Dr. Manmohan Singh
Dr. Manmohan Singh
Dr. Manmohan Singh

(born 26 September 1932) is the 14th and current Prime Minister of India. He is the first Indian Prime Minister since Jawaharlal Nehru to return to power after completing a full five-year term. He is also the first non-Hindu to hold the office. Earlier, during his tenure as the Finance Minister from 1991 to 1996, Singh was widely credited for carrying out economic reforms in India in 1991 which resulted in the end of the infamous Licence Raj system

Background
An economist by profession, Singh was the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India from 1982 to 1985, the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India from 1985 to 1987 and the Finance Minister of India from 1991 to 1996. He is also a Rajya Sabha member from Assam, currently serving his fourth term.

Manmohan Singh is a graduate of Panjab University, Chandigarh, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Oxford. After serving as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India and the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India, Singh was appointed as the Union Minister of Finance in 1991 by then-Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. During his tenure as the Finance Minister, Singh was widely credited for carrying out economic reforms in India in 1991 which resulted in the end of the infamous Licence Raj system.

Following the 2004 general elections, Singh was unexpectedly declared as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the Indian National Congress-led United Progressive Alliance. He was sworn in as the prime minister on 22 May 2004, along with the First Manmohan Singh Cabinet. After the Indian National Congress won the 2009 general elections, Singh was reappointed as the Prime Minister of India on 22 May 2009.

Childhood and education
Manmohan Singh was born to Gurmukh Singh and Amrit Kaur on 26 September 1932, in Gah, Punjab (now in Chakwal District, Pakistan), British India, into a Sikh family. He lost his mother when he was very young, and he was raised by his paternal grandmother, to whom he was very close. He was a hard working student who studied by candlelight, as his village did not have electricity. After the Partition of India, he migrated to Amritsar, India. He attended Panjab University, Chandigarh studying Economics and attaining 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 University as a member of St John's College. (In the Oxbridge tradition, holders of the BA degree with honours are entitled in due course to an MA degree.) 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 DPhil from the University of Oxford where he was a member of Nuffield College. The title of his doctoral thesis was "India’s export performance, 1951-1960, export prospects and policy implications", and his thesis supervisor was Dr I M D Little. From this thesis he published the book "India’s Export Trends and Prospects for Self-Sustained Growth".

In 1997, the University of Alberta presented him with an Honorary Doctor of Laws. The University of Oxford awarded him an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree in June 2006, and in October 2006, the University of Cambridge followed with the same honour. St. John's College further honored him by naming a PhD Scholarship after him, the Dr Manmohan Singh Scholarship.

Early Career
After completing his D.Phil, Singh worked for UNCTAD (1966–1969). During the 1970s, he taught at the University of Delhi and worked for the Ministry of Foreign Trade with then Cabinet Minister for Foreign Trade Lalit Narayan Mishra and for Finance Ministry of India. In 1982, he was appointed the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India and held the post until 1985. He went on to become the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission of India from 1985 to 1987.

Finance Minister of India In 1991, India's then-Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, chose Singh to be the Finance Minister. At the time, India was facing an economic crisis. Rao and Singh implemented policies to open up the economy and change the socialist economic system to a capitalist economy. The economic reform package included dismantling Licence Raj that made it difficult for private businesses to exist and prosper, removal of many obstacles for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and initiating the process of the privatization of public sector companies. These economic reforms are credited with bringing high levels of economic growth in India, and changing the annual 3%, to an average of 8–9% economic growth in the following years. However, in spite of these reforms, Rao's government was voted out in 1996 due to non-performance of government in other areas.

Career in the Rajya Sabha Singh was first elected to the upper house of Parliament, the Rajya Sabha, in 1991 and was re-elected in 2001 and 2007. 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 ran for the Lok Sabha from South Delhi but was unable to win the seat.

Prime ministership 

14th Lok Sabha After the 2004 general elections, the Indian National Congress stunned the incumbent National Democratic Alliance (NDA) by becoming the political party with the single largest number of seats in the Lok Sabha. In a surprise move, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi declared Manmohan Singh, a technocrat, as the UPA candidate for the Prime Minister post. Despite the fact that Singh had never won a Lok Sabha seat, his considerable goodwill and Sonia Gandhi's nomination won him the support of the UPA allies and the Left Front. He took the oath as the Prime Minister of India on 22 May 2004, becoming the first person of Sikh faith and the first non-Hindu to hold the office in predominantly Hindu-majority India.

Foreign policy
Manmohan Singh's Government has continued the pragmatic foreign policy that was started by P.V. Narasimha Rao and continued by Bharatiya Janata Party's Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The Prime Minister 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, as has reduced terrorism and increased prosperity in the state of Kashmir. 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. In 2007, the People's Republic of China became the biggest trade partner of India, with bilateral trade expected to surpass US$60 billion by 2010. However, there is a growing trade imbalance. Relations with Afghanistan have also improved considerably, with India now becoming the largest regional donor to Afghanistan. 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 defense.

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.

In 1997, the University of Alberta presented him with an Honorary Doctor of Laws. The University of Oxford awarded him an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree in June 2006, and in October 2006, the University of Cambridge followed with the same honour. St. John's College further honored him by naming a PhD Scholarship after him, the Dr Manmohan Singh Scholarship.

Prime Minister Singh was given the honor of being granted 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. It was set during a wider visit to the United States by Dr. Singh.

During Singh's tenure as Prime Minister, 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. 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.

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 and Israel now rivals Russia to become India's defense partner. 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, relations between the two remain strong with India and Russia signing various agreements to increase defense, nuclear energy and space cooperation.

Economic Policy
Dr. 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.

Singh's government has continued the Golden Quadrilateral and the highway modernization program that was initiated by Vajpayee's government. Singh has also been working on reforming the banking and financial sectors and has been working towards reforming 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 VAT tax that replaced the complicated sales tax. In 2007 and early 2008, inflation became a big problem globally.

Healthcare and education
In 2005, Prime Minister Singh and his government's health ministry started the National Rural Health Mission, which has mobilized half a million community health workers. This rural health initiative, was praised by the prominent American economist, Jeffrey Sachs, in an article, in Time magazine.

Dr. 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, 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. The ancient Nalanda University shall be restarted in Bihar.

Security and Home Affairs
Dr. Singh's government has been criticised by opposition parties for revoking POTA and for the many bomb blasts in various cities, like in Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Jaipur, etc. and 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). Terrorism in Kashmir has, however, reduced significantly during the Singh administration.

Legislation
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.

Criticism
Some opposition parties have criticized Singh's election as a Rajya Sabha member from Assam, arguing that he was not eligible to become a Member of Parliament from a state where he does not reside.

Manmohan Singh has been criticized by the Leader of Opposition and prominent member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Lal Krishna Advani, for being the "weakest Prime Minister until now". Opposition parties in India, particularly the BJP, allege that Sonia Gandhi, the current Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance, enjoys greater say in government affairs than the Prime Minister. Manmohan Singh and government officials have strongly rebuked the charge.

Dr. Singh is also the only Indian Prime Minister to have never won a Lok Sabha election.

On 22 July 2008, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) faced its first confidence vote in the Lok Sabha after the Communist Party of India (Marxist) led Left Front withdrew support from the government over India approaching the IAEA for Indo-US nuclear deal. The President had asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to prove the majority. The UPA won the trust vote with 275–256, after two days of debate and deliberations. The vote was delayed by one hour due to allegations from the opposition BJP party that certain coalition allies of the government had bribed certain opposition parliamentarians to abstain from the confidence vote.

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. 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. The Congress and its allies was able to put together a comfortable majority with support from 322 members out of 543 members of the House. The oppossition having accepted defeat admitted that the specific targeting of Singh as "weak PM" was wrong and had benefited Singh instead.This lead to infighting in the BJP and criticism of Mr.Advani by many prominent leaders of the BJP. The tally of 322 seats 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.

On 22 May 2009, Manmohan Singh was sworn in as the Prime Minister at the Asoka Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan. As is the norm, earlier, on 18 May 2009, he submitted his resignation as the Prime Minister to President Pratibha Patil.

Personal life
Singh married Gursharan Kaur in 1958. However, the family has largely stayed out of the limelight. Their three daughters - Upinder, Daman and Amrit, have successful, non-political, careers. 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). 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. Amrit Singh is a staff attorney at the ACLU.

Singh has undergone multiple cardiac bypass surgeries, most recently in January 2009. He resumed his duties on 4 March 2009.