Dr Bibek Debroy

Inclusion & Economics: Dr Bibek Debroy, Chairman Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister

Bibek Debroy is the rare Economist with a heart. Drawing evidence-based conclusions with a teacher like clarity of thought, he has been able to bring a felt-needs perspective to his work that spans across large areas of economics, reforms and governance. As a scholar and an academic, he has published 100-books over and above his translations of great Sanskrit epics. He believes in taking inputs based on felt-needs and is someone who has the last person in the que, in sight. This has also reflected in his recommendations for Railway reform, where he chose to leave the ivory tower and travel along the track to interact with station masters, officers, operational staff and railway employees alike to understand their perspectives. What sets Bibek apart is his deep understanding of issues that are faced by the nation across centre and states, coupled with his academic expertise, which have enabled him to unleash widespread reforms across areas of legal, labour and rural development in various states including Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Jammu & Kashmir. A firm believer in inclusive growth and the most appropriate choice for Chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, Bibek’s own thinking is completely aligned with the idea of ModiNomics – Inclusive Economics, Inclusive Governance.

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Parliamentary Person of the Year: Mr Baijayant Jay Panda, Hon’ble Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha

Baijayant Jay Panda, who represents the new face of Indian politicians, is made of a different mettle. Like others, he is critical, but unlike others he is constructive. Politics for him is a way to serve the nation, which he chose consciously over a lucrative corporate career. He has been advocating for institutional reforms, judicial reforms for gender safety, governance reforms for social justice, a free market economy and universal basic income to hit at the root of poverty. He is one parliamentarian who has introduced a large number of Private Member’s Bills including those for Data Protection, Vehicular Pollution Reduction, Whistleblowers Protection Amendment and so on. He believes in the role that Fourth Estate can play in strengthening the democracy and has on several occasions counseled the national media to be more tolerant and forthright. Whether on the floor of the House or in public, Jay Panda’s passion to espouse the cause of Odisha and other national issues such as development, education and information technology, comes shining through. He favours the widening of income tax base; net neutrality and a level playing field between minor and major players in the telecom and e-commerce sectors.

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Social Inclusion: Saraswathi Sankaran

What started off in 1985 as an advocacy campaign for Reproductive and Child Health and a ‘no risk’ lifestyle to prevent HIV/AIDS even before the first case of HIV was diagnosed, has today mushroomed into a health movement led by Saraswathi Sankaran, who founded Deepam Education Society for Health (DESH) in 1991. Through DESH, she has been tirelessly enhancing the social and life skills to bring about attitudinal and behavioural changes by mobilising communities with prevention and intervention programmes, utilising cultural factors rather than biological factors to improve their health seeking behaviour. These include Comprehensive Road Safety, First-aid and Health Intervention programmes for truckers; Health Action Programme for Progress of Youth (HAPPY) to reduce the vulnerability of substance use among youth in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra; Aarogyam project having components such as community, school and clinical intervention and advocacy. Saraswathi has dedicated herself to the service of the community and since 1991, has reached out directly to 35,29,217 persons and indirectly to several million in communities spread over 21 States and 2 Union Territories.

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Economic Policy: Prof Ashima Goyal, IGIDR & Part-Time Member, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister

Academics is about puzzle solving, but solutions affect the well-being of people; this makes it important. This is the hallmark of Ashima Goyal, for whom Economics is directly related with the standard of living and the behaviour of individuals and social groups. She is one Economist, who applies rigour and logic to facts helping information to emerge from the noise and embed theory in institutions and context. This has given her a vision with a balanced approach to the real world. Given her expertise in macroeconomics, international finance and governance, she has turned out to be an apt choice for the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister. Her advocacy for improving public services for economic inclusion and the need for well-defined metrics to measure outcomes of government policies including administrative reforms comes out clearly in her writings. She has pushed for better coordination in government and improving the supply-side to counter inflationary pressures.

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Macro Economics: Dr Indira Rajaraman, Economist

From being a Professor of Economics at IIM Bangalore to RBI Chair Professor at NIPFP to being a Member of the 13th Finance Commission and a Member of the Central Board of Directors of the Reserve Bank of India, Indira Rajaraman has left her indelible footprints on India’s macroeconomic policy including development economics issues in fiscal policy, formal and information financial institutions, exchange rates and trade. She has written extensively on public debt in macroeconomic management and has also propounded the idea of agri-income tax as an alternate source of revenue for Panchayats. The idea of GST was supported and incentivised by the 13th Finance Commission of which she was a member. In recent months, she has written perceptively about which exactly of the design features of the GST as initially implemented in July 2017 have carried a growth cost. Some of her suggestions have already been adopted by the GST Council in its last two meetings. The 13th Finance Commission also introduced incentivisation grants to states to introduce governance improvements in water management and other functional spheres. The terms of reference for the 15th Finance Commission just appointed, indicate acceptance of the need for such incentivisation mechanisms.

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Agriculture & Economics: Dr Ashok Gulati, Infosys Chair Professor for Agriculture, ICRIER

Ashok Gulati is the country’s best-known Agricultural Economist who was instrumental in hiking the minimum support price of several foodgrains as Chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices. As a scholar, he has prescribed solutions extensively covering areas like food security, agri-trade and agri-value chains, crop insurance, subsidies and poverty alleviation. An advocate of demand-driven approach to agriculture, Gulati has been pushing for the food processing sector to be treated as priority sector. He believes that rather than state agencies physically  distributing grain, India should adopt a policy of conditional cash transfers. His tenure at CACP—where he wrote 17 Price Policy Reports—has been known for real-time research and policy guidance on agriculture. His co-edited book “The Dragon and the Elephant” secured a unique place in the knowledge industry—published by both Johns Hopkins University Press and Oxford University Press—and has also been translated in Chinese language. He was the youngest member of the Economic Advisory Council of the Prime Minister under Atal Bihari Vajpayee and is now Infosys Chair Professor of Agriculture at ICRIER. He believes in learning lessons from the field, which is reflective in his columns ‘From Plate to Plough’.

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Advocacy: Mr Dilip Cherian, Founding Partner & Group Chairman, Perfect Relations

It was an idea whose time had come. Early 1990s, Dilip Cherian picked valour over discretion and incubated a business that grew to become a leading image development company – Perfect Relations. Credit goes to Dilip for according ‘Advocacy’ a positive connotation and neatly marrying it with public relations. This has earned him the title of ‘Image Guru’ that has led to his involvement in mentoring global organisations in the domains of brand positioning, market entry strategy and policy parameters. Known for his editorial independence, he was instrumental in creating the voice of one of India’s biggest business daily – The Observer of Business & Politics. Dilip specialises in crises management with a knack to dwell deep into crisis mandates and deriving alternative strategies.

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Infrastructure: Mr Hari Sankaran, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, IL&FS

He may be the Vice Chairman & Managing Director of IL&FS – the nation’s largest infrastructure company – but his heart lies with the people. The underlying motto of skill development, capacity building and employment generation drives Hari Sankaran, who is also widely acknowledged as the pioneer of PPP in India with a national footprint. Picking up local youth and train them to be deployed on Chenani-Nashri Tunnel project in Jammu & Kashmir was his idea. It was not easy to train the raw talent. His perseverance resulted in the employment of 2,000 youth, which supported an equivalent number of families. Best, upon completion of the project, they have been deployed on other IL&FS projects. The 9-km long tunnel reducing the distance by 31 km and fuel savings of Rs 27 lakh a day, was dedicated to the nation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 2nd April 2017. In order to bridge the skill-gap, Hari has set up 100 world-class IL&FS Institute of Skills to train 2 million youth by 2022. IL&FS, under his leadership, operates 11,000 lane-kilometers over 30 BOT projects, developed 5,000 MW Solar Parks, India’s first privately financed and operated Metro Network in Gurgaon and operates 3,000 MW of power generation capacity and 830 km of power transmission lines. IL&FS also pioneered the country’s first greenfield BOOT infrastructure project - Delhi-Noida Toll Bridge.

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Modernising Markets: National Stock Exchange

1993 – an unprecedented event took place that changed the landscape of Indian stock markets definitively. National Stock Exchange, incorporated in 1993, became the first exchange in the country to provide a modern, fully automated screen-based electronic trading system to offer an easy trading facility to the investors spread across the length and breadth of the country thus helped democratising capital. Technology, robustness, risk management, paperless trading, settlement, liquidity, investor protection and more importantly corporate governance have become the hallmark of Indian stock markets – harbinger being the NSE. Vikram Limaye, its MD & CEO has taken over the exchange during turbulent times and is steering it towards an even keel, upping performance of its systems through a culture of innovation and investments in technology, thus continuing to provide an impetus to modernise the Indian stock markets. This is enabling NSE to be highly reactive to market demands and changes and deliver innovation in both trading and non-trading businesses to provide high-quality data and services to market participants and clients.