Manmohan Singh is an economist and politician, who served as India’s Prime Minister from 2004 to 2014. He is the country’s first Sikh Prime Minister, and the only one since Jawaharlal Nehru to be elected for a consecutive term after serving a full term of five years.
Manmohan Singh was born in Gah (Punjab, Pakistan) on 26th September 1932, but migrated to Amritsar, India with his parents post-partition. He obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Hindu College in 1952, and a Master’s Degree in Economics from the Punjab University which was located in Hoshiarpur.
He studied at the University of Cambridge being a member of St. John’s College, and completed his Economics Tripos in 1957. In 1960, he attended the University of Oxford as he was a member of Nuffield College, and did his Doctoral Thesis under Ian Malcolm David Little.
Singh returned to Delhi after completing his doctoral studies and remained in the country until 1966, when he went to work at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) between 1966 and 1969. Between the years of 1969 and 1971, Manmohan worked as Professor of International Trade at the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi.
He served as Chief Economic Advisor in the Ministry of Finance between 1972 and 1976, and served as Secretary in the Ministry of Finance thereafter. Between 1980 and 1985, he worked at the planning commission. He was made Governor of the Reserve Bank of India under the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, and held the post till 1985. He became the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission between 1985 and 1987.
He worked in Geneva, from 1987 to 1991, as the Secretary General of the South Commission; and independent economic policy think tank. He returned to India in 1990 and became the then Prime Minister, V.P. Singh‘s Advisor on Economic Affairs. He was made the chairman of the University Grants Commission in March, 1991.
Manmohan Singh became the Finance Minister in P.V. Narasimha Rao‘s Cabinet in 1991. Around the same time, India’s fiscal deficit was at an upwards of 8.5%; with large deficits in balance of payments and the current account deficits clocking at 3.5% of the GDP. The country’s foreign reserves were barely enough to account for two weeks of imports.
After explaining to the party of the country’s unprecedented crisis, Manmohan Singh and P. Chidambaram stated that the economy would collapse if it were not deregulated. Much to the aversion and dismay of the party, Rao allowed Singh to deregulate the economy.
Thereby, the New Economic Policy of 1991 was passed leading India from a Socialist based economy to a Capitalist based economy. As part of the policy; the License Raj system was abolished, many obstacles to Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) were removed, and public sector companies were privatised. Inspite of these reforms, Rao’s government was ousted in the 1996 General elections on grounds of non-performance.
Manmohan Singh became a member of the upper-house of elected representatives in Parliament, the Rajya Sabha, in 1991. Between 1998 and 2004, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in power, Singh was leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
In the 2004 General Elections, the Congress-led UPA government ousted the NDA government after becoming the party with the single largest number of seats in the Lok Sabha. The then party president, Sonia Gandhi declared Manmohan Singh as the UPA candidate for Premiership.
Manmohan Singh took oath as Prime Minister on 22nd May 2004.
Here is a look at some of the achievements of the government, under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
- I. Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Act 2005
- II. Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005
- III. National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA) Act 2005
- IV. Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission
- V. Improvements to Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
- VI. Mobile Number Portability (MNP) 2011
- VII. Indo-US Nuclear Deal
- VIII. Elimination of Polio Endemic
- IX. GDP clocked at 10.08%
I. Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Act 2005
Under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act 2005 received the approval of the President of India on 23rd June 2005. The Act came into force with the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Rules 2006 on 10th February 2006.
The act was enacted as a drive to the nation’s economic growth with a view of attracting investments into the country, and through the generation of foreign exchange through the export of goods and services.
The objectives of the act were; to provide a legal framework for establishing Special Economic Zones and its units, to generate additional economic activity by promoting goods and services and generating foreign and domestic investments, and to provide ‘backward and forward’ linkages of the economy by the satisfying the requirements of all the stakeholders in an SEZ.
II. Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005
The Right to Information Act of 2005, or RTI Act, is an act that aims to promote transparency in government institutions in India. The act was conceived in 2005, after persistent efforts of anti-corruption activists.
The Act is viewed as revolutionary as it puts government organisations up for scrutiny. Under the Act, a common man can demand for government agencies to furnish information.
RTI Act was made through legislation of the Parliament on 15th June 2005. It came into effect on 12th October 2005, and has been implemented since to provide information to all the citizens of India. Since all constitutional authorities fall under this act, it becomes one of the most powerful laws in the country.
III. National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA) Act 2005
The government of India, under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s leadership introduced the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in 2005, which is a social security scheme that aims at providing livelihood, sustenance and employment to rural communities and labourers in India. NREGA ensures income security to rural families by providing a minimum of 100 days of definite wage employment in one year.
This scheme of wage employment is available for adults who’ve volunteered for unskilled manual labour.
NREGA was passed as an Indian Labour Law being implemented in 200 districts across India on 2nd February 2006. More districts were covered, later in April 2008, when the scheme was renamed to Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
IV. Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission
The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, or JNNURM for short, was a large-scale city-modernisation drive launched by the government of India, led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh under the Ministry of Urban Development.
The scheme accounted for a total of $20 billion over seven years.
The scheme was inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 3rd December 2005. This scheme was set up as a program to improve the quality of life and infrastructure in cities. The scheme was initially launched in 2005 for a seven-year period to initiate steps for bringing phased improvements in civic service level.
The aims of JNNURM were to create ‘economically productive, efficient, equitable and responsive cities’ by a strategy of upgrading the social and economic infrastructure of in cities, thereby also providing Basic Service to Urban Poor (BSUP).
V. Improvements to Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
In 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reviewed two flagship programs; the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the mid-day meals scheme. The meeting was also attended by then Human Resource Development Minister, Arjun Singh, and then Minister of State, Prithviraj Chavan; along with senior officials of the PMO, HRD and Planning Commission.
It was noted that the number of children ‘out of school’ dropped from 2.5 crores to 96 lakhs over two years.
In context to the National Curriculum Framework of 2005, PM Manmohan Singh laid emphasis on the need to improve the quality of Science and Mathematics teachings at school. He furthered emphasised on the need for providing ‘joyful and quality learning, especially to the first generation of school go-ers’.
VI. Mobile Number Portability (MNP) 2011
In 2011, the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh launched the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) service, after making a call to the then Union Minister of Communications and IT, Kapil Sibal, from a ported number.
He congratulated the Telecom Sector for the introduction of MNP, and for being the fastest growing telecom market in the world.
According to Sibal, India has now joined the bandwagon of advanced countries like USA and China, in providing MNP. He further stated that there would be hardly any country with a network of such complexity, considering the size of the country, number of subscribers and their growth rate, and the number of operators per licensed service area.
The implementation of MNP would not only provide Indian subscribers with wider choices, but would also compel service providers to offer innovative, affordable and competitive Tariff plans for the benefit of the masses.
VII. Indo-US Nuclear Deal
Perhaps, one of the biggest achievements of India under the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was the signing of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal or the India Civil Nuclear Agreement. The framework for this agreement between India and the US was made in a joint statement by Manmohan Singh and the then President of United States of America, George W. Bush. Under the agreement, India agreed to separate its civil and military nuclear facilities and that all civil nuclear facilities would be placed under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The agreement was signed on 18th July 2005.
The United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006, or Hyde Act, is a US domestic law that modifies the requirements of Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act to permit nuclear cooperation with India, and in particular to negotiate a 123 Agreement to operationalise the 2005 Joint Statement.
The US House of Representatives passed the bill for approval on 28th September 2008. On 1st October 2008, the US Senate approved the civilian nuclear agreement allowing India to purchase nuclear fuel and technology from, and sell them to the United States.
The legislation on the Indo-US nuclear deal was signed by the then US President, George W. Bush; which was then approved by the US Congress, into law.
The history of India’s nuclear program can be traced back to 1944, where three-stage technological efforts were made by Homi J. Bhabha when he founded the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). The Delhi Government for the impetus for developing nuclear weapons, under Indira Gandhi, after the Indo-Sino War of 1962 where India lost some of its territory to China.
VIII. Elimination of Polio Endemic
India was deleted from the list of polio-endemic countries by the World Health Organisation (WHO), in 2012. The exclusion from the list acknowledged the absence of any new instance of illness caused by the polio virus for more than a year; the last case being a child from Howrah in January 2011.
Health authorities in India had recorded 741 patients paralysed by the polio virus in 2009, and the number dropped to 42 in 2010. However, they reported that they detected no new patients since January 2011.
IX. GDP clocked at 10.08%
According to the back series data on GDP prepared by the Committee on Real Sector Statistics, constituted by the National Statistics Commission, India clocked at a 10.08% growth rate in 2006-2007 under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government.
The report was has been released on the website of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MSPI).
This was the highest recorded GDP in India, since liberalisation of the economy in 1991. The highest GDP growth rate since independence was recorded at 10.2% in 1988-1989, under Rajiv Gandhi‘s Prime Ministership.
The Prime Ministership of Manmohan Singh was a mixed legacy of achievements and failures.
The first tenure of the Manmohan Singh government was largely successful, but the UPA-II government under Singh may have undone the good work done in the past.
Being a renowned economist, his government delivered a healthy 8.5% GDP growth rate for most of his tenure. However, the scams relating to 2G, the Common Wealth Games and coal block allocations; tainted the legacy of his government.
Manmohan Singh achieved the distinction of serving two tenures as Prime Minister, completing 10 years in office; the longest term after the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.