By Mahanshu Prashar:
Manmohan Singh was born on 26 September 1932 and is the 13th and current Prime Minister of India. He is the only Prime Minister since Jawaharlal Nehru to return to power after completing a full five-year term. A Sikh, he is the first non-Hindu to occupy the office. Singh is also the 7th Prime Minister from the Indian National Congress (Congress) party. He is a four-time Member of Parliament from the Upper House of the Parliament of India, the Rajya Sabha), representing the state of Assam.
He has held positions of responsibility internationally and nationally like being the Governor of RBI ( 1982-1985), Chairman UGC (1991), Chief economic Advisor (1972-1976) and Economics professor at Cambridge. But what made him a legend in India’s history was when he donned the hat of the Finance Minister of India (1991-1996). He is credited with taking bold steps and opening the Indian Economy to the world. He took the job when India was facing a severe economic crisis and his economic genius helped India to tide over it. His role in creating millions of jobs, the high growth we witnessed in the past 2 decades has been huge. 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.
Then came a sharp turn in his life, he first became the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha (1998-2004) and then was elevated to the post of Prime Minister when Congress came to power in 2004. He was expected to deliver, to help millions living and dying in poverty and to use his economic genius to keep the engine of Indian economy running. His party came to power riding on their promise to the common man of a better life and economic future. They targeted the inflation in the NDA rule, proposed to solve all such problems once they come to power. For all the hopes the common man had on his leadership and abilities it would not be an overstatement to say that he has failed completely if we consider all the scams and the state of economy and governance in India.
He is seen as a man of intellect, ability, competence and integrity. World leaders respect him for his calm and graceful demeanor. To expect from him, to take millions out of poverty and carry India to the new prosperous era is not too much going by his past credentials. He was expected to deliver on all these fronts, on which it now seems clear he has failed miserably.
When Manmohan Singh came to power India was growing rapidly at more than 8% growth rate. This run continued till 2008 and in 2007 India clocked 9 % growth rate. It sounds impressive but should the UPA government be given the credit for it? Careful analysis reveals that all what transpired was the result of good domestic environment, better infrastructure developed during the rule of previous government and bullish sentiments worldwide about India’s future. RBI handled the 2008 crisis well and shielded India by pumping money into the system.
But post 2008, India’s economy has slowed down rapidly. And the economist Prime Minister has no answers for the problems. Our growth rate was below 7% last fiscal and it is expected to go down 6-6.5 % for the current fiscal. This trend is going to continue for at least 2-3 years to come or may be longer, unless the Government does something to pull the economy out of this slumber. All sectors have slowed down and both domestic and foreign investors are looking overseas. In this atmosphere of gloom, the companies are cutting jobs which can leave lacs of young freshers jobless. Inflation is on its all time high, the price of all consumables goods have doubled in the past 10 years making lives miserable for the ‘aam admi’ which they lured in their election campaigns.
According to economists, for India to get rid of poverty we need at least a 9% growth rate annually for an extended period of like a decade or two else we will add more poor people than we uplift from poverty. So, this below 7 growths is an alarming number, we need to do something about it. The nation looks up to Manmohan Singh to do some magic, something that millions of young Indians can have sensible jobs. But what we hear is excuses like euro crisis, global slowdown, coalition politics and even opposition parties! These are excuses as though the euro crisis affects us, no doubt but still our country is not that exposed to the international economic environment not more than China at least which seems to be doing well. And for argument sake even if it does affect us, we can at least our domestic policies in a way to help our cause. But no! What we get are retrograde steps like retrospective taxes to repel businesses, scams of magnitude unheard of earlier under the nose of the Prime Minister and no clarity in terms of government policies on practically everything. This is driving the investors out; companies are holding back their projects. To hide behind excuses is not what a capable PM does.
Manmohan Singh has not been able to weed out corruption from his Cabinet. He doesn’t look like a confident, powerful PM having hold over his government or ministers. He seems to have no vision and plan for taking the nation forward. All what matters is mere survival of his government while massive scams are unearthed every day. He himself have been alleged to have a role in the ‘coalgate’ scam and to expect that he didn’t get any kickbacks from the mega scams like 2G etc. is pretty naïve. His populist initiative of MNREGA has proved to be a big waste of money. Such schemes and lack of bold decisions on subsidies have made India run with current account deficit of 4% (anything above 3% is unsustainable).He has been labeled as ‘weak’ and cartoons depicting his robotic body movement, he being remote controlled keep doing the rounds. In his rule only, the peaceful protests of Anna Hazare and Ramdev were crushed in an undemocratic manner. A Prime Minister has a lot of power, he is the head of state he can do a lot to pull us out of the situation. But it doesn’t seem that he has in him to stand up like he did in 1991 to take the steering wheel in his hands.
The problems to solve are high inflation, battered image of India worldwide, taint of scams, economic downturn, policy paralysis, high government deficits and faith of public in democracy which was lost when the peaceful protests were.
The time is running out for him to be remembered as a savior of India’s economy. Destiny has given him a second chance and now he has more power than earlier. It is only time which will tell what history labels him as.