There was a time when public policy was considered a dreary subject that did not excite anyone other than policymakers and academicians. With activism, public interest, and incidents catching the public eye, public policy has now become an exciting topic, eliciting keen interest among academicians and people for whom it is meant – the public. This interest has led to an increase in the number of publications that improve the public’s understanding of policymaking.
Dr. Rajesh Chakrabarti, Vice Dean and Professor at Jindal Global Business School, has co-authored a book Shaping Policy in India: Alliance, Advocacy, Activism with Dr. Kaushiki Sanyal, CEO, Sunay Policy Advisory. Published by Oxford University Press, the book looks at how laws are shaped in India and the influence of prominent events that have caught the public eye on policy drafting and enactment.
To mark this significant publication, a book launch and discussion session was organized on 18 December in New Delhi, which was attended by many luminaries. Senior officials from JGU like Professor Y.S.R. Murthy (Registrar) and Professor C. Raj Kumar (Founding Vice-Chancellor), several authors, and Oxford University Press officials were present. The official launch was done at the hands of Shri Jay Panda, Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha.
Professor Murthy was Chair for the event and initiated the proceedings by congratulating the authors. He spoke about the energy that has lately entered the process of legislation in India and, as an example, quoted the case of the criminal law amendment brought about after the Nirbhaya incident. According to Professor Murthy, this amendment was enacted within a short span of 3 months and 17 days, whereas other legislations like Right to Education went on for decades before becoming a constitutional amendment.
Speaking at the event, Dr. Kaushiki Sanyal said, ‘We started writing this book 3 years back and are thankful to UNICEF for funding us. We started by going through the literature of law making in the country, and realized that there are some gaps. Through this book we have tried to answer the most important questions around policymaking: how are laws shaped in India, when does the process start, and how are laws shaped by different stakeholders.’
Dr. Rajesh Chakrabarti added, ‘We looked at public policy questions using the traditional management technique of case studies. We did an in-depth study of nine important laws and then compared the history of these laws to understand how policymaking actually works in India.’
Dr. C. Raj Kumar said, ‘This book is unique in that it has been written by two non-lawyers. It isn’t dogmatic or too technical in nature. Also, what’s interesting is that the book is fundamentally interdisciplinary – the idea of examining the Legislation through different disciplines.’
Speaking about the importance of the book, Shri Jay Panda said, ‘It’s a seminal book because it occupies the intersection between policy, politics, and other stakeholders that have a role in it. This deconstructs the process that many of us have seen from different angles.’
The launch was followed by a discussion with Dr. A.K. Shiva Kumar, Economist and Policy Advisor, who added, ‘There is a lot of ambiguity when it comes to formulating and implementing policies and we have to understand the limitations of Law. These publications improve our understanding.’
The event drew to a close after questions from the audience were addressed by the panel. But the discussions continued as the guests, including academicians and practitioners, shared their thoughts on law making in India. In all, an intellectually stimulating end to the day!