In Service of the Republic

In Service of the Republic: The art and science of economic policy by Vijay Kelkar and Ajay Shah, Penguin Allen Lane, 2nd edition, Revised and updated, 2022.

(The first edition was In Service of the Republic: The art and science of economic policy by Vijay Kelkar and Ajay Shah, Penguin Allen Lane, 2019).,    Flipkart,    Goodreads.

As a $3-trillion economy, India is on her way to becoming an economic superpower. Between 1991 and 2011, the period of our best growth, there was also a substantial decline in the number of people below the poverty line. Since 2011, however, there has been a marked retreat in the high growth performance of the previous two decades.

What happened to the promise? Where have we faltered? How do we change course? How do we overcome the ever-present dangers of the middle-income trap and get rich before we grow old? And one question above all else: What do we need to do to make our tryst with destiny?

This highly readable book lays out the art and the science of the policymaking that we need, from the high ideas to the gritty practicalities that go into building the Republic.

Changes from the first edition

Chapters deleted:

New chapters:

Chapters 32 (Dealing with constraints in information) and 33 (Investing in knowledge institutions) are merged into a shorter Chapter 35 (Building the knowledge foundations)

Chapter 27, (Policymaking is siege-style assault) had a block on crises which has been expanded into a self-contained Chapter 30 (Reforming in a crisis?).

Many chapters are rewritten greatly with an unchanged title.

There were 57 examples highlighted and numbered in the text. Now there are 79, from more diverse fields. The number of end notes is up from 140 to 277.


Chris Blattman: Kelkar and Shah give us one of the best examples of simple and straightforward prose writing, of commonsensical policy design, and of synthesizing a century of social science on social change, all rolled into one book. They are Indian economists, living and working there, who have spent most of their careers trying to make the state and the economy work for the people. If you live in a liberal democracy anywhere in the world (including the United States) and you want to try to make your government function better, this is one of the top five books you can read.

Bibek Debroy: Two respected economists, who have worked in government and for government, have produced a remarkable and wonderful book, examining government, governance and state intervention in a charming and reader-friendly way. A book in the service of every citizen.

Avinash Dixit: Kelkar and Shah have written a masterly book, combining in-depth personal experience and sound economic principles. With simple language and vivid examples, they offer many home truths about the why, when, what and how of policy, and even more important, when to do nothing. I hope India listens.

Shekhar Gupta: The fact that a book like this is still being written is good news, the best thing is that it not only talks about the economy, but also explores ideas on how the economy should be governed.

Ramesh A. Mashelkar: How can India achieve accelerated inclusive growth fuelled by innovative public policy, which preserves the foundations of our liberal democracy as also the integrity of our institutional frameworks? This insightful book by two of our iconic masters in the art and science of public policy making is an invaluable guide to achieve this objective. An absolute must read for all interested in building new India of our dreams.

Rajiv Mehrishi: A near perfect exposition of the difficulties of the Indian state, of the course corrections that are required when long-standing policies have not worked and are not working. A must-read for all students and practitioners of public policy.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta: This marvellous book is a wonderful guide to thinking about public policy. It combines three things that rarely come together: clear analytical thinking on first principles, a good sense of historical judgement and a commitment to the values of freedom and fairness. It is the work of masterly professionals making their thinking accessible to a wider public.

N. Narayana Murthy: It's a fascinating read about the art and science of using economic policy to solve a country's problems. It describes some inefficient policy choices made in India in the past, and how to create an environment for best policies in the government.

Nandan Nilekani: One of the most significant works on India's economic policies, this brilliant prescription for the country's future by two practitioners could not have come at a better time. What is most alluring about the book is its approach of tackling difficult economic concepts and making them accessible and engaging for the lay reader. A must-read for everyone.

Rahool S. Pai Panandiker: The book is a perfect combination of esprit de geometrie and esprit de finesse; the hard-nosed analytical framework sine qua non for policy formulation and all the soft and "artistic" elements descendant from empiricism. Dr. Kelkar and Dr. Shah have, through great mastery of the subject, simplified the discourse on policy making, demystified the flaws and foibles in vigor and provided a ready intellectual template that is of immense value to policy framers. In substance, the reach of this book is way beyond the policy establishment and should be required reading for legislators, bureaucrats, politicians, management and strategy experts, governance gurus and all students of policy making.

Urjit Patel: The book is a must read for anyone interested in public policy, as decision maker or student. The volume is a veritable feast of lucid and non-technical enunciation of concepts illustrated with real-life examples.

M. Govinda Rao: This is an important contribution and a necessary reading not only to those involved in serious policy making but also a general citizen who is at the receiving end... it is hoped that the policy makers listen to what the authors have to say and general readers get sensitised on wrong policy interventions.

Sudhakar Rao: This is a remarkable and a very important book, being perhaps the first comprehensive and authoritative study of all aspects of economic policy making and execution. When and why should a policy be introduced (or abandoned), how and in what manner should it be implemented and so on - questions that every practitioner of public policy ought to ask - are all answered here by two eminent economists with enormous experience in policy formulation and execution. Written in a simple, elegant and a very engaging style, this book is a must read for every student of economics and public administration and also every civil servant in the country.

Alex Tabarrok: Vijay Kelkar and Ajay Shah, two long-time advisors to the Indian government, have written the new Arthashastra, ... is the book that every policy maker and future policy maker should be given while being told, "before you do anything, read this!"

Associated materials

Ajay Shah