How Five-Year Plans Shaped India's Economy—and Democracy

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By Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Milan Vaishnav. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

In 2014, soon after coming to power, the Narendra Modi government decided to abolish India’s decades-old Planning Commission, replacing it with a new government think tank meant to facilitate cooperative federalism. For years, the Planning Commission devised detailed, five-year, central plans meant to guide India’s economy and allocate funds from the center to India’s states.

Eight years later, the Planning Commission may be gone, but it is not forgotten. A new book by the University of Notre Dame historian Nikhil Menon, Planning Democracy: How a Professor, An Institute, and an Idea Shaped India, provides a wide-ranging history of the marriage between liberal democracy and a socialist economy, uncovering the way planning came to define not just the economy but the nation itself.

Nikhil is Milan’s guest on the show this week. They talk about the legacy of India’s planning infrastructure, the unique influence of pioneering statistician P.C. Mahalanobis, and the ways in which India’s statistical architecture was the envy of the world. Plus, the two discuss the decline of planning, the vestiges that carry on today, and India’s weakened data institutions.

  1. India’s once-vaunted statistical infrastructure is crumbling,” Economist, May 19, 2022.
  2. Nikhil Menon, “A short history of data,” Hindu, March 21, 2019
  3. Pramit Bhattacharya, “How India’s Statistical System Was Crippled,” Mint, May 7, 2019.

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