The apex body that carries out policy research in India is the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. It embodies a vibrant community committed to the highest standards of excellence.

Effective research in public policy is an essential activity for ensuring good governance in any country. Good governance has to be supported by sound strategic decision-making and innovative solutions for emerging problems.

Public policy research embraces a wide variety of fields such as education, skill development, agriculture, economy, public health, environment, industrial growth, law and order, justice system, planning and development, national defence, project management, business enterprises, gender issues, roads and railways, power supply, drinking water, housing and international relations.

Developing useful programmes for social intervention, their implementation, monitoring and corrective measures are crucial in policy execution. We have to make sure that the gains produced persist even after a programme is discontinued. Unfortunately, such persistence cannot often be achieved. Perhaps, a programme with modification in style or content may be designed and applied, without prejudice to the earlier efforts. The findings of policy research have to be promptly carried to the clients (governments), if they should benefit the stakeholders, who are most often the people in general.

Randomised field trials and field experiments form an integral part of policy research. The responses of target group samples have to be studied carefully and analysed for arriving at inferences. An armchair approach may not take us very far. The surveys have to be in the field. Conclusions on the impact of social policy programmes have to be derived from the behavioural change in the stakeholders.

There may be a wide disparity between a person’s desire for a certain kind of behaviour and his actual behaviour. For instance, we may consider an educated citizen, who favours methods for conserving electrical power, not taking any step to reduce his own domestic power consumption. This illustrates the weakness in arriving at conclusions based on the answers to questions given in a survey. A field experiment, on the other hand, leads us to a more realistic assessment on the effectiveness of a social programme. Analysing the findings from the field experiments will help us in formulating the right steps for proactive intervention by the competent authorities on a wider real-life scale.

Pitfall

A usual pitfall in public policy implementation is the short-sighted approach in concluding that an initial impact represents a long-term impact. The results may be short-lived. For example, a social programme that stands on the artificial crutches of incentive or subsidy may not continue to produce results for long. The stakeholders may return to their old pattern of behaviour, when the initial charm fades out. The effectiveness of such programmes has to be measured on the basis of long term trends.

The apex body that carries out policy research in our country is the CPR — the Centre for Policy Research, Dharam Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi – 110 021; www.cprindia.org.

The CPR embodies a vibrant community that is committed to the highest standards of excellence in public policy research. It receives financial support from a variety of sources such as government bodies, international agencies and the private sector. The sources include the Indian Council of Social Science Research, the Planning Commission, the Union Ministry of Finance, the United Nations Development Programme, UNICEF, the World Bank, the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, Google.org and TISCO. The assistance goes not only to the faculty for undertaking research but also to external partners in research. Apart from financial support, the centre receives help in forms such as conference facilities and information technology infrastructure.

Attractions awaiting serious research scholars in the CPR include an impressive collection of books, periodicals, journals and other documents on foreign policy, urbanisation, governance, law and other areas of research focus. This rare collection is a symbol the CPR’s commitment to excellence in policy research. The centre provides its faculty with contemporary facilities and an excellent administrative and logistical infrastructure for organising conferences, seminars, meetings and lectures of various sizes.

Areas of focus

Economic policy analysis: The studies in economic policy of a vast country like India are not confined to any limited area. It spreads over a wide range of sectors such as trade, finance, health, education, social services, infrastructure industry, agriculture and labour markets. The emphasis is on analysing the existing policy based on the best available theoretical and empirical tools and present alternatives. Studies are made on the Indian economy at all levels as well as the international context in which it operates.

Environmental law: There is a big fight in society: Environment vs development. Can the two flourish together? Or do we have to sacrifice one for the other? An analyst once said: “It is the chicken and egg situation, when it comes to economic development and environmental conservation.” The assumption that the two are contradictory is perhaps a fallacy.

In the early days after Independence, our dams were considered Temples of Modern India. Drinking water, irrigation and hydroelectric power are the gifts of such temples. But activists brought up issues of displaced people and environmental degradation caused by deforestation. This is only an illustration of the conflict between environment and development. Every country in the world has to resolve problems of this conflict. Industries are often accompanied by industrial pollution. Use of pesticides for agricultural development is another area of contention. We have to strike a happy balance between environment and development to safeguard the best interests of the people.

Discussions over how to balance environmental pressures with robust development continue to be a challenge for rapid growing economies. The increasing urgency of global environmental problems, including climate change, calls for creative approaches to international environmental law. The CPR undertakes meaningful studies in this area of great policy significance.

International relations and security: This examines traditional domains of foreign policy and security policy as well as non-traditional challenges confronting our country.

Drawing on conceptual, historical and comparative tools, the programme seeks to analyse existing policies and to present feasible alternatives.

Law, regulation and the State: Law is central to the identity, legitimacy and functioning of the State. This segment examines the normative, empirical and theoretical considerations that are relevant to understanding the State. It examines formal institutions and processes and also the way in which the State is embedded in larger social, political and economic contexts.

Urbanisation: This is a research platform exploring India’s urbanisation challenge. It aims to initiate and influence policy debates on urban issues such as governance, economics, social inclusion and ecology of the Indian city.

The foregoing details show that the CPR offers excellent opportunities for research to aspirants who intend to conduct studies in policies of public interest and governance.