The 1991 Project aims to document the historic period where politicians, economists, bureaucrats and policymakers came together to dramatically turn India’s economic orientation from socialist domination to embracing markets. Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister in 1991, ended his historic 1991 budget speech with: “Sir, I do not minimise the difficulties that lie ahead on the long and arduous journey on which we have embarked. But as Victor Hugo once said, “no power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come.” I suggest to this august House that the emergence of India as a major economic power in the world happens to be one such idea. Let the whole world hear it loud and clear. India is now wide awake. We shall prevail. We shall overcome.”
Three-fifths of all Indians have been born since 1991. Having not experienced the crisis, nor the socialist regime that preceded it, they are unfamiliar with the dramatic impact of the 1991 liberalization and the lessons it holds for India’s future. On its 30th anniversary, this project seeks to revive the ideas and policies that can continue to foster economic growth in India.
I led the project authoring research papers, coordinating essays from various authors, conceptualizing timelines and data visualizations, anchoring lecture series with academics, and the necessary communications including op-eds and podcasts.
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The Data Governance Network, funded by the Omidyar Network, aimed at bridging the differing voices informing policies for digital governance to interact amongst each other and chart a plan for the future. The aim was to build a community for evidence-based policymaking at a time when India’s digital governance policies were still being discussed and debated.
In the two-year period that I was a part of the Network (and leading it in the second year), we had 8 organizations associated in various capacities including 4 Think-tanks and NGOs as research nodes. The NEtwork managed to produce 35 research papers and policies briefs. We held quarterly roundtables to discuss research and provide feedback on each others’ work.
Leading the Network, I selected the research organizations, coordinated research amongst them, and ensured they go through a peer review before being designed and disseminated. I also coordinated communications and events, and liaison with policymakers to implement research that came out of the Network’s activities. I also coordinated joint submissions to parliamentary committees on laws and regulations around digital governance.
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I was a part of the team at IDFC Institute conducting a survey to estimate the impact of infrastructure investment on employment in India. The project aimed at conducting a primary survey, designing a quantitative model, and analyzing results. The end result was to create a toolkit for policymakers for them to be able to inform infrastructure investment in a particular region or area. The project was funded by the Ford Foundation.
The team used nightlights data to narrow in on peri-urban regions, where the impact of infrastructure investments would give the greatest bang for the buck. We then conducted a primary survey of 2500 firms across 18 districts in India to capture how employment varies with infrastructure availability. These surveys were supplemented with focus group discussions with the local businessmen to qualitatively capture the infrastructural impediments that would hinder employment opportunities.
The result of this 2-year project was a report which can be viewed here. It was launched by Nitin Gadkari, the Minister for Road Trasport and Highways, Government of India.