Centre for Policy Research's Annual Report 2019-20

29 September 2020
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It is a privilege to present the Centre for Policy Research’s (CPR) annual report for 2019-20. We bring you this report in unusual circumstances. COVID-19 has upended all that we take for granted, both in terms of how we work and the established frameworks through which we seek to address policy challenges. I am proud, that in these trying circumstances, CPR has proved resilient, reinventing itself to respond to this particular policy moment, while discovering new ways of remaining creative and prolific, despite work from home and the tyranny of Zoom.

Like every year, CPR’s faculty have kept the tradition of publishing scholarly, field-defining books alive. In 2019-20, CPR faculty published important books in fields as diverse as climate change, public administration and urbanisation. CPR’s scholarly contributions were complemented by as many as 442 articles and opinion pieces in the mainstream press and non-academic journals, as CPR scholars valiantly sought to infuse evidence and nuance in an increasingly polarised public sphere.

Even as we continue to produce field defining scholarship, CPR has remained actively engaged in the everyday life of policymaking, shaping ideas and offering technical expertise to resolve difficult policy problems. In 2019-20, we broadened our approach to work at the sub-national level. It is often said that the future of India lies in the States of India. In recognition of this, CPR too has begun to engage more directly with States. Our state engagement involves direct ground level partnerships and technical problem solving. The Accountability Initiative, for instance, signed a three year Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Meghalaya to provide research support to their planning and budgeting processes. The Scaling City Institutions for India (SCI-FI) program, our urban sanitation and housing initiative, is working closely with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Government of Odisha, providing technical advice in the areas of land, housing and planning. Individual faculty have also been appointed to provide technical support to State Governments in key areas. Philippe Cullet, was appointed as a member of the Group of Experts on the Madhya Pradesh Water Strategy by the Government of Madhya Pradesh. Yamini Aiyar was appointed a member of the State Advisory Council, Government of Punjab.

In early March 2020, days before lockdowns, social distancing and masks entered our everyday vocabulary, CPR organised the second edition of the CPR Dialogues. Launched in 2018, CPR Dialogues is an important addition to our repertoire of public engagement efforts and marks a strategic shift in CPR’s public engagement. This shift is, partly, a response to the growing polarisation of the public sphere in India, which we believe needs sober, evidence-based discourse. It is also a consequence of a growing recognition that policy processes and long-term change need to be driven through the creation of a coherent and shared public narrative on the nature of the problem and policy prescriptions. Shaping this narrative and developing a shared understanding of the range of policy prescriptions available is a critical role that CPR can play. To this end, we have sought to move beyond the confines of our seminar room to create newer spaces for dialogue with stakeholders, civil society and the public. 

Once COVID-19 struck and India went into lockdown, CPR faculty shifted gear to respond to the particular policy challenges India now confronts. Our response has been wide ranging, focusing both on the public health challenge as well as the pathways for economic relief and recovery, social protection particularly for informal, migrant workers, climate change and the environment, urbanisation and issues of federalism. Select CPR faculty came together to form a research collaborative working closely with State Governments. In April 2020, CPR signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Punjab to provide realtime data analysis and design a testing strategy to identify COVID-19 cases. In addition, CPR is part of civil society collaboratives, working at the grassroots, providing relief, often in partnership with district and block administrators and documenting the effects of the pandemic. Through this work, CPR faculty have sought to highlight ground realities and bring evidence to shape policy responses to the COVID-19-induced economic crisis. As always, CPR sought to influence the public debate, infusing knowledge and expertise into the noise, through multiple new media including podcasts, webinars and opinion writing.

None of this would have been possible without our talented faculty and researchers, who never once allowed the trials and tribulations of COVID-19 and work from home to interfere with their passion and commitment to respond at this critical policy juncture. I am really proud to have the privilege of leading this wonderful community of scholars.

I am as always, grateful to the CPR board, under the leadership of Dr Meenakshi Gopinath, who’ve helped us traverse an increasingly complex regulatory environment while holding us to the highest standards of rigour and integrity. I would be remiss not to thank our wonderful administration and communications teams. Led by Mr Ravi, our administration team has patiently ensured that we maintain high standards of governance. Mr. Ravi, an institution within CPR, retired in August 2020 after three decades of service. We owe deep gratitude to him for all that he has done for us. He is the reason why CPR faculty can stay focused on research, unfettered by the daily demands of administration and paperwork. Our communications team, led by Ms Hemali Sodhi who joined us in 2020, has taken on the difficult task of pushing us to leave the comfort of our ivory towers. They are the reason why CPR has been able to pivot towards greater public engagement and find its way into the 21st-century world of social media and digital communication, with grace and style.

Before signing off, I would like to thank all of you, our friends, collaborators and funders. This report offers but a glimpse into the variety, scale and rigour of work that we do at CPR, all of which has been made possible because of you. We remain deeply grateful.

With warmest thanks,

Yamini Aiyar,
President and Chief Executive,
Centre for Policy Research

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The views shared belong to individual faculty and researchers and do not represent an institutional stance on the issue.