NITI's new V-C Rajiv Kumar: A homegrown economist who keeps a low profile

Rajiv Kumar is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research and has authored several books on the national economy and security. Illustration: Binay Sinha
Days after Arvind Panagariya stepped down from the post, the Narendra Modi government on Saturday named noted economist Rajiv Kumar as the new vice-chairman of the NITI Aayog. With Kumar’s appointment, the Modi administration has thrown another curveball, the likes of which political and policy observers are used to by now. With regards to appointments, the motto is simple: Expect the unexpected.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government's appointment of Kumar comes after names like Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and former expenditure and revenue secretary N K Singh were doing the rounds for the post of vice-chairman. Earlier in May, the government appointed Sanjay Mitra as the defence secretary, dousing strong rumours that Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa was being seriously considered for the post

A homegrown economist who likes to keep a low profile, Kumar brings a wealth of administrative experience in framing policies to the NITI Aayog. He is currently a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) and has also served as the director of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER). CPR and ICRIER are two of the biggest think-tanks in the country.

Kumar has also had stints working in the central government. He worked in the Ministry of Industries from 1989 to 1991 and then served as an economic advisor in the Ministry of Finance's Department of Economic Affairs from 1992 to 1995.

The widely-respected economist has also served in two big industry bodies. He has served as the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry's (FICCI's) secretary general and as the Confederation of Indian Industries' (CII') chief economist. He is also a government nominee to the central board of India’s largest public sector lender, the State Bank of India.

Kumar holds a doctorate from Lucknow University and Oxford University. He is also currently the chancellor of the Gokhale Institute of Economics and Politics, in Pune. He is also the founder of the Pahle India Foundation, a non-profit body focused on policy research.

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