The 49th anniversary of the Centre of Policy Research is an important occasion, and one that calls for both celebration and introspection. The sheer efflorescence of output at CPR is reason to celebrate. CPR was envisaged as an ecosystem that interfaced between the university and government to breathe intellectual life into what its founder then saw as a “moribund system of public administration, hamstrung by the poverty of imagination”. Dr.V.A. Pai Panandiker, Former President of CPR, laid the foundations of a vibrant space that pioneered the impressive body of work on policy issues in India that has become synonymous with CPR.
The nature of policy research is not narrowly prescriptive here. What is emphasized is the option generating imagination, that is best suited to the complex, diverse, highly variegated governance ecosystem of the country. CPR’s experts contribute to a dialogic process that brings voices to the table that are not often heard during policy consultations. Policy makers often draw on this rich repertoire for innovative scenario building.
The local and the global are not seen as discrete spaces, but as a matrix of criss- crossing trajectories that require collaborative, consultative engagement. This kind of interdisciplinarity is fully on display at the hugely popular Annual CPR Dialogues that draws enthusiastic participation from across sectors. Moving seamlessly from the local through the national, regional and global domains, CPR’s work transcends programmatic silos.
Through all the multisectoral work that we do, the leitmotifs reflect (1) an engagement with first principles, (2) the long view of the nature of the ethicality of the social compact, (3) how it delivers on democracy, on social and economic rights and enhances human dignity. We examine the normative dimension – not merely what is expedient for policy – but on how it impacts those it is intended for.
As we enter the 50th year as one of India’s premier think tanks, we celebrate our various milestones, but also collectively introspect on our evolving role and mandate:
In the dialectical interplay between ‘governance’ and ‘democracy’ is embedded our abiding question of what it would take to build a responsive, equitable, inclusive, effective 21st century State for India.
Our research takes us to the intersections of this complex mosaic of perceptions, practices, structures, beliefs that collide, cohere, even collude in ways that significantly determine the manner in which the people of India experience their rights and the quality of citizenship. The changing nature of the state and its ‘capacity’ in the current phase of ‘globalization’ is the big idea that links our work on accountability, urbanization, sanitation, energy, climate change, land rights, migration, health, cities, and the nuts and bolts of federalism with the lived experiences of the citizens of the Republic whom the state is meant to serve – not just service.
The other big question that engages us, revolves around navigating the emerging geopolitical landscape and the congruence between domestic/ electoral compulsions, the economy and India’s global aspirations. As the norms of engagement in the global order change, how should India calibrate her geopolitical position? What are the new configurations at play?
In a globalized world, as the line between what is external and what is domestic becomes increasingly porous, how must India secure her credentials as a democratic, pluralistic polity with a stable growth trajectory?
For an institution that celebrates its Golden Jubilee next year, CPR is incredibly young. Its resilience and vitality is reflected in its ability to continuously reinvent itself. Keeping in mind the changing national scenario and global imperatives CPR has added newer projects, even while fine tuning and refining existing programs. There is a continuous striving for greater congruence between projects.
As much as we introspect, we also continue to make our work accessible in the larger public sphere and draw upon reasoned critique to help nuance, refine and push the envelope further on the quality, credibility, non-partisanship and efficacy of our suggestions for sustainable implementation. This enables us to sustain a unique multi-stakeholder space where leading public policy practitioners, academics, and members of civil society deliberate upon the opportunities and critical challenges that animate governance choices and trajectories for India in the 21st century. Our striving to sustain robust public discourse based on objective, informed and non-partisan research on the issues at stake is the enduring leitmotif of our work