DR.MANMOHAN SINGH – LIBERATOR OF INDIAN ECONOMY

Dr. Manmohan Singh is the fourteenth, and current, Prime Minister of India. He was born on 26 September, 1932, Gah, West Punjab (now in Pakistan) and is member of the left-of-centre Indian National Congress party. A Sikh by faith, Singh was sworn in on May 22, 2004.

A rather low-key politician, Manmohan Singh enjoys a “squeaky clean” image and was advisor to opposition chief Sonia Gandhi throughout the election campaign in 2004 and their time in the
opposition. He was awarded the Outstanding Parliamentarian Award in 2002. Singh’s elevation to the most important national office came when Sonia Gandhi herself refused to take the top job, in view of the massive opposition she could have faced on account of her Italian antecedents. Although many critics and opposition leaders routinely criticize Gandhi as being the real power, or indeed a de-facto ruler, Singh is held in high esteem, and regard, all over the country and the world.

Singh has been married since 1958; he and his wife have three daughters.

Economic Reforms

Singh is regarded as the architect of India’s original economic reform programme. His policies of economic liberalization, serving in his capacity as Finance Minister under the government of Narasimha Rao in the early 1990s, brought the country back from a looming economic bankruptcy. Now the country is enjoying record economic growth on the foundations laid by him. Singh is an economist by training, and has formerly served in the International Monetary Fund. He was educated at Nuffield College, Oxford, St John’s College, Cambridge and Punjab University; he holds a doctorate in economics from Oxford.

Although his economic policies – which included the reduction of several redundant socialist policies – were widely popular, especially among the middle class, Singh lost his seat to the Lok
Sabha from South Delhi in 1999. He was also a member of the Rajya Sabha from Assam since 1991 and the upper house leader of the opposition from 1998 – 2004 when India was governed by the right-of-center Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP.

Although an economic modernization plan presented by Singh was rejected by the Congress Party, which avowed itself to socialism, the reforms he introduced are regarded as primarily responsible for the present economic boom the country enjoys, and considered irreversible in face of the real progress achieved.

Ascent to Power

Dr. Manmohan Singh, an economic bureaucrat, was the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India in the late 1980s. In 1991, he was asked to head the Finance Ministry by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, who was aware of an acute economic crisis due to decades of stagnant socialist policies and a government riddled by fractious alliances, corruption and imcompetence. The crisis was so bad that the Government was about to mortgage its gold reserves to the Bank of England to obtain the cash reserves to run the country. All this while more than 400 million people starved and struggled in poverty and miserable living conditions.

Achieving an economic turn-around in two years, Dr. Singh was hailed as a hero, although the Rao
administration was unpopular thanks to scandals, its parliamentary status as a minority government, and religious violence all over the country. Although its dissolution in 1996 marked the end of Rao’s political career, Dr. Singh exited without bruises.

Dr. Singh stayed with the Congress Party despite continuous marginalization and defeats in the elections of 1996, 1998 and 1999. He did not join the rebels in a major split which occurred in 1999, when many major Congress leaders objected to Sonia Gandhi’s rise as Congress President and Leader of the Opposition. Being touted as the Congress choice for the PM’s job, she became a target for nationalists who objected to her Italian birth. It seemed that a party which turned to old links to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and a foreigner for political leadership had no future or potential to look forward to. But Singh continued as a prominent leader, rising in confidence and helping to revamp the party’s platform and organization.

The Congress alliance won a surprisingly high number of seats in the Parliamentary elections of 2004, owing to a nationwide disenchantment of millions of poorer citizens with the BJP’s focus on the surging middle-class, and also its dismal record in handling religious tensions. The Left Front decided to support a Congress alliance government from outside in order to keep the “communal forces” out of power. Sonia Gandhi was elected leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party and was expected to become the Prime Minister but in a surprise move, declined to accept the post and instead nominated Dr. Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister. There were protests within the Congress about her refusal but eventually people accepted her decision and the allies too accepted her choice. Singh secured the nomination for prime minister on May 19, 2004 when President of India President Abdul Kalam. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam officially asked him to form a government. Although most expected him to head the Finance Ministry himself, he did not do so. His political mentor Sonia Gandhi retains absolute control over the MPs and organization of the Congress Party.

His appointment is notable as it comes 20 years after India witnessed significant tensions between
the Indian central government and the Punjabi Sikh community. After Congress Party Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the mother-in-law of Sonia Gandhi, ordered central government troops to storm the Golden Temple (the holiest site in Sikhism) in Amritsar, Punjab to quell a separatist movement, she was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. The result was a tremendous nationwide crisis in which many innocent Sikhs were murdered in riots.

Tenure as Prime Minister

Singh has been Prime Minister for little over a year, and his remains a fairly popular government. His image is of an intellectual, a political leader of integrity (a common public perception denounces virtually every other as corrupt and tainted), compassionate and attentive to common people. Although legislative achievements have been few and the Congress-led alliance is routinely hampered by conflicts and scandals, Singh’s administration has focused on reducing the fiscal deficit, providing debt-relief to poor farmers, extending social programs and advancing the pro-industry economic and tax policies that have launched the country on its major economic expansion course since 2002. Being a Sikh from a secular-socialist party, Singh has been the image of the Congress campaign to defuse religious tensions and conflicts and bolster political support from minorities like Muslims, Christians, and of course, Sikhs.

The Prime Minister’s foreign policy has been to continue the new peace process with Pakistan initiated by his predecessor, Atal Behari Vajpayee. Exchange visits by top leaders from both countries have highlighted this year, as has reduced terrorism and increased prosperity in the
state of Kashmir. The peace process has also been used by the government to build stronger relations with the United States, China and European nations.

But the Government suffered a setback when it lost the support of a key ally, Russia, for its bid for a permanent membership to the U.N. Security Council with veto privileges. Plans to expand the Council and reform the U.N. did not empower the nation’s role as an Asian leader, although foreign leaders and its own hail it as the next Asian economic and strategic giant.

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AMARTYA SEN – THE INDIAN ECONOMIST

Amartya Kumar Sen, born on 3rd November 1933, is an Indian economist who was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to welfare economics and social choice theory and for his interest in the problems of society’s poorest members. Sen was best known for his work on the causes of famine, which led to the development of practical solutions for preventing or limiting the effects of real or perceived shortages of food.Sen was educated at Presidency College in Calcutta (now Kolkata). He went on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he received a B.A. (1955), an M.A. (1959), and a Ph.D. (1959). He taught economics at a number of universities in India and England, including the Universities of Jadavpur (1956–58) and Delhi (1963–71), the London School of Economics, the University of London (1971–77), and the University of Oxford (1977–88), before moving to Harvard University (1988–98), where he was professor of economics and philosophy. In 1998 he was appointed master of Trinity College, Cambridge—a position he held until 2004, when he returned to Harvard as Lamont University Professor.

Welfare economics seeks to evaluate economic policies in terms of their effects on the well-being of the community. Sen, who devoted his career to such issues, was called the “conscience of his profession.” His influential monograph Collective Choice and Social Welfare (1970)—which addressed problems such as individual rights, majority rule, and the availability of information about individual conditions—inspired researchers to turn their attention to issues of basic welfare. Sen devised methods of measuring poverty that yielded useful information for improving economic conditions for the poor. For instance, his theoretical work on inequality provided an explanation for why there are fewer women than men in some poor countries in spite of the fact that more women than men are born and infant mortality is higher among males. Sen claimed that this skewed ratio results from the better health treatment and childhood opportunities afforded boys in those countries.

Sen’s interest in famine stemmed from personal experience. As a nine-year-old boy, he witnessed the Bengal famine of 1943, in which three million people perished. This staggering loss of life was unnecessary, Sen later concluded. He believed that there was an adequate food supply in India at the time but that its distribution was hindered because particular groups of people in this case rural laborers lost their jobs and therefore their ability to purchase the
food. In his book Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (1981), Sen revealed that in many cases of famine, food supplies were not significantly reduced. Instead, a number of social and economic factors such as declining wages, unemployment, rising food prices, and poor food-distribution systems led to starvation among certain groups in society.

Sen’s first wife was Nabaneeta Dev Sen, an Indian writer and scholar, with whom he had two children: Antara, a journalist and publisher, and Nandana, a Bollywood actress. Their marriage broke up shortly after they moved to London in 1971. In 1973, he married his second wife, Eva Colorni, who died from stomach cancer quite suddenly in 1985. They had two children, Indrani, a journalist in New York, and Kabir, who teaches music at Shady Hill School.

His present wife, Emma Georgina Rothschild, is an economic historian, an expert on Adam Smith and Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. Sen usually spends his winter holidays at his home in Santiniketan in West Bengal, India, where he likes to go on long bike rides, and maintains a house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he and Emma spend the spring and long vacations. Asked how he relaxes, he replies: “I read a lot and like arguing with people.”

HONORS & AWARDS

  • He received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his work in welfare economics in 1998.
  • In 1999 he received the Bharat Ratna ‘the highest civilian award in India’ by the President of India. In 1999 he was offered honorary citizenship of Bangladesh from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in recognition of his achievements in winning the Nobel Prize, and given that his family origins were in what has become the modern state of Bangladesh.
  • He received the 2000 Leontief Prize for his outstanding contribution to economic theory from the Global Development and Environment Institute.
  • He was the 351st Commencement Speaker of Harvard University.
  • In 2002 he received the International Humanist Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union.
  • Eisenhower Medal, for Leadership and Service USA, 2000.
  • Companion of Honour, UK, 2000. In 2002, he received an honorary degree from the university of Tokyo.
  • In 2003, he was conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Indian Chamber of Commerce.
  • Life Time Achievement award by Bangkok-based United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).
  • In 2009, Sen became a member of the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation’s International Advisory Board to contribute to the organisation’s work in poverty reduction and sustainable development.
  • He was chosen to deliver the Demos Annual Lecture 2010

PUBLICATIONS

  • Choice of Techniques, 1960. Sen, Amartya, An Aspect of Indian Agriculture, Economic Weekly, Vol. 14, 1962.
  • Collective Choice and Social Welfare, 1970, Holden-Day, 1984, Elsevier. Sen, Amartya, On Economic Inequality, New York, Norton, 1973. (Expanded edition with a substantial annexe by James E. Foster and A. Sen, 1997).
  • On Economic Inequality, 1973.
  • Poverty and Famines: an Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation, 1981a.
  • Sen, Amartya, Poverty and Famines : An Essay on Entitlements and Deprivation, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1982.
  • Sen, Amartya, Food Economics and Entitlements, Helsinki, Wider Working Paper 1, 1986.
  • Sen, Amartya, On Ethics and Economics, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1987.
  • Drèze, Jean and Sen, Amartya, Hunger and Public Action. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Hunger and Public Action, jointly edited with Jean Drèze, 1989.
  • Sen, Amartya, “More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing”. New York Review of Books, 1990.
  • Sen, Amartya, Inequality Reexamined, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1992.
  • Nussbaum, Martha, and Sen, Amartya. The Quality of Life. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993. India: Economic Development and Social Opportunity, with Jean Drèze, 1995.
  • Sen, Amartya, Reason Before Identity (The Romanes Lecture for 1998), Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Commodities and Capabilities, 1999.
  • Sen, Amartya, Development as Freedom, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Development as Freedom, 1999. Reason Before Identity, 1999.
  • Freedom, Rationality, and Social Choice: The Arrow Lectures and Other essays, 2000.
  • Sen, Amartya, Rationality and Freedom, Harvard, Harvard Belknap Press, 2002.
  • Rationality and Freedom, 2004.
  • Inequality Reexamined, 2004.
  • The Argumentative Indian, 2005.
  • Sen, Amartya, The Argumentative Indian, London: Allen Lane, 2005.
  • Sen, Amartya, The Three R’s of Reform, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 40(19): pp. 1971-1974, 2005.
  • Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (Issues of Our Time), New York, W. W. Norton, 2006.
  • Imperial Illusions: India, Britain, and the wrong lessons. By Amartya Sen.
  • Response by Niall Ferguson. Equality of Capacity by Amartya Sen.
  • The Idea of Justice Harvard University Press & London: Allen Lane,2009.

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