Manmohan Singh (2004–14)

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Manmohan Singh, (born September 26, 1932, Gah, West Punjab, India [now in Pakistan]), Indian economist and politician, who served as prime minister of India from 2004 to 2014. A Sikh, he was the first non-Hindu to occupy the office.

Singh attended Panjab University in Chandigarh and the University of Cambridge in Great Britain. He later earned a doctorate in economics from the University of Oxford. In the 1970s he was named to a series of economic advisory posts with the Indian government and became a frequent consultant to prime ministers. Singh also worked at the Reserve Bank of India, serving as director (1976–80) and governor (1982–85). When he was named finance minister in 1991, the country was on the verge of an economic collapse. Singh devalued the rupee, lowered taxes, privatized state-run industries, and encouraged foreign investment, reforms that helped transform the country’s economy and spark an economic boom. A member of the Indian National Congress, he joined the Rajya Sabha (upper chamber of Parliament) in 1991. Singh, who served as finance minister until 1996, ran for the Lok Sabha (lower chamber) in 1999 but was defeated.

Congress won the May 2004 parliamentary elections, defeating the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Congress’s leader, Sonia Gandhi (widow of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi), declined the prime ministership, instead recommending Singh for the post. Singh subsequently formed a government and took office. His stated goals included helping improve conditions for India’s poor (who generally had not benefited from the country’s economic growth), securing peace with neighbouring Pakistan, and improving relations between India’s various religious groups.

Here is a look at some of the achievements of the government, under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

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.

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.