence Period in our State functioning

He followed by outlining the adjustments that our state’s governance underwent in the 1960s during the post-independence era. The time following India’s independence has been characterized by a dynamic and changing landscape of public policies that have been essential in forming the country. Since 1947, when India declared independence from British colonial authority, major changes have taken place across a number of policy areas. 

  1. Constitutional Framework: In 1950, India enacted its Constitution, which established the framework for its government. The Constitution serves as a framework for public policies by defining fundamental rights, guiding values, and the organization of government.
  2. Economic Development: The majority of recently independent states seek to promote economic expansion and advancement. In order to do this, policies must be developed to promote investment, industrialization, and job growth. Taxation, trade, and investment incentives are frequently included in these programs.
  3. Social Welfare: Governments typically implement social welfare policies to address inequalities and improve the living conditions of citizens. This can involve healthcare, education, housing, and poverty alleviation programs.
  4. Political Stability: Ensuring political stability is crucial, especially during the early post-independence years. Public policies may include measures to strengthen democratic institutions, promote political inclusivity, and manage ethnic or regional tensions.
  5. Digital and Technology Policies: Policies promoting digital inclusion, e-governance, and technology-driven innovation have gained prominence in recent years.

In your state during the post-independence era, the specific policies and their results would rely on a number of variables, including its historical setting, political leadership, economic resources, and societal demands. It is still up for debate and analysis of how effective these policies are and how they affect different societal groups.

Problems

He continued by outlining the issues brought on by the modifications to state functioning. India’s post-independence era, which spans many states, has seen both outstanding advancements and enduring difficulties in public policy. This time period has seen the emergence of a number of issues, including concerns with governance, economic growth, social fairness, and environmental sustainability.

Progress on several fronts has been hampered in certain states by political instability and corruption, which have impeded effective policymaking and execution. Some regions continue to benefit economically more than others, which causes uneven development. Despite affirmative action legislation, there are still significant caste, religious, and gender-based inequities in society. In the post-independence era, balancing the different requirements of India’s population while addressing these difficult issues has remained a key test for state-level public policies.

Policy and State Technology 

He explained that during India’s rapid industrialisation and nation-building in the 1960s, public policy and state technology collided. An intentional focus on state-led economic development via the construction of a mixed economy defined this period. The technological landscape of the nation was significantly shaped by public policies. With a concentration on industries like steel, mining, and manufacturing, the government put regulations in place to promote the expansion of heavy industries. State-owned businesses were set up to improve technology and increase economic independence. To establish priorities for resource allocation and development, the renowned “Five-Year Plans” were started.

This period also saw the establishment of institutions dedicated to scientific research and technological innovation.

However, while these policies aimed to accelerate India’s technological progress, they also faced challenges. Bureaucratic inefficiencies, resource constraints, and a lack of private sector participation sometimes hampered the desired outcomes. Despite these challenges, the 1960s set the stage for subsequent decades, shaping India’s approach to technology, industrialization, and innovation in public policy.

Reasons Why State Planning Failed in the 1960s

The failure of state planning in India during the 1960s can be attributed to several interrelated factors, both structural and operational, within the context of public policy and state technology. Here are some key reasons:

  1. Bureaucratic Inefficiencies: The execution of state planning often suffers from bureaucratic red tape, delays, and a lack of accountability. Decision-making processes were slow and cumbersome, which hindered the effective implementation of plans and projects.
  2. Resource Constraints: India faced significant resource limitations in the 1960s. Scarce financial resources and inadequate infrastructure constrained the government’s ability to invest in and execute large-scale industrial and technological projects.
  3. Lack of Private Sector Participation: The state-driven approach tended to discourage private sector participation and entrepreneurship. This limited the diversity of skills, ideas, and investments required for technological innovation and industrial growth.
  4. Inadequate Technological Preparedness: India lacked the necessary technological and industrial base to support the ambitious plans. The gap between the intended goals and the available technology was often substantial.
  5. Political Factors: Political considerations and electoral politics sometimes influence resource allocation and planning decisions, diverting resources away from projects with greater developmental potential.
  6. Changing Global Economic Trends: The 1960s also saw a shift in global economic thinking towards market-oriented policies and liberalization. India’s focus on state planning became increasingly at odds with these emerging global trends.
  7. Population Growth: Rapid population growth places additional stress on resources and infrastructure, making it difficult to meet the growing demands of the population through state planning alone.

He mentioned that despite these challenges, it’s important to note that state planning did achieve some successes, such as in the development of scientific and educational institutions. However, by the late 1960s and early 1970s, India began to shift towards economic liberalization and a more open economy, acknowledging the limitations of a purely state-driven model. These reforms marked a turning point in India’s approach to public policy and state technology, setting the stage for significant economic and technological growth in subsequent decades.

LPG

After the state failure, the LPG policy was announced. He explained the LPG (Liberalization, Privatization, and Globalization) policy in India, introduced in the early 1990s, marked a significant departure from the economic policies pursued in the decades following the 1960s. Before the LPG era, India had adopted a more closed and centrally planned economic approach, often referred to as the License Raj. During this period, government controls and regulations were pervasive, which resulted in a stifling of entrepreneurship, limited foreign investment, and inefficient state-owned enterprises.

Then he concluded that the post-1960s LPG policy has been instrumental in transforming India’s economy. It facilitated robust economic growth, increased foreign direct investment, and modernized industries. It also led to the emergence of a vibrant services sector and a burgeoning middle class. However, challenges like income inequality and regional disparities persist and require ongoing attention. In summary, the LPG policy introduced after the 1960s played a pivotal role in reshaping India’s economic landscape, steering it towards greater openness and dynamism.

The interface between Nudge and Neo-liberalism 

In India, the intersection of “nudge” policies with neo-liberalization offers a fascinating confluence of governance paradigms. As the preeminent economic ideology, neoliberalism emphasizes the importance of individual freedom, free markets, and minimum government intervention. While acknowledging that human decision-making is frequently biased, “nudge” strategies, made popular by behavioral economics, aim to subtly affect decisions.

By encouraging people to make decisions that are in their best interests, “nudge” policies, on the other hand, aim to enhance decision-making by acknowledging the shortcomings of solely market-driven solutions. This strategy has been used in India in a number of areas, including boosting savings, encouraging healthy living habits, and improving public service delivery.

The interface between these two approaches lies in their potential synergy. Neoliberalization can create the conditions for economic growth, while “nudge” policies can be employed to ensure that the benefits of this growth are distributed more equitably and that individuals make choices that are not just economically rational but also socially desirable. This combination can help strike a balance between individual freedom and collective welfare, a key challenge for policymakers in a rapidly changing India. However, it also demands careful design and ethical considerations to avoid paternalism and respect individual autonomy.

NEP

He mentioned that the New Education Policy (NEP) introduced in India in 2020 marked a significant departure from the previous education policies that had been in place since the 1960s. Before the NEP, the Indian education system had faced several challenges, including rote learning, a rigid curriculum, and limited emphasis on holistic development. The NEP sought to address these issues comprehensively.

One of the key features of the NEP is its focus on flexibility and choice. It introduced a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure, replacing the traditional 10+2 system, to align education more closely with cognitive development stages. This allows students greater flexibility in choosing subjects and pathways, fostering a more holistic and skill-based approach to education.

The NEP also promotes a multidisciplinary approach, encouraging students to pursue a wide range of subjects, including vocational courses, arts, and sciences. 

Later he summarized, that the New Education Policy in India represents a comprehensive reform effort to modernize the education system, making it more flexible, holistic, and aligned with the evolving needs of students and society. It is a significant step towards preparing India’s youth for the challenges of the 21st century.

Emotions are a vital, and often complex, aspect of public policy in India. They can serve as powerful drivers of change and social cohesion but also require careful navigation to ensure that policies effectively address the diverse and evolving emotional landscape of the nation.

Finally, Dr. Ajay mentioned that Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, had a forward-thinking viewpoint on dams and frequently said that “dams are the new temples of modern India.” Dams were not merely seen by Nehru as infrastructural projects, but also as representations of progress, growth, and nation-building. However, Nehru’s idea that dams were the “new temples” had a lasting impact on India’s development trajectory, influencing the nation’s infrastructure and approach to managing water resources for many years to come.

Acknowledgement: Riya Rajvanshi is a research intern at IMPRI.

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