India Business Journal - - KNOWLEDGE ZONE - RA­JIV KUMAR

INITIn al­most three years of its ex­is­tence,

(Na­tional In­sti­tu­tion for Trans­form­ing In­dia) Aayog has seen a sec­ond vice-chair­man in Ra­jiv Kumar. The noted econ­o­mist took charge of the gov­ern­ment think-tank last month, re­plac­ing Arvind Pan­gariya, yet an­other noted econ­o­mist.

The ap­point­ment of Mr Kumar, who un­til re­cently was chan­cel­lor of Pune-based Gokhale Institute of Pol­i­tics and Eco­nom­ics, has sparked a de­bate about how for­eign-trained econ­o­mists have failed to un­der­stand the real In­dia and its prob­lems. The de­bate, in fact, was trig­gered by an ar­ti­cle by Mr Kumar in a news­pa­per, mak­ing a scathing at­tack on In­di­anAmer­i­can econ­o­mists, who have been fad­ing away as a part of the on­go­ing pol­icy trans­for­ma­tion in the gov­ern­ment.

With­out nam­ing Raghu­ram Ra­jan, the former RBI gover­nor, and Mr Pana­gariya, who quit their re­spec­tive posts in rather con­tro­ver­sial cir­cum­stances, Mr Kumar's ar­ti­cle seemed to hint at them as fad­ing, forics eign-trained econ­o­mists. The rag­ing de­bate apart, Mr Kumar too is in­ci­den­tally a for­eign-trained econ­o­mist, hav­ing com­pleted his DPhil in eco­nom­ics from the UK's Ox­ford Univer­sity. He also holds PhD in eco­nom­ics from Luc­know Univer­sity.

The new NITI Aayog chief's crit- could cite his re­cent ut­ter­ances, such as an In­dian per­spec­tive of de­vel­op­ment, as a ploy to please his po­lit­i­cal mas­ters. How­ever, that as­sess­ment would be rather harsh on Mr Kumar, who has been quite con­sis­tent with his views long be­fore the top NITI Aayog post fell va­cant.

He was one of the first econ­o­mists to de­fend Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi's de­mon­eti­sa­tion. Mr Kumar has been a firm be­liever in Modi­nomics, and books and ar­ti­cles he has au­thored un­der­line the ad­mi­ra­tion for Mr Modi's Gu­jarat model and his sharp fo­cus on eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment as prime min­is­ter.

With ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in shap­ing con­tours of pub­lic pol­icy both in and out­side the gov­ern­ment, the NITI Aayog chief was ear­lier a se­nior fel­low at the Cen­tre for Pol­icy Re­search in Delhi. He was also found­ing di­rec­tor of Pahle In­dia Foun­da­tion, a non-profit think-tank in the na­tional cap­i­tal.

Mr Kumar faces nu­mer­ous chal­lenges as he takes charge of NITI

Aayog, the think-tank set up by the Modi gov­ern­ment re­plac­ing the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion. After tak­ing charge, he was un­equiv­o­cal in stressing on "em­ploy­ment, em­ploy­ment and em­ploy­ment" as his fore­most agenda. Mr Kumar is cer­tainly right as job cre­ation will be vi­tal for the Modi gov­ern­ment's prospects in 2019 general elec­tion.

His di­verse ex­pe­ri­ence and vast so­cial net­work within in­dus­try and the academia should come in handy for the new NITI Aayog chief. Apart from be­ing a mem­ber of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sory Board, he has worked at the Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank and in­dus­try cham­bers CII and FICCI. He has also been CEO of eco­nomic think­tank ICRIER. His un­der­stand­ing of the in­dus­try and his rap­port with it are ex­pected to fa­cil­i­tate in fur­ther­ing the gov­ern­ment's plan to part­ner with the in­dus­try in job cre­ation.

The for­eign-trained econ­o­mist with an In­dian per­spec­tive could per­haps be the right man at the NITI Aayog.

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