From 2009 to 2014, Dr Mihir Shah was a Member of the Planning Commission, Government of India, holding the portfolios of Water Resources, Rural Development, and Panchayati Raj. He is the youngest ever Member of the Planning Commission.
Dr Shah 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 MGNREGA, the largest employment program in human history, with a renewed emphasis on rural livelihoods based on construction of productive assets.
In September 2015, the Government of India invited him to chair a Committee on Restructuring the Central Water Commission and Central Ground Water Board. He submitted this report, in July 2016, which recommends far-reaching reforms in the water sector. Dr Shah graduated in Economics from St. Stephen's College, Delhi University, (where he won the prestigious KC Nag Economics Prize) and did his postgraduation 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 terrains 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. Dr Shah has spent nearly three decades living and working in central tribal India, forging a new paradigm of inclusive and sustainable development.
Dr Shah is the first President of the Bharat Rural Livelihoods Foundation, which supports innovative civil society action in close partnership with state governments. He is Distinguished Visiting Professor, Shiv Nadar University, where he is designing a globally, first-of-its-kind, Masters Program on Water Science and Policy. He is also Visiting Professor at Ashoka University, where he teaches a very popular course on the Political Economy of India’s Development 1947-2015.
He serves on the Academic Council of the Ambedkar University, Delhi. He is a Member of the International Steering Committee of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE). His papers have been published extensively in pre-eminent journals such as Economic and Political Weekly, Current Science, Ambio, Hydrogeology Journal, Journal of Hydrology, Contributions to Indian Sociology, Review of Development and Change, Seminar and Indian Journal of Labour Economics. Dr Shah has addressed audiences on his life’s work all over the world from Stanford University to the World Bank in Washington, the OECD in Paris, the Arctic Circle in Iceland, Chatham House and University College, London, UNESCO-IHE at Delft, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, International Water Management Institute in Colombo and the Singapore Water Week. He was the Keynote Speaker at the Global Water Summit at Rome in 2012 and the International EcoSummit Congress at Montpellier in 2016.