Manmohan Singh

Manmohan Singh is the 13th and current Prime Minister of India.

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Country of ResidenceIndia
Date of Birth1932-09-26
EthnicityPunjabi people
Place Of BirthGah
TitleHead of Government

Manmohan Singh ([mənˈmoːɦən ˈsɪ́ŋɡ] ( listen); born 26 September 1932) is the 13th and current Prime Minister of India. A renowned economist, he is the only Prime Minister since Jawaharlal Nehru to return to power after completing a full five-year term, and the first Sikh to hold the office.

Born in Gah (now in Punjab, Pakistan) in 1932, Singh's family migrated to India during its partition in 1947. After obtaining his doctorate in economics from Oxford, Singh worked for the United Nations in 1966–69. He subsequently began his bureaucratic career when Lalit Narayan Mishra hired him as an advisor in the Ministry of Foreign Trade. Over the 70s and 80s, Singh held several key posts in the Government of India, such as Chief Economic Advisor (1972–76), Reserve Bank Governor (1982–85) and Planning Commission head (1985–87).

In 1991, as India faced a severe economic crisis, newly elected Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao surprisingly inducted the apolitical Singh into his cabinet as Finance Minister. Over the next few years, despite strong opposition, Finance Minister Singh carried out several structural reforms that liberalised India's economy. Although these measures proved successful in averting the crisis, and enhanced Singh's reputation globally as a leading reform-minded economist, the incumbent Congress party fared poorly in the 1996 general election. Subsequently, Singh served as Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of India's Parliament) during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government of 1998–2004.

In 2004, when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) came to power, party president Sonia Gandhi surprisingly relinquished the Prime Minister-ship to Manmohan Singh. This Singh-led "UPA I" government executed several key legislations and projects, including the Rural Health Mission, the Unique Identification project, the Rural Employment Guarantee scheme, the Right to Information Act and a historic Civil Nuclear Agreement with the United States. The latter nearly caused the fall of Singh's government as anti-American Left Front parties withdrew from the UPA. Although India's economy grew rapidly under UPA I, its security was threatened by several terrorist incidents (culminating in the 2008 Mumbai attacks) and a growing Maoist insurgency.

The 2009 general election saw the UPA return with an increased mandate, with Manmohan Singh retaining the office of Prime Minister.

Early life and education

Manmohan Singh was born to Gurmukh Singh and Amrit Kaur on 26 September 1932, in Gah, Punjab, British India, into a Sikh family.[2] He lost his mother when he was very young and was raised by his paternal grandmother, to whom he was very close.

After the Partition of India, his family migrated to Amritsar, India, where he studied at Hindu College. He attended Panjab University, Chandigarh, then in Hoshiarpur,[3][4][5] Punjab, studying Economics and got his bachelor's and master's degrees in 1952 and 1954, respectively, standing first throughout his academic career. He went on to read for the Economics Tripos at Cambridge as a member of St John's College. He won the Wright's Prize for distinguished performance in 1955 and 1957. He was also one of the few recipients of the Wrenbury scholarship. In 1962, Singh completed his studies from the University of Oxford where he was a member of Nuffield College. His doctoral thesis "India’s export performance, 1951–1960, export prospects and policy implications" was later the base for his book "India’s Export Trends and Prospects for Self-Sustained Growth".[6]

Early career

After completing his PhD, Singh worked for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) from 1966–1969. During the 1970s, he taught at the University of Delhi and worked for the Ministry of Foreign Trade with the former Cabinet Minister for Foreign Trade, Lalit Narayan Mishra. As the Minister of Foreign Trade, Lalit Narayan Mishra was one of the first to recognize Singh's talent as an economist and appointed him his advisor at the Ministry of Foreign Trade. Singh and Mishra first met, coincidentally, on a flight from India to Chile. Mishra was on his way to Santiago, Chile to attend an UNCTAD meeting.[7]

In 1982, he was appointed the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India and held the post until 1985.[2] He went on to become the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission of India from 1985 to 1987.[2] Following his tenure at the Planning Commission, he was Secretary General of the South Commission, an independent economic policy think tank headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland from 1987 to 1990.[8]

Finance Minister of India

In 1991, India's Prime Minister at the time, P.V. Narasimha Rao, chose Singh to be his Finance Minister. At this time, India's fiscal deficit was close to 8.5 per cent of the gross domestic product, the balance of payments deficit was huge and the current account deficit was close to 3.5 percent of India's GDP.[9] India's foreign reserves barely amounted to US$1 billion, enough to pay for a few weeks of imports, in comparison to US$283 billion today.[10]

Evidently, India was facing an economic crisis. At this point, the government of India sought relief from the supranational International Monetary Fund, which, while assisting India financially, imposed several conditions regarding India's economic policy. In effect, IMF-dictated policy meant that the ubiquitous Licence Raj had to be dismantled, and India's attempt at a state-controlled economy had to end. Accordingly, Singh, who had thus far been one of the most influential architects of India's socialist economy, slowly opened the Indian economy to foreign investment and business competition.[9][11]

Rao and Singh thus implemented policies to open up the economy and change India's socialist economy to a more capitalistic one, in the process dismantling the Licence Raj, a system that inhibited the prosperity of private businesses. They removed many obstacles standing in the way of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), and initiated the process of the privatization of public sector companies. However, in spite of these reforms, Rao's government was voted out in 1996 due to non-performance of government in other areas. In praise of Singh's work that pushed India towards a market economy, long-time Cabinet minister P. Chidambaram has referred to Singh as the Deng Xiaoping of India.[12]

In 1993, Singh offered his resignation from the post of Finance Minister after a parliamentary investigation report criticised his ministry for not being able to anticipate a US$1.8 billion securities scandal. Prime Minister Rao refused Singh's resignation, instead promising to punish the individuals directly accused in the report.[13]

Career in the Rajya Sabha

Singh was first elected to the upper house of Parliament, the Rajya Sabha, in 1991[14] by the legislature of the state of Assam, and was re-elected in 1995, 2001 and 2007.[2] From 1998 to 2004, while the Bharatiya Janata Party was in power, Singh was the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. In 1999, he contested for the Lok Sabha from South Delhi but was unable to win the seat.[15]

Prime ministership

14th Lok Sabha

A renowned economist,[16] Singh is shown here with Indian delegation at the 33rd G8 summit in Heiligendamm.

After the 2004 general elections, the Indian National Congress ended the incumbent National Democratic Alliance (NDA) tenure by becoming the political party with the single largest number of seats in the Lok Sabha. It formed United Progressive Alliance (UPA) with allies and staked claim to form government. In a surprise move, Chairperson Sonia Gandhi declared Manmohan Singh, a technocrat, as the UPA candidate for the Prime Ministership. Despite the fact that Singh had never won a Lok Sabha seat, he "has enjoyed massive popular support, not least because he was seen by many as a clean politician untouched by the taint of corruption that has run through many Indian administrations."[17] He took the oath as the Prime Minister of India on 22 May 2004.[18][19]

Economic policy

Following the advice of International Monetary Fund in 1991, Singh as Finance Minister, freed India from the Licence Raj, source of slow economic growth and corruption in the Indian economy for decades. He liberalized the Indian economy, allowing it to speed up development dramatically. During his term as Prime Minister, Singh continued to encourage growth in the Indian market, enjoying widespread success in these matters. Singh, along with the former Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram, have presided over a period where the Indian economy has grown with an 8–9% economic growth rate. In 2007, India achieved its highest GDP growth rate of 9% and became the second fastest growing major economy in the world.[20][21]

Singh is now a strong supporter of globalization, seeing India's immense labor capacity as a path to delivering Indian goods in a worldwide market and eventually relieving large-scale poverty.[22]

Singh's government has continued the Golden Quadrilateral and the highway modernisation program that was initiated by Vajpayee's government. Singh has also been working on reforming the banking and financial sectors, as well as public sector companies. The Finance ministry has been working towards relieving farmers of their debt and has been working towards pro-industry policies. In 2005, Singh's government introduced the value added tax, replacing sales tax. In 2007 and early 2008, the global problem of inflation impacted India.[23]

Healthcare and education

In 2005, Prime Minister Singh and his government's health ministry started the National Rural Health Mission, which has mobilised half a million community health workers. This rural health initiative was praised by the American economist Jeffrey Sachs.[24] In 2006, his Government implemented the proposal to reserve 27% of seats in All India Institute of Medical Studies (AIIMS), Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other central institutions of higher education for Other Backward Classes which led to 2006 Indian anti-reservation protests.

Singh has announced that eight more Indian Institutes of Technology will be opened in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Orissa, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. The Singh government has also continued the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme, begun by his predecessor, Mr. Vajpayee. The programme has included the introduction and improvement of mid-day meals and the opening of schools all over India, especially in rural areas, to fight illiteracy.

Security and Home Affairs

His government has been instrumental in strengthening anti-terror laws with amendments to Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), where most of provisions of POTA were reincorporated,critics however cite that the amendments make the act equally draconian. National Investigation Agency (India) (NIA) was also created soon after the Nov 2008 Mumbai terror attacks as need for a central agency to combat terrorism was realised. Also Unique Identification Authority of India was established in February 2009, an agency responsible for implementing the envisioned Multipurpose National Identity Card with the objective of increasing national security and facilitating e-governance. His government has been criticized by some human rights organizations,that these measures could help establish a police state.

His government has also been criticized for not being able to reduce the Naxal terrorism that is menacing rural areas in Eastern and Central India. Singh's government has, however, extended the ban on the radical Islamic terror group Student's Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

Singh's administration initiated a massive reconstruction effort in Kashmir to stabilise the region but after some period of success, insurgent infiltration and terrorism in Kashmir has increased since 2009.[25] However, the Singh administration has been successful in reducing terrorism in Northeast India.[25]


The important National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and the Right to Information Act were passed by the Parliament in 2005 during his tenure. While the effectiveness of the NREGA has been successful at various degrees, in various regions, the RTI act has proved crucial in India's fight against corruption.[26]

Political rival Jayalalithaa has claimed that the Manmohan Singh government has been suffering from "policy paralysis" in recent years.[27]

Foreign policy

Manmohan Singh with American President Barack Obama at the White House. Singh is known to be a pro US leader and has contributed substantially in cementing the ties between the two countries.

Manmohan Singh has continued the pragmatic foreign policy that was started by P.V. Narasimha Rao and continued by Bharatiya Janata Party's Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Singh has continued the peace process with Pakistan initiated by his predecessor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Exchange of high-level visits by top leaders from both countries have highlighted his tenure. Efforts have been made during Singh's tenure to end the border dispute with People's Republic of China. In November 2006, Chinese President Hu Jintao visited India which was followed by Singh's visit to Beijing in January 2008. A major development in Sino-Indian relations was the reopening of the Nathula Pass in 2006 after being closed for more than four decades. As of 2010, the People's Republic of China is the second biggest trade partner of India.[28]

Relations with Afghanistan have also improved considerably, with India now becoming the largest regional donor to Afghanistan.[29] During Afghan President Hamid Karzai's visit to New Delhi in August 2008, Manmohan Singh increased the aid package to Afghanistan for the development of more schools, health clinics, infrastructure, and defence.[30] Under the leadership of Singh, India has emerged as one of the single largest aid donors to Afghanistan.[30]

Singh's government has worked towards stronger ties with the United States. He visited the United States in July 2005 initiating negotiations over the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement. This was followed by George W. Bush's successful visit to India in March 2006, during which the declaration over the nuclear agreement was made, giving India access to American nuclear fuel and technology while India will have to allow IAEA inspection of its civil nuclear reactors. After more than two years for more negotiations, followed by approval from the IAEA, Nuclear Suppliers Group and the US Congress, India and the U.S. signed the agreement on 10 October 2008 with Pranab Mukherjee representing India.[31]

Singh had the first official state visit to the White House during the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama. The visit took place in November 2009, and several discussions took place, including on trade and nuclear power.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seen here with Dmitry Medvedev, Hu Jintao, Dilma Rousseff and Jacob Zuma at the 3rd 2011 BRICS Summit in Sanya, China.

Relations have improved with Japan and European Union countries, like the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Relations with Iran have continued and negotiations over the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline have taken place. New Delhi hosted an India–Africa Summit in April 2006 which was attended by the leaders of 15 African states.[32] Relations have improved with other developing countries, particularly Brazil and South Africa. Singh carried forward the momentum which was established after the "Brasilia Declaration" in 2003 and the IBSA Dialogue Forum was formed.[33]

Manmohan Singh's government has also been especially keen on expanding ties with Israel. Since 2003, the two countries have made significant investments in each other[34] and Israel now rivals Russia to become India's defence partner.[35] Though there have been a few diplomatic glitches between India and Russia, especially over the delay and price hike of several Russian weapons to be delivered to India,[36] relations between the two remain strong with India and Russia signing various agreements to increase defence, nuclear energy and space cooperation.[37]

15th Lok Sabha

India held general elections to the 15th Lok Sabha in five phases between 16 April 2009 and 13 May 2009. The results of the election were announced on 16 May 2009.[38] Strong showing in Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh helped the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) form the new government under the incumbent Singh, who became the first prime minister since Jawaharlal Nehru in 1962 to win re-election after completing a full five-year term.[39] The Congress and its allies were able to put together a comfortable majority with support from 322 members out of 543 members of the House. These included those of the UPA and the external support from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP), Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S)), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and other minor parties.[40]

On 22 May 2009, Manmohan Singh was sworn in as the Prime Minister during a ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhavan.[41][42] The 2009 Indian general election was the largest democratic election in the world held to date, with an eligible electorate of 714 million.

Public image

Singh has always been perceived as a man of clean background. He is seen as a man of few words. The Independent described him as "one of the world's most revered leaders" and "a man of uncommon decency and grace," noting that he drives a Maruti 800, one of the humblest cars in the Indian market. Khushwant Singh lauded Singh as the best prime minister India has had, even rating him higher than Jawaharlal Nehru. He mentions an incident in his book Absolute Khushwant: The Low-Down on Life, Death and Most things In-between where after losing the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, Singh immediately returned the 2 lakh (US$3,600) he had borrowed from the writer for hiring taxis. Terming him as the best example of integrity, Khushwant Singh stated, "When people talk of integrity, I say the best example is the man who occupies the country's highest office."[43]

In 2010, Newsweek magazine recognized him as a world leader who is respected by other heads of state, describing him as "the leader other leaders love." The article quoted Mohamed ElBaradei, who remarked that Singh is "the model of what a political leader should be."[44] Singh is number 18 on the 2010 Forbes list of the world's most powerful people.[45] Forbes magazine described Singh as being "universally praised as India's best prime minister since Nehru".[46] Australian journalist Greg Sheridan praised Singh "as one of the greatest statesmen in Asian history."[47]

Singh's public image has been tarnished recently with his government having been accused of corruption scandals since the start of its second term in 2009.[48]

Time magazine's Asia edition for 10–17 July 2012 week, on its cover remarked that Singh was an "underachiever".[49] The issue of the magazine claimed Singh appears "unwilling to stick his neck out" on reforms that will put the country back on growth path. Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari rebutted the charges. UPA ally Lalu Prasad Yadav took issue with the magazine's statements. Praising the government, Prasad said UPA projects [were] doing well and asked, "What will America say as their own economy is shattered?".[50]

Political opponents including L.K Advani have claimed that Singh is a "weak" Prime Minister. Advani declared "He is weak. What do I call a person who can't take his decisions until 10 Janpath gives instruction."[51][52][53] The Independent, a British daily also claimed that Singh did not have genuine political power.[54]

Family and personal life

Singh married Gursharan Kaur in 1958. They have three daughters, Upinder Singh, Daman Singh and Amrit Singh.[55]

Upinder Singh is a professor of history at Delhi University. She has written six books, including Ancient Delhi (1999) and A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India (2008).[56] Daman Singh is a graduate of St. Stephen's College, Delhi and Institute of Rural Management, Anand, Gujarat, and author of The Last Frontier: People and Forests in Mizoram and a novel Nine by Nine,[57] she is married to an I.P.S official Ashok Patnaik who is on deputation to Intelligence Bureau. Amrit Singh is a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union.[58]

Singh has undergone multiple cardiac bypass surgeries, the most recent of which took place in January 2009.[59]

Singh and his wife both belong to the Kohli clan,[60][61] though neither uses the name as their surname.

Singh's personal assets amount to five crore rupees (approx 1 million USD). He has property worth Rs 1.8 crore, a Rs 90 lakh house in Chandigarh and a Rs 88 lakh apartment in Vasant Kunj in Delhi. His bank deposits amount to Rs 3.2 crore.[62]

Degrees and posts held

  • BA (Hons) in Economics 1952; MA First Class in Economics, 1954 Panjab University, Chandigarh {was then in Hoshiarpur,Punjab}, India
  • Honours degree in Economics, University of Cambridge – St John's College (1957)
    • Senior Lecturer, Economics (1957–1959)
    • Reader (1959–1963)
    • Professor (1963–1965)
    • Professor of International Trade (1969–1971)
  • DPhil in Economics, University of Oxford – Nuffield College (1962)
  • Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi
    • Honorary Professor (1966)
  • Chief, Financing for Trade Section, UNCTAD, United Nations Secretariat, Manhattan, New York
    • 1966 : Economic Affairs Officer 1966
  • Economic Advisor, Ministry of Foreign Trade, India (1971–1972)
  • Chief Economic Advisor, Ministry of Finance, India, (1972–1976)
  • Honorary Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi (1976)
  • Director, Reserve Bank of India (1976–1980)
  • Director, Industrial Development Bank of India (1976–1980)
  • Secretary, Ministry of Finance (Department of Economic Affairs), Government of India, (1977–1980)
  • Governor, Reserve Bank of India (1982–1985)
  • Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission of India, (1985–1987)
  • Secretary General, South Commission, Geneva (1987–1990)
  • Advisor to Prime Minister of India on Economic Affairs (1990–1991)
  • Chairman, University Grants Commission (15 March 1991 – 20 June 1991)[2]
  • Finance Minister of India, (21 June 1991 – 15 May 1996)
  • Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha (1998–2004)
  • Prime Minister of India (22 May 2004 – Present)

Honours, awards and international recognition

In March 1983, Panjab University, Chandigarh awarded him Doctor of Letters and in 2009 created a Dr. Manmohan Singh chair in their economics department.[63] In 1997, the University of Alberta awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Law degree.[64] The University of Oxford awarded him an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree in July 2005,[65] and in October 2006, the University of Cambridge followed with the same honour.[66] St. John's College further honoured him by naming a PhD Scholarship after him, the Dr. Manmohan Singh Scholarship.[67] In 2008, he was awarded honorary Doctor of Letters degree by Benaras Hindu University[68] and later that year he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by University of Madras.[69] In 2010, he was awarded honorary doctorate degree by King Saud University.[70]

Year Name of Award or Honour Awarding Organisation
2010 World Statesman Award[71] Appeal of Conscience Foundation
2005 Top 100 Influential People in the World[72] Time
2002 Outstanding Parliamentarian Award Indian Parliamentary Group
2000 Annasaheb Chirmule Award Annasaheb Chirmule Trust
1999 H.H. Kanchi Sri Paramacharya Award for Excellence Shri R. Venkataraman, The Centenarian Trust
1999 Fellow of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi National Academy of Agricultural Sciences
1997 Lokmanya Tilak Award Tilak Smarak Trust, Pune
1997 Justice K.S. Hegde Foundation Award Justice K.S. Hegde Foundation
1997 Nikkei Asia prize for Regional Growth Nihon Keizai Shimbun Inc.
1996 Honorary Professorship Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, Delhi
1995 Jawaharlal Nehru Birth Centenary Award (1994–95) Indian Science Congress Association
1994 Finance Minister of the Year Asiamoney
1994 Jawaharlal Nehru Birth Centenary Award (1994–95) Indian Science Congress Association
1994 Elected Distinguished Fellow of the London School of Economics London School of Economics, Centre for Asia Economy, Politics and Society
1994 Elected Honorary Fellow, Nuffield College Nuffield College, University of Oxford, Oxford, U.K.
1994 Elected Distinguished Fellow of the London School of Economics London School of Economics, Centre for Asia Economy, Politics and Society
1994 Elected Honorary Fellow of the All India Management Association All India Management Association
1993 Finance Minister of the Year Euromoney
1993 Finance Minister of the Year Asiamoney
1987 Padma Vibhushan President of India
1986 Elected National Fellow, National Institute of Education National Institute of Education
1985 Elected President of the Indian Economic Association Indian Economic Association
1982 Elected Honorary Fellow, St. John's College St John's College, Cambridge
1982 Elected Honorary Fellow, Indian Institute of Bankers Indian Institute of Bankers
1976 Honorary Professorship Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
1957 Elected Wrenbury Scholar University of Cambridge, U.K.
1956 Adam Smith Prize University of Cambridge, U.K.
1955 Wright Prize for Distinguished Performance St. John’s College, Cambridge, U.K.
1954 Uttar Chand Kapur Medal, for standing first in M.A. (Economics) Panjab University, Chandigarh{Was then in Hoshiarpur,Punjab}
1952 University Medal for standing first in B.A. (Honors Economics) Panjab University, Chandigarh


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