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Dr. Mihir Shah

From 2009 to 2014, Mihir was Member, Planning Commission, Government of India, holding the portfolios of Water Resources, Rural Development and Decentralised Governance. He is the youngest ever Member of the Planning Commission. He is also the first President of the Bharat Rural Livelihoods Foundation, which supports innovative civil society action in close partnership with state governments.

Mihir was chiefly responsible for drafting the paradigm shift in the management of water resources enunciated in the 12th Five Year Plan. He also initiated a makeover of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the largest employment programme in human history, with a renewed emphasis on rural livelihoods based on construction of productive assets.

Mihir graduated in Economics from St. Stephen's College, Delhi University (where he won the prestigious KC Nag Economics Prize) and did his post-graduation from the Delhi School of Economics (where he was Merit Scholar) in the 1970s, before going on to complete a much-acclaimed doctoral dissertation at the Centre for Development Studies, Kerala.

After teaching for some years at the Centre, he resigned to explore fresh terrain beyond the ivory towers of conventional academia, which culminated in 1990 in the formation of Samaj Pragati Sahayog (SPS). Inspired by the life and work of Baba Amte, SPS is today one of the largest grass-roots initiatives for water and livelihood security, working with its partners on a million acres of land across 72 of India’s most backward districts. Before being invited by the Prime Minister to join the Planning Commission in 2009, Mihir spent 20 years of his life living and working in some of the most disadvantaged tribal areas of the country, forging a new paradigm of inclusive development.

Mihir is Visiting Faculty at Ashoka University, where he teaches a very popular course on the Political Economy of India’s Development 1947-2014. He is a Member of the International Steering Committee of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE). Mihir is Chair of the Revitalising Rainfed Areas Network in India. He is a Member of the Board of Governors of the National Foundation of India. From 2013 to 2015, he was also a Member of the Board of Governors of the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA).

He has addressed audiences on his life’s work all over the world from Stanford University to the World Bank in Washington, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris, the Arctic Circle in Iceland, Chatham House and University College, London, UNESCO-IHE at Delft, the International Water Management Institute in Colombo and the Singapore Water Week. He was the Keynote Speaker at the Global Water Summit in Rome in 2012.

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