Marking this 20 year celebration, we organised two events on the 13th and 14th of March, 2018 at the Radisson Blu Atria Hotel in Bangalore.

The second event was conducted today (14th of March, 2018) from 10:00 am to 4:00pm. There were two panel sessions that focused on two pertinent issues: education and decentralisation. Details are below.

We first started with the inauguration of the New Secondary Education Blog of CBPS along with partners at Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE). Following is the summary of the agenda.

Panel Discussion - Education and Equity Challenges of post primary education in India
Panel Discussion – Education and Equity Challenges of post primary education in India

Morning Panel Discussion

  • Topic: Education and Equity: Challenges of post primary education in India
  • Chair: Dr. Jyotsna Jha (Director, CBPS)
  • Panelists: Dr. Vimala Ramachandran,(ERU), Dr. Pushkar Sinha, (IGC ), Dr. Dipa Nag Chowdhury, MacArthur Foundation.

Afternoon Panel Discussion

  • Topic:Decentralized Governance – how real?
  • Chair: Mr. A. Srinivas, Senior Adviser, CBPS
  • Panelists: Mr. S M Vijayanand (Former Secretary to Government of India, Ministry of Rural Development), and Prof Vinod Vyasulu (Professor and Vice Dean, Jindal University).
Panel Discussion - Decentralized Governance - how real
Panel Discussion – Decentralized Governance – how real

The highlights of the event were:

  1. CBPS started the discussion by presenting a background paper based on its various research studies on Open and Distance Learning (ODL), skills development, etc. highlighting the major issues of secondary and senior secondary education. This has been converted into a blog post and can be found here:
  2. The panellists raised several pertinent questions and ideas regarding education. Some of the major themes were
  3. Education has both intrinsic and instrumental value, so only focusing on policies and programmes that promote the instrumental value will, in the long run, will invariably be fruitless.
  4. There is no equitable access to education currently and a serious examination has to be made to ensure this access. The physical safety of girls is also a big issue, and one of ways to offset this has been to engage a critical mass of students who attend schools.
  5. The privatisation and the commercialisation of schools has also impacted the quality of education in our country, and a serious look has to be given to creating more policies (and not programmes) to engage with the whole purpose of education.
  6. Education has to equip students to think critically and there should be multiple pathways to and out of educational institutions. Currently, both are missing in our systems of education.
  7. The second panel on decentralisation discussed the various frameworks for better local governance, and the challenges imposed thereof.
  8. Decentralisation is very much related to political will and it is important to ensure that the politics of decentralisation are understood as much as the mechanisms of decentralisation.
  9. Devolution is not just about creating local government, but it is also related to the ways the collectors treat and respect the role of the Panchayat president. So, soft devolution can often be the most important aspect of devolution.
  10. Currently, the model is that there is a local administration, but no local government. So, devolution of power to make decisions is really critical to create this level of government.
  11. Local governments are important also because accountability mechanisms over a period of time function much better at the local level than at any other level. For example, corruption is much more transparent at the local level than at the state level, and can be dealt with, more effectively.


Celebrations, because it is, by no means, a small achievement for an independent policy research organisation to carry on rigorous research while also engaging with policy advocacy in a substantive manner. The challenges have been aplenty: building and nurturing a team of researchers, generating resources, collaborating with diverse organisations, writing, and publishing – all on a continual basis. It is time to remember those who helped us along our way with their time, engagement and resources and recall our achievements – big and small.

It is also a time to reflect upon the journey thus far – specifically the lessons learnt that can guide us on the future course. There is no better way to do this than by organising a two day event to which we invite all those who were with us at some time or the other, as donors, as members of CBPS society and the Board, as researchers, as our friends and co-travellers from academia, fellow NGOs / CSOs and governments.

The first decade of work in CBPS focussed more on decentralised governance and budgeting. The second decade focussed much more on research in the areas of education, gender, health and public services while continuing to work on decentralisation and budgets. The chosen themes for the seminar reflect these choices as well as the challenges of our journey.

13 March 2018

16:00 – 17:00 hrs                                Registration and High Tea

Inaugural Session

17:00 – 17:30 p.m.              Presentation of CBPS history and introduction to the body of work briefly highlighting some major milestones and achievements and the challenges faced.

17:30 – 18:30 hrs                Keynote address on Research and Action: Role of Think Tank Organisations By Dr. Shanta Sinha, Founder MV Foundation and First Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)

18:30 – 19:20 hrs                Felicitation Ceremony: Former Presidents’ of CBPS Board will be felicitated by our current president JVR Prasada Rao. This will be followed by their reflections on the experience in establishing and in continuation of CBPS

Felicitation Ceremony: Employees who have served long and played an important role in the organisation’s journey by Dr. Shanta Sinha.

19:20 – 20:30 hrs                 Panel discussion – Policy Research   Organisations: dilemmas and challenges


Mr. L V Nagarajan, Former Additional Chief Secretary, GoK

Dr. Vimala Ramachandran,  Managing Director, Educational Resource Unit  and one of the founders and the first National Project Director of Mahila Samakhya

Ms. Ramona Naqvi, Director, Strategic Partnerships, Global Development Network

Dr. Pushkar Sinha, Director, International Centre, Goa

Dr. Dipa Nag Chowdhury, MacArthur Foundation

Most policy research organisations in India are located in public sector; they have been created or backed by either Union or State governments, or governmental bodies such as Indian Council of Social Science Research. Their research is often, though not necessarily, guided by the needs of the respective governments so as to strengthen the process of policy making or to get feedback on policy processes / outcomes. In addition, a good number of civil society based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have also been engaging in research and policy advocacy. They are usually guided by the need to generate evidence to be able to support and improve their work or to help in lobbying for their positions.

CBPS and other such organisations are somewhat unique, as they combine some elements from both of these. We are not an implementing agency; our areas of work broadly cover both economic and social policies. We are primarily a research organisation, but also engage in policy advocacy based on our commitments, positions and evidence that we build. If convinced, we join the civil society organisations in their policy advocacy initiatives and if needed, we also provide technical support to governments in policy making and evaluations. However, we also face diverse challenges and dilemmas in this

process, and many of these are shared by other organisations as well. The issues of rigour, perspective, and position present critical challenges in this process.

The panel members will share their experiences and thoughts on these dilemmas and challenges by covering the issues pertaining to research and action on one hand, and those relating to funding, control and autonomy, on the other. Members from the audience will be invited to share their thoughts on the subject as well.

20:30 hrs onward                Cocktails followed by Dinner

14 March 2018

10:00 – 11:00 hrs                Launch of Secondary Education Blog

With participation from some of the other PSIPSE partners

11.00 – 11.15 hrs                Tea / Coffee Break

11.15 – 13.15 hrs           Panel discussion on Education and Equity: Challenges of post primary education in India (10-11.30 am)


Dr. Vimala Ramachandran, ERU (Focus on Secondary Education)

Dr. Pushkar Sinha, IGC (Focus on Higher Education)

Dr. Dipa Nag Chowdhury, MacArthur Foundation

Dr. Jyotsna Jha, Director, CBPS
Education has been one of core areas of CBPS work. CBPS has prepared a background paper based on its research studies on Open and Distance Learning (ODL), skills development, etc. The background paper highlights the major issues of secondary and senior secondary education, and also draws upon some issues of higher education. The panel discussion will follow the presentation of the background paper by CBPS.

13:15 – 14:00 hrs                               Lunch

14:00 – 16:00 hrs                Decentralized Governance – how real?


Mr. S M Vijayanand, Former Secretary to Government of India, Ministry of Rural Development

Mr. K. Jairaj, Former Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka

Prof Vinod Vyasulu, Professor and Vice Dean, Jindal University

Mr. A. Srinivas, Senior Adviser, CBPS


CBPS began as a research organization devoted to looking at issues with the third tier of government – both rural and urban. In the initial years, major projects funded by Ford Foundation and Google were related to decentralized governance. This focus remained in later years as well. CBPS has an impressive body of work in this domain.

We critically examine the issues relating to local governments in rural and urban areas. The most fundamental issue with decentralization has been the design. Fragmenting the rural local bodies into three levels and locating the actual local government (with powers of taxation) at the lowest level makes it unviable on two accounts – firstly, the states have been given the discretion of extent of devolution of three Fs – functions, funds, and functionaries – which has been used by the states to make a mockery of decentralization; and secondly, Gram Panchayats (except in Kerala) are far too small in size and far too numerous in number for any meaningful governance to take place. The Karnataka model implemented during Hegde’s time was a more workable and authentic one. So what’s the way out – political, administrative or making the local governance a reality? Also, the issue of Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) and untied funds will be discussed.

16:00 – 16:30 hrs                Concluding Remarks by the Director, CBPS and Vote of thanks