Rohini Nayyar was one of India’s foremost economists in government. She studied in Miranda House and the Delhi School of Economics, for a B.A. Honours and M.A. in Economics, at the University of Delhi. She taught Economics at Miranda House for a short period, before she joined the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and served in the Uttar Pradesh cadre for five years.
Thereafter, she went to University of Oxford where she studied for a B. Litt in Economics. She was awarded her D. Phil in Economics from University of Sussex. Some years later, she joined the Planning Commission of India – the country’s apex development policy institution – in 1987, where she worked till 2005 in different capacities until she retired as Principal Advisor, Rural Development (in the rank of Secretary to Government of India). Her myriad contributions to the academic literature, policy making, and institution building has greatly enriched our understanding of rural development in India.
Dr. Nayyar published widely in reputed academic journals on topics that traversed the length and breadth of rural development in India. This included rural labour markets and poverty alleviation programmes; poverty and landlessness; planning for the development of backward areas; agricultural workers and their wages; female labour force participation in rural areas; and the role of the non-farm sector in India’s rural transformation. Her research on the systematic measurement of poverty and estimating district incomes was pioneering and seminal.
These salient research contributions went hand-in-hand with an impact on policy during her tenure at the Planning Commission that spanned two decades. Dr. Nayyar led the process of preparing the first ever India Human Development Report and subsequently instituted a series of State Human Development Reports. She was also instrumental in establishing the institutional arrangements and delivery systems for integrated rural development, especially through the Panchayati Raj system. Last, but not least, Dr. Nayyar was closely associated with the implementation and evaluation of several rural wage employment programmes that culminated in the conception and design of the MNREGA at the Planning Commission, where she played a pivotal role.
As a public policy practitioner, Dr. Nayyar helped nurture an ecosystem to further rural development in India. Tangibly, she shaped the development of several prominent research institutes in India, such as the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) where she was on the governing body for a decade and the Institute of Human Development (IHD) where she was a founder member. More intangible was her support to young scholars, both in government and in academia. Always encouraging and always accessible, Dr. Nayyar and empowered a generation of economists and policy practitioners to eventually don the mantle.
Dedicated to public service, humble, and forever bridging the gap between research and policy.