Policy in Action – November 2020

Live projects for policymakers promise to be the most exciting component of the Policy in Action Program. For this edition of the program, fellows supported the work of the following policymakers:

Amar Patnaik (MP, Odisha)

Dr. Patnaik is a Member of Parliament representing Odisha in the Rajya Sabha and a member of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD).

He graduated from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi in 1987 and later pursued a master's degree in Public Management from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He holds an inter-disciplinary doctorate from the Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar.

Dr. Patnaik joined the Indian Civil Services in 1990 under its Indian Audit and Accounts Services and served as the Principal Accountant General (PAG) in Odisha, Kerala and West Bengal under the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. He opted for voluntary retirement nine years before completion of his service and joined the BJD. He currently heads its IT-Wing and is also a spokesperson of the party.

Ashwini Vaishnaw (MP, Odisha)

Mr. Vaishnaw is a Member of Parliament representing the State of Odisha in Rajya Sabha. He is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

He graduated from the Jai Narayan Vyas University, Rajasthan in 1992 with a gold medal in electronic and communications engineering and then completed his M.Tech from IIT Kanpur, before cracking the IAS in 1994. In 2008, Mr. Vaishnaw pursued an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

He has previously served as a collector in the Balasore and Cuttack districts of Odisha. He was also a deputy secretary in the office of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In Parliament, he is a member of multiple committees. He sits on the Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change committee. He is also a member of the Consultative Committee for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, as well as the committee on Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 and the Joint Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019.

Jignesh Mevani (MLA, Gujarat)

Mr. Mevani is a member of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly and represents the constituency of Vadgam in northern Gujarat as an independent candidate.

He has worked as a lawyer as well as an activist. He is known for his passionate advocacy for dalit rights and is the convener of the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch that has been actively working to end caste based discrimination.

He completed his Bachelor of Arts in English literature from H.K Arts College, Ahmedabad. In 2004, he received a Diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication and later went on to receive a degree in law.

From 2004 to 2007, he served as a reporter for Abhiyan, a Gujarati magazine.

Ninong Ering (MLA, Arunachal)

Mr. Ering is a Member of the Legislative Assembly from the Pasighat West constituency in the East Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh. Until recently, he represented Arunachal in the Lok Sabha. He was also the Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs in the UPA government. He is a member of the Indian National Congress.

He began his political career as a member of the Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly in 1989, where he served two terms. He has also served as a Minister of State in the Government of Arunachal Pradesh and as the Deputy Speaker of the Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly.

While in Parliament, he was a member of the Committee on Ethics, the Standing Committee on Science & Technology, and the Standing Committee on Environment & Forests. He has also been associated with not-for-profits working in the sphere of health and sanitation.

Partap Singh Bajwa (MP, Punjab)

Mr. Bajwa is currently a member of the Rajya Sabha from INC representing Punjab. He has previously served as a member of the Lok Sabha from Gurdaspur in Punjab and also as an MLA in the Punjab Legislative Assembly from Kahnuwan.

He started his career in politics as a student leader in 1976 from DAV College Chandigarh, became President of District Youth Congress Gurdaspur, Vice President of Youth Congress in 1980, President of Youth Congress in 1982 and rose to the President of State Congress. He was first elected to the Punjab Legislative Assembly from the Kahnuwan constituency in 1992.

He has held several ministerial portfolios in the Government of Punjab and was Minister of State Information and Public Relations from 1994–1995, Cabinet Minister P.W.D B&R, I&PR, from 1995–1996, Cabinet Minister Judiciary, Jails etc. from 1996–1997, Cabinet Minister P.W.D B&R, School Education, from 2002–2007.

Mr. Bajwa also has a keen interest in games and sports and served as the President of the Judo Federation of Punjab in 2002, 2008 and again in 2015. He was elected as President of the Judo Federation of India in 2018.

Priyanka Chaturvedi (MP, Maharashtra)

Ms. Chaturvedi is a Member of Parliament representing Maharashtra in the Rajya Sabha. She is a member of the Shiv Sena.

She started her career as Director of MPower Consultants, a Media, PR and event management company and has previously been a columnist for Tehelka, Daily News and Analysis, and Firstpost. As a trustee of two NGOs, she works to promote children's education, women's empowerment and health.

Before joining the Shiv Sena, she was a member of the Indian National Congress and has also held the post of General Secretary of the Indian Youth Congress from North-West Mumbai. She graduated in Commerce from the Narsee Monjee College of Commerce and Economics in 1999.

Rajeev Gowda (Former MP, Karnataka | Chairman, INC Research)

photograph-of-prof-rajeev-gowda-mpUntil recently, Prof. M V Rajeev Gowda was a Member of the Rajya Sabha from the state of Karnataka. He is a national spokesperson for the Indian National Congress and the Chairman of the "Congress Research Department". He was Professor of Economics and Social Sciences and the Chairperson of the Centre for Public Policy at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bengaluru and taught a range of courses. He has served as a Director of the Central Board, Reserve Bank of India.

Prof. Gowda studied economics and political science at St. Joseph's College where he was elected as the Vice-President of the Student Union in 1982–83. He was awarded the Bangalore University gold medal in political science and secured a fully funded scholarship to pursue Masters in Economics at Fordham University, New York. Prof. Gowda holds a PhD in Public Policy & Management from Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. He was also a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Law & Economics from University of Berkeley, California.

Prof. Gowda leads ‘Bengaluru Needs You’ (BNY), a citizen movement to involve and empower people to engage with civic authorities to bring positive transformation in the city of Bengaluru.



Live Projects

During the course of the program, teams of 4-6 fellows each are assigned to work on policy issues for the participating policymakers. You’ll find below a list of the specific issues that the teams worked on during this edition of the program.

1. Climate change adaptation in Odisha
  • Survey existing literature and consult stakeholders to understand the specific threats to Odisha because of climate change. How are different regions, resources and sectors in the state likely to be affected over the next few decades? By way of illustration, some of these threats can be in the areas of agriculture, water resources,  stressed urban environments etc.
  • Critically analyse the National Climate Change Action Plan and the Odisha State Climate Change Action Plan to understand how these propose to address and adapt to the above mentioned threats.
  • Examine, through a study of climate change financing in India, the national and state financial instruments available to Odisha for financing the proposed adaptation measures.
  • Basis the above, provide actionable recommendations to strengthen Odisha’s response to climate change.
2. Financial relationship between the centre and Odisha with emphasis on rural development and agriculture
  • Study the current financial relationship between the centre and the state of Odisha with special emphasis on devolution of funds for centrally sponsored schemes (CSS). How has the CSS outlay for Odisha changed over the years and how does it compare with the state’s budget? What implications, if any, does it have for federalism?
  • As a case study for devolution of funds via CSS, analyse in detail the financing of key schemes under the central Ministries of Rural Development and Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. How do the funds flow under the identified schemes and are there any issues in implementation?
  • Through a study of best practices of similar schemes under other Ministries or examples of implementation processes followed in other states, suggest measures through which these schemes may be implemented and financed more effectively in Odisha.
3. Supporting marginalised communities in Odisha in the wake of Covid-19
  • Study the demographic profile of marginalised communities in Odisha, including their educational status, economic background, caste, tribe etc. and critically analyse the problems they face in the socio-economic sphere and the constraints that affect their livelihoods.
  • Through case studies, examine the impact of COVID-19 on these marginalised communities. Has the pandemic exacerbated their problems and if so, how?
  • Examine major national and state level social justice and inclusion schemes, including relief packages, currently in place to support these communities, and evaluate their effectiveness. Are the schemes adequately funded and well implemented?
  • Basis the above analysis, make suitable policy recommendations.
4. Reforming the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Regime in India
  • Provide a broad overview of the GST regime in India in terms of legal position, tax rates, and administration, while comparing and contrasting with other similar systems worldwide to highlight the unique elements of India’s GST regime.
  • Analyse data to understand how the GST regime has performed as compared to estimates in aspects such as revenue, tax buoyancy, formalisation etc. What has been its overall impact on the Indian economy in general and with respect to tax administration in particular?
  • Through a review of secondary literature and stakeholder consultations, identify the major issues that still plague the GST regime in India. In particular, investigate the structural aspects that lead to conflict between the centre and states during shocks such as the current pandemic.
  • Suggest reforms that may be needed to make the GST regime in India more effective and efficient.
5. Assessing the effectiveness of the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund
  • The ‘Agriculture Infrastructure Fund’ is a central government initiative launched in 2020 to provide a financing facility for investment in viable post-harvest infrastructure projects. Analyse the provisions of this initiative to see how it is likely to fare in implementation while highlighting issues that may crop up. By way of illustration, these issues may be related to federalism, capacity of lending institutions etc. 
  • How have similar previous interventions in the Indian context, if any, panned out in terms of increasing private investment in agri supply chain infrastructure? What are the provisions that make the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund unique?
  • What has been the experience of other developing countries with regard to private sector participation in agri infrastructure?
  • Using lessons learnt from similar interventions in India and abroad, would you recommend any changes to the fund design?
6. Addressing challenges in water management in Gujarat
  • Through a study of secondary literature, analyse the changes in water supply and consumption patterns in Gujarat over the past few decades. Examine in detail the water issues faced by the state, particularly in light of water scarcity and geographical constraints affecting the state.
  • Identify shortcomings in water management, if any, and analyse the state and central government’s policies to mitigate the issue.
  • Using international best practices/case studies, and stakeholder insights, identify policies or tweaks to the existing policies by which proper water apportionment can be achieved in the state, giving first priority to drinking water and agricultural needs.
  • Based on the above analysis, draft suitable and feasible policy recommendations to mitigate the water crisis in the state.
7. Enhancing the adoption and effectiveness of ed-tech solutions in the Indian context
  • Assess the effectiveness of online teaching-based solutions/ educational technology (ed-tech) vis-à-vis conventional classroom teaching methods. Provide estimates to compare the adoption of ed-tech in the pre and post covid scenarios.
  • Study existing literature, speak with experts and conduct interviews with teachers, students and parents from different backgrounds to understand the challenges involved in imparting education by way of ed-tech, such as accessibility, school preparedness, state of technical know-how, and its impact on the socio-economic divide in society.
  • Critically analyse relevant policy instrument(s), such as the National Education Policy 2020, and other measures taken by the central government, to understand the government's vision for adoption of ed-tech. What gaps or implementation hurdles do you foresee?
  • Basis the above analysis, prescribe a set of suitable policy recommendations to enhance the adoption and efficacy of ed-tech in schools across the country.
8. Indebtedness of farmers in Punjab
  • Study the prevalence of indebtedness among farmers in Punjab. Identify the sources and nature of this debt, and issues that come up in repayment, especially in times of crop failure. What is the penetration of crop insurance in Punjab?
  • Examine the effectiveness of laws, schemes, and policies by the state of Punjab and the central government to support farmer incomes, reduce the incidence of indebtedness and improve access to finance via the formal credit system.
  • Using best practices from other states and countries with similar levels of agricultural development and farmer debt, suggest sustainable measures to meet the credit requirements of farmers for short-term and long-term financing. Consider the political and economic feasibility of the suggested measures.
9. Power sector reforms for the state of Punjab
  • Study the power generation capacity and usage patterns in Punjab. Map the laws governing the sector in the state and identify the incentives and challenges faced by the different actors in the industry, including generating companies, distribution companies as well as consumers.
  • How does the per unit cost of electricity for different categories of consumers in Punjab compare against other states? Study the different factors that go into pricing of power in Punjab and the subsidies, if any, provided by the state.
  • Identify best practices from other comparable states in India to suggest policy measures to help reduce the overall cost of electricity for consumers in Punjab while maintaining quality of supply. Consider the economic and political feasibility of the proposed measures.
10. Role of Urban Local Bodies in environmental conservation in India
  • Study the 74th Constitutional Amendment and other relevant laws and policies in place to understand the role of urban local bodies (ULBs) such as municipal corporations, metropolitan planning committees, etc. in environmental conservation. How do the powers and functions devolved upon the ULBs vary across states?
  • Analyse the constraints faced by ULBs, in terms of personnel management, institutional overlaps, and financing, in discharging these functions effectively.
  • Through a review of international case studies and stakeholder consultations, analyse governance frameworks that best facilitate urban environmental conservation. How do Indian ULBs fare in comparison?
  • Basis the above, make policy recommendations to improve environmental conservation in cities, while considering political and economic feasibility constraints, if any.
11. Getting the tourism sector back on track post COVID-19
  • Study the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism industry in India, in terms of revenue generation, employment opportunities, and the impact on local economies.
  • Analyse the requirements of the sector in the short, medium and long term, through the lens of tax policy, financial assistance, and tourist site development, to regain tourists’ confidence. What measures, if any, have already been adopted at the national and state level to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on this sector?
  • Through international examples, case studies, and stakeholder consultations, draw learnings from best practices that may be adopted by the government as policy to promote tourism in India? Basis the above, suggest actionable recommendations.
12. Regulation of audio-visual OTT content
  • Study the major debates around regulation of online audio-visual content on platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, including the question of the right to censor versus the right to free speech, with special regard to the provisions of the Indian constitution.
  • Detail out the current regulatory regime for OTT audio-visual content in India. Through stakeholder consultations, examine how the current regulatory regime is likely to change with OTT services being brought under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. How is this change likely to impact content moderation, investments by audio-visual content providers, choices for consumers etc.?
  • Undertake a comparative analysis to map global practices of regulation of OTT audio-visual content and suggest a broad regulatory framework that balances the interests of different stakeholders. Should regulation be imposed in the form of guidelines or binding rules?
13. Using the Union Budget as an instrument for post pandemic economic recovery
  • Map the impact of the pandemic on the Indian economy in general and the government’s finances in particular. How has the pandemic impacted incomes of the most vulnerable groups including women, tribals, persons below poverty line, migrant workers etc.?
  • Study key measures undertaken by the union government to arrest the economic slowdown and support vulnerable communities. How effective have these measures been and what is the likely impact on the union government’s fiscal position?
  • Examine successful measures taken by other countries as a response to the pandemic and study the possibility of undertaking similar measures in India.  In particular, closely analyse measures to create fiscal space, reduce unemployment and hardships for vulnerable groups.
  • Through stakeholder consultations and on the basis of the above analysis, suggest specific measures that can be considered in the upcoming Union Budget to create fiscal space and provide greater support to vulnerable communities. By way of illustration, such measures may include changes in tax laws to enhance revenue, creation of a more robust social security program, temporary relaxation of FRBM requirements etc. While making recommendations, pay special attention to the economic and political feasibility of your suggestions.



Class profile


Total class size (November 2020): 67


Educational background


Age profile