ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Social Science Research in India

The availability of public funds for socio-economic research has undoubtedly encouraged and facilitated research outside the government. It has made a significant contribution by opening important areas (such as gender studies, environment, dalits and other disadvantaged segments) of research, bringing new issues on the public agenda and livening the debate on social and development policy. But important as these developments are, all is not well.

In the pre-independence era, social science research was almost entirely confined to universities. There were few universities and hardly any funds for research were available from outside. Nevertheless academics actively pursued scholarly studies on practically every aspect of  Indian society and its history. Their work was impressive in range and depth both from a scholarly viewpoint and also in terms of its contribution to public discussions on socio-economic and political issues.

The picture has changed dramatically in the past 50 years. Development and social justice, within the framework of democracy, has come to be accepted as a central goal. So has an active and wideranging role for government participation and regulation to steer the country to this goal. This led to a phenomenal increase in the demand for information on various aspects of the economy and society and for its interpretation and analysis as inputs for policy-making. The government therefore built up a large and elaborate network to attend to these functions. Apart from nodal statistical agencies (especially the CSO and the NSSO), practically all departments of the central government have units/directorates to compile data, monitor developments and advise on policy. The Planning Commission has been the nodal agency for shaping overall and sectoral strategies, programmes and policies as part of an integrated national plan. (The states in general have not built these support agencies on anything like a comparable scale.) In addition the government has set up a large number of specialised institutions to study particular sectors. Notable among these include NCERT, NIEPA, NIHA, IAMR, NIIFT, IIPA, NLI, IARS, NCAP and NISTADS. They are wholly funded by government and largely controlled by it.

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