The fourteenth Prime Minister of independent India and the original Architect of the economic liberalization. Dr. Manmohan Singh is a man of high moral standing and accomplishment. He is also the first Sikh to have reached the country’s top legislative position. Singh’s rise to the position from humble beginnings and basic simplicity can be described as a rise from the masses.
Singh was born in Gah in West Punjab (now in Pakistan) on September 26, 1932. Displaced by partition, he came to live in Amritsar along with his parents. He studied economics in Chandigarh and later went to Cambridge and Oxford UK for higher studies. His qualification
reads MA, DPhil (Oxford), DLitt (Honoris Causa). He then taught Economics at the Punjab University, Chandigarh while serving there as a Senior Lecturer (1957-59), Reader (1959-63) and Professor (1963-65).
He was Professor of International Trade, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi during 1969-71. He was Honorary Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, 1976, and at Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, 1996. He was Wrenbury Scholar, University of Cambridge, 1957. He was also a National Fellow, National Institute of Education, NCERT, 1986. He was Honorary Fellow at St John’s College, Cambridge UK, 1982; Indian Institute of Bankers, 1982; All India Management Association, 1993; and Nuffield College, University of Oxford, Oxford, 1994.
He started his stint as a Civil Servant in 1971-72 when he became Economic Advisor in the Ministry of Foreign Trade. He then served as Chief Economic Advisor, Ministry of Finance during 1972-76. During 1976-80 he served as Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance; Member, Finance, Atomic Energy Commission; Member, Finance, Space Commission; Director, Reserve Bank of India; Director, Industrial Development Bank of India; Alternate Governor for India, Board of Governors, Asian Development Bank; and Alternate Governor for India, Board of Governors, IBRD. He was Member-secretary, Planning Commission during 1980-82, and Chairman, India Committee of the Indo-Japan joint study committee during 1980- 83.
He served as Governor, Reserve Bank of India from September 16, 1982 till January 14, 1985. During 1982-85, he was also Alternate Governor for India, Board of Governors, International Monetary Fund. He was Member, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister in 1983-84. He served as President, Indian Economic Association in 1985. After his term as Governor of RBI, he was made Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission.
In August 1987, he became Secretary-general and Commissioner, South Commission, Geneva. In December 1990, he was made Advisor to the Prime Minister on Economic Affairs followed by Chairman of University Grants Commission in March 1991.
When P.V. Narasimha Rao became the Prime Minister, he plucked Dr. Singh from relative obscurity to become Finance Minister in a Congress party-led government. Thus, a Professor, Economist and Civil Servant entered Politics. He served the country as Union Finance Minster from June 21, 1991 to May 15, 1996.
He is credited for ushering in the policy of ‘Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization’, which has since then changed the face of Indian economy. During his tenure, he nudged India’s socialist economic policy down the road of reforms and deregulation, opening up the country for outside investment for the first time.
Though he had entered the post when the Indian economy was stuck in a quagmire with its foreign exchange reserves near rock bottom, and the country close to defaulting on its international debt Singh managed to reverse nearly half a century of socialist planning and excessive bureaucracy. He implemented sweeping reforms ending the ‘license Raj’, the regulations that forced businesses to get government approval to make nearly any decision. He also devalued the rupee, slashed subsidies for domestically produced goods and privatized some state-run companies.
Dr. Singh was elected to Rajya Sabha from Assam on Congress ticket in October 1991 and was re-elected in June 1995 and June 2001. In March 1998, when the BJP-led NDA formed the government, he became the Leader of the Opposition, Rajya Sabha. He also served as Member of several Parliamentary Committees including those on Finance, Rules, Privileges, General Purposes, etc.
In 2004, the Congress Party and its president Sonia Gandhi put faith in him and thus, India got its first economist Prime Minister. Earlier, no Indian could think that a low-profile person like Dr. Singh could ever become the country’s Prime Minister. And in 2009, he returned for the second term after successfully completing his first term as the Prime Minister. Singh has a following across party lines, with a clean reputation both as a politician and as an economic reformer.
Dr. Singh is recipient of several awards and recognition. He is the recipient of honorary degrees of D.Litt from Punjab University, Chandigarh; Guru Nanak University, Amritsar; Delhi University, Delhi; Sri Venkateshwara University, Tirupati; Panjabi University, Patiala; University of Mysore, Mysore; University of Bolonga, Italy; Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra; Osmania University, Hyderabad; Nagarjuna University, Nagarjunanagar; and Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Agra.
He is also the recipient of honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada; Doctor of Social Sciences from University of Roorkee, Roorkee; D.Sc from Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University, Hissar; and Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, Patiala.
He was conferred the University Medal for standing first in B.A.(Hons) Economics by Panjab University, Chandigarh in 1952; Uttar Chand Kapur Medal, Punjab University, Chandigarh, for standing first in M.A.(Economics) in 1954; Wright’s Prize for distinguished performance at St John’s College, Cambridge in 1956 and 1957; Adam Smith Prize, University of Cambridge, UK in 1956; Padma Vibhushan in 1987; Euromoney Award, Finance Minister of the year in 1993; Asiamoney Award, Finance Minister of the year for Asia in 1993 and 1994; Jawaharlal Nehru Birth Centenary Award of the Indian Science Congress Association in 1994-95; Justice K.S. Hegde Foundation Award in 1996: Nikkei Asia Prize for Regional Growth by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Inc. (NIKKEI), publisher of Japan’s leading business daily in 1997; and Lokmanya Tilak Award by the Tilak Smarak Trust, Pune in 1997
Dr. Singh has led several Indian delegations to bilateral and international meetings at various for a including the Commonwealth, the Group of 77, International Monetary Fund and the United Nations. His book India’s Export Trends and Prospects for Self-Sustained Growth was published by Clarendon Press, Oxford University in 1964.
Dr. Manmohan Singh is married to Gursharan Kaur and has three daughters.