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Dr. Manmohan Singh: The Man Who Saved India’s Economy In 1991

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India recently celebrated the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. He was the first PM who had completed 13 years in politics in the year 2004, the same year when he was elected as the Prime Minister. He was not a politician but is still applauded for his work, for which he is considered as a hero who saved India from the economic crisis in 1991.

Indira Gandhi once said, “My father told me that in politics there are two kinds of people. One who believes in the work and want to do that and the second kind of people who always want to take credit, and I have the found first kind of people very less.” I can say that Dr. Singh belonged to the first category who did a lot of work but never showed off.

Who Was Dr. Manmohan Singh?

It is quite amazing to know that the September 26 is not the original date of birth of Dr. Singh, according to his media advisor Sanjaya Baru’s book. When his grandmother took him to school and was asked about his birthdate, his grandmother told them she was not aware of the exact date, and that the school authorities can write on their own. Dr. Singh pursued BA Economics at Hindu College in Amritsar from 1949 to 1952, and then he attended Panjab University, in Hoshiarpur for his MA in Economics. In both the degrees he scored the first ranking. He went on to complete his economics Tripos at St John’s College in 1957 and earned a Ph.D. in economics from Nuffield College which is under Oxford University.

He has worked as a professor in Panjab and Delhi University, and also worked in the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) as the Governor and Director, and has also served as the Chairman of UGC. So, after twenty-five years in bureaucracy, he became the Finance Minister.

India’s Financial Crises In 1991

It was 1991, the country was going through an immense financial crisis and at that time, we had to mortgage the gold in the RBI reserves, which was airlifted to the Bank of England and Central Bank in Japan from where we got the mortgaged loan. Dr. Manmohan Singh, at that time, was the economic advisor of PM Chandrashekhar, he and the then RBI Governor S Venkataraman went to Chandrashekharji and advised him to mortgage the gold, to which he and Rajiv Gandhi agreed. It was S Venkataraman who gave this idea to Dr. Manmohan Singh.

Not only that, but during the America Iraq war of 1991, India supported America by providing fuel facilities to American fighter planes which were attacking Iraq, but only on the condition that America will help India to get a two billion dollar loan without conditions from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). At that time Dr. Subramaniam Swamy was the Indian Commerce Minister in the Chandrashekhar-led government who initiated the talks with the American ambassador in India which went successful, following which, we got the loan.

On June 21, 1991, Dr. Singh took oath as the Finance Minister of India under the PV Narasimha Rao government. When he took to office, at that time, Indian foreign exchange was only $1 billion, which was equal to 2 weeks import only. Within a month of his swearing-in, Dr. Singh tabled his first budget in which he said, and I quote, “No power on this earth can stop the idea whose time has come”.

He then made history by bringing in reforms to remove the ‘license Raj‘, reduced tariffs and interest rates, and introduced Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) which facilitated lots of foreign investment to India, and because of which we got our gold back from the International banks and ended public monopolies. Also, the reforms allowed automatic approval of foreign direct investment in many sectors, and also, the import duty on various items was reduced from 120% to 20% so that foreign companies could bring their materials to India.

According to Sanjaya Baru’s book, there were two leaders in the Congress, who later became ministers in Manmohan Singh’s government, who wanted to throw out Dr Singh from the Finance Minister post because they themselves were eyeing it. According to the book, they pressured Manmohan Singh, three times, to submit his resignation. Dr. Singh did it all three times but each time PM Rao refused his resignation. The last and fourth attempt happened in 1993 after the securities scam, when the opposition party and these leaders put pressure on him again to resign. But, this time, he didn’t listen to anyone and stuck to his post and completed his five years of tenure, and I think he was the first one who completed five years in a full government tenure as FM.

He was a husband with a formidable wife. The example cited in Sanjay Baru’s book is an incident where Dr. Singh was talking to him over a cup of tea along with other employees when one employee offered a samosa. Dr. Singh tried to eat it, but his wife Gursharanji stopped him saying that it will increase his cholesterol level.

In the end, I can say that India was lucky to have such an experienced man as a Finance Minister. As a Prime Minister, his government faced several corruption charges but not a single charge of corruption came on him.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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