-Vanshika Saraf

Public policies form the underlining procedure that needs to be followed during the process of decision making. Policies are crucial as they address the prominent issues of the society and give a set of rules that provides for a solution to the problem. These set of rules are made by the government in public interest. Policies are a part of the political system and it forms a part of the government.

India being the 2nd most populous country, makes up 17.35% of the entire world population[1].  In a secular, densely populated country like India, it is inevitable to have public problems. These public problems must be resolved.The formulation of a public policy can be referred as an essence of a democracy. The burden of public policy falls on the democratically elected government.A government formulates policies in reaction to the prevalent problems and needs of its citizens. It ensures that the problems of the citizens are addressed. The success or failure of a government is largely dependent on the outcome of public policy.


Considering the importance of public policy, providing an outline of its historical background is essential. This will help to provide a deeper insight on how public policies have shaped the country we live in. Policies have been developed from the time of ancient India. It evolved during the time of British rule and even after gaining independence in 1947.

In India, the research and experiments on public policies traces back to the days of Nalanda and Vaishali Universities, which wereknown as the world’s renowned universities established by the Gupta kings duringthe 5th century AD. It wasnoted that during the rule of Chandragupta Morya, Chanakyahad framed the public policies of his state. He had authored the book named “Arthashastra” which spoke about the formation and implementation of state policies. One of the areas of focus was the policies on labour. In this domain, he spoke about how policies should focus on meritocracy and promote the idea of incentives. In the policies that he framed for his state, he provided salaries according to grade scales based on qualifications of the labourers. His policies were driven on moral motivation as a tool to bring out efficiency. In today’s world, most of these guidelines are followed in the master-servant relationship.

Ashoka was also a prominent designer of the public policy framework. He inculcated the famous Policy of Dhamma. In this policy, he laid down a set of principles that focuses on attaining peace and tranquillity. It is also known as‘The policy of public welfare.’ This policy was formulated for all the sections of a society.Therefore, this policy marked the beginning of equality amongst the different casts and religions. It also focused on morals and etiquettes that should be followed in a civilized society. It promoted a basic set of rules that majorly formulates today’s societal mannerisms.

During the era of Mughals, the policy framework kept evolving. Emperor Khilji introduced stringent tax policies in the country. Taxes like Jaziya, Charai and Ghariwere imposedonindigents. It made challenged the survival ofthe farmers and peasants. After major protests by the citizens, this policy was amended by Akbar and a new one wasformulated according to the needs and situations of the people. Therefore, it is observed that public policies are crafted by the rulers from the time of ancient period. Those policies that were formulated decades ago still have an impact in currant times.

After the Second World War (1939-1945), greater emphasis was given to the public policies. Both the political sciences and the public administrations wanted to enquire the basis of success or failure of various programs or plans of the government. At the same time, western countries wanted to increase their influence on the newly emerged world for the revival of the badly hit economies due to the mega war. Therefore, a group of American scholars led by Harold Lasswel lstarted promoting the ‘Discipline’ of policy sciences.

Taking an overview of the pre independence era, The British East India Company came as traders and influenced the economic and political systems of the country. The significant economic policies adopted by the Bristishers were: Commercial Policy (1600-1757),The Land Revenue Policy and the Drain of Wealth Policy (1757-1857). All these policies were directed towards the benefits of the East India Company and it ripped India of its wealth.  Colonial India also followed the policy ofNon-Interference till 1813 AD under the directions of the Lord Minto, theFormer Governor General of India (1807-1813). It was a foreign policy which stated that the political rulers should avoid alliance with other nations; be diplomatic and avoid wars unless it is related to self defence.

Lord William Bentinck also effectedthe Lord Macaulay’s Education Policy, 1835.Through this policy, the publication of books in Sanskrit and Arabic were withdrawn. Western subjects were promoted and English was acknowledged as the medium of instruction. There was continuous formulation of policies by the Britishers that had to be followed by the citizens.

It is quite evident that during the pre-independence era, the policies were not formulated for the benefits of the citizens but only to aid the requirements and needs of the Britishers. This contradicts the very definition of today’s framework of policies highlighting the darker sides of the public policies.

After post-independence era, there was a plethora of public policies that were undertaken.This time, the needs of the citizens werethe key elements of the formulation of policies. Post colonization, India faced huge challenges especially in the fields of economic front. A state of complete stagnation was witnessed. Half of the population belonged to the below poverty line and the rest were dependent majorly on agriculture as a source of income. In this wake of independence and with the splurge of poverty in the country, very few essential policies were adopted.

The biggest challenge was the economy and therefore, the most prominent policies were adopted to decide what type of economy India would become. India decided to be a Mixed economy. The government strongly condemned imports and pushed the country’s domestic manufacturing sectors. Mixed form of economy is still prevalent in modern India.

After independence, there was a policy for the formation of a planning commission which formulated the five year plans for the economy. These plans were policy directives which turned into a major source for laws and regulations. The commission passed promotion and regulation policies for the economy. The planning commission has now been replaced by the NITI Ayog. It strives to design strategic and long-term policies and programs for the Government of India. It also provides substantial technical advices to the Centre and States.

Coming to the social policies, a lot of changes were required in this area as well after the independence. The major focus of public policies at this time was to bring unity and national integrity to counter separatist tendencies. There were eminent external threats to our country’s security and therefore the country needed a very robust defence policy. It was only in 1960s that the disciplines of public administration and management made it as one of the core areas of research.

Few policies like the Essential Commodities Act of 1955, Foreign Exchange Regulation Act of 1973, Consumer Protection Act of 1986, GST 2017 etc. plays a vital role in shaping the modern India.

Keeping the entire timeline in mind, let’s come to the current scenario when we have policies like Digital India, Make in India, Atmanirbhar Bharat, BetiBachaoBetiPadhao, Swach Bharat Abhiyan, New Education Policy and many more. It can be derived that policies are being carved and crafted since the very onset of ancient India. Public policies can never stop getting formulated as it goes hand in hand with the changes in a society.

Let us now draw our attention to the nature and scope of Public policy. A large number of related aspects have to be considered while dealing with the nature of public policy. A policy is crucial for the development process of a country. Public policy is a goal-oriented and result-oriented statement. It has an ultimate aim of promotion of the public interest.

Public policy is futuristic in nature as it is directed towards the future which maybe immediate or long term. Public policy has the sanction of law and authority behind it. Its legally coercive nature is accepted as lawful. It has a dynamic nature since it is continuously formulated and re-formulated in response to the requirements of the prevailing environment. It may be general or specific, broad or narrow, simple or complex and discretionary or exhaustive. It may be positive or negative as it involves the discretion ofthe government regarding an action on a particular issue.

The decision makers earlier used to focus on the result and impacts of the policies on the section for which it was meant. Both inter and intra governmental mechanisms are also equally important especially while dealing with the public policies. It was therefore agreed to have a multidisciplinary focus on the public policies.The nature of the public policy is majorly of three types:

  • Restrictive Policies
  • Regulatory Policies
  • Facilitating Policies

Restrictive policies are the policies which refrain us from taking benefits from a certain type oftransaction or situation. For example, custom duties or import duties are imposed to protect the Indian products, the system of odd-even taken by the Delhi government to control the air pollution.Regulatory policies are the policies regulating the activities of a particular sector of economy. The regulator checks deviations in set policies and practices. For example, RBI is a major regulator for banks, BCCI, SIDBI etc. Moving to the facilitating policies, these can be defined as the bodies that help to implement policies to facilitate business. For example, NABARD facilitates the rural credit policies;EXIM bank helps to increase the import-export industries of our country.

Focusing on the scope of public policy, it is vital to understand the components of public policy. The areas of significance comprises ofPolicy Demands, Policy Decisions, Policy Statements, Policy Outputs and Policy Outcomes.

 Policy Demands are the demands on public officials in a political system for an action on some prevalent problem. Policy decisions are decisions made by public officials that authorize or give direction and content to public policy. Policy statements are the formal statements of a policy. They include legislative statutes, rules and court opinions, indicating the goals and intentions of a government. Public outputs are the things that are actually done in pursuance of a policy. Government officials take decisions to implement a policy, these actions produce effects on the environment which are regarded as policy outputs. Lastly, the policy outcomes refer to the real results produced. They reflect the impact on the targeted group.

The policies are always directed towards the benefits of the public at large. Policies can also target a particular section of a society. It all depends on who needs what, when and how. The goal of sustainable development can be met only if the policies related to it are implemented in an efficient manner.  Therefore, it can be concluded that, public policies are an integral element of governance. These are goal oriented, futuristic set of procedures that are adopted by a government to resolve the problems of its citizens and facilitate decision making. From Chanakya to Aristotle and from Ancient to current, policies remain a part and parcel of every political system.


  1. Programs.online.american.edu
  2. www.toppr.com
  3. targetacademy.in
  4. m.jagaranjosh.com
  5. m.hindustantimes.com
  6. historydiscussion.net


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