DNA Explainer: What is a white paper?

While the term was first used for government issued documents, ‘white papers’ have since gained prominence in civil and business domains as well.

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DNA Explainer: What is a white paper?
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Former Indian National Congress president Rahul Gandhi released a White Paper on COVID-19 on Tuesday. 

Gandhi, while releasing the white paper in a press conference, said that the document’s purpose was to help India prepare for the expected third wave of the pandemic and not to point finger at government.

"The aim of this white paper on COVID19 is not finger-pointing at the government but to help the nation prepare for the third wave of infection. The whole country knows that a third wave will strike," the Congress leader said.



Gandhi stated that the Congress white paper attempted to point out the reasons behind the waves.

What is a white paper?

A white paper serves as a guide or a report which collates and presents information on complex issues in a concise form.

The idea of white papers is to help stakeholders understand an issue, identify roadblocks and find solutions to varied problems.

White papers help governments come up with their strategies on issues, and make informed and far-sighted decisions. White papers are generally suggestive in nature and invite opinions and discussions.

The term originated in Britain and for decades its use was restricted to government-issued documents.

Today, similar documents made not just by governments but opposition political parties, civil society, businesses and research firms are also called white papers.

The birth of the term is credited to the Churchill White Paper of 1922 which is also referred to as the ‘British Policy in Palestine’.

White papers in governance today

White papers have come to be known as vital tools of participatory democracy in the contemporary political landscape.

Recent prominent white papers released by Indian governments are ‘White Paper on Data Protection framework for India’ (2017), ‘White paper on Focused Interventions for Make in India’ (2020), and ‘White Paper on Black Money’ (2012).

What is the Congress white paper about?

As per Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the ‘White Paper on the Management of COVID-19 by the Government of India’ “carefully examines key aspects of the government’s policy responses to the pandemic, chiefly from the public health perspective.”

“It [white paper] concludes by offering a set of measures that will enhance our nation’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. The hope remains that the Union government will act responsibly by examining the facts presented in this White Paper and taking appropriate steps,” she said.



Yesterday, India recorded the lowest number of new COVID-19 cases in three months. On the same day, India vaccinated a record 86.16 lakh people, highest ever single day number of jabs administered.

Rahul Gandhi noted in his press conference, "Yes, good work has happened yesterday but this is not a series of events. But government has to make this process work not just for one day but everyday until we have vaccinated our whole population."

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