Public policy at the Jindal School of Government and Public Policy is taught as a practice which will enable its practitioners to find creative channels for public deliberation and evidence-based means for making decisions in the public interest. The ability to do this is the need of the hour because increasingly elected representatives are unable to fully reflect and adequately safeguard the interests of ordinary people.
At JSGP public policy is primarily focused on people, recognizing that technical expertise is meant to serve the interests of people, and policy decisions should be made after due deliberation, with ample opportunities afforded to ordinary people to shape those policy decisions.
JSGP public policy professionals are trained to acquire expertise in different technical disciplines. Acquiring and being able to apply the knowledge gleaned from an array of social science disciplines, as opposed to specialization in only economics, history, sociology or political science is the hallmark of public policy practitioners.
It has been taken for granted for a long time, in many countries, that public policy is what the government does and by definition, all public policy must be in the public interest. But clearly not everything that public servants do is automatically in the public interest.
One argument that is often made is that because elected leaders in democracies rely on experts to formulate and implement public policies, it is better to leave public policies to these experts in the first place, without interfering with them. Technocrats are credited with a ‘problem-solving’ mindset, and with the capacity to rise above the narrow interests of their particular occupation groups. In contrast, politicians are frequently reviled as people mired in corruption, collusion and nepotism. This view is dangerous. But it is possible to understand why it has some salience.
The best way to pursue long-term democratic reform is to provide a context where deliberative democracy with public participation flourishes, and people can give voice to key concerns. Policy choices should be in consonance with informed preferences of people at large. That is the highest form of democracy.
The Jindal School of Government and Public Policy’s Master’s degree (MPP) is a unique degree, the first of its kind in India. This degree is an affirmation that JSGP graduates have mastery over a range of knowledge, skills and processes of practical judgment, all of which are essential to critically analyze policies that affect people at large.
Most importantly, JSGP graduates will have the wherewithal to ensure that the substance of public policies, as well as processesof their implementation,are both in compliance with ethical norms sustaining the public interest,fully cognizant of people’s freedoms and dignity.
I have great pleasure in inviting students to embark on an adventure to become public policy professionals. In the course of two years JSGP graduates will acquire capacities and competencies which are invaluable not only to governments and public institutions directly serving the people, but also to an array of institutions outside government, including the private sector, civil society organisations, and policy-oriented research institutions.
The first batch of JSGP graduates have secured enviable placements embarking on exciting careers. This is a vote of confidence in the quality of education imparted to them.
Professor Sudarshan Ramaswamy