Man Mohan Singh and Poverty in India

The Face of Indian Poverty

The Beginning

In 1991 Narisimha Rao the then Indian Prime Minister thought of doing something revolutionary on the economic front. He didn't look beyond Man Mohan Singh who earlier was the governor of the Reserve Bank of India. Singh at that time did not let his mentor down and ushered in a string of economic reforms to take India out of the straight jacketed approach of Nehruvian and socialistic rhetoric. These reforms saved India then , but much was expected of this educated individual when he donned the mantle of Prime Minister in 2004.

Man Mohan Singh as Prime Minister


In 2004 Man Mohan by a combination of factors largely influenced by Sonia Gandhi the widow of late Prime Minter Rajiv Gandhi was appointed Prime Minister. The fact that he had no political base and was a known sycophant and yes man of the Gandhi family tilted scales in his favor. But as prime Minister he was ineffectual, in particular in the economic field which was his forte.

The Challenge of Poverty

But now 20 years down the line the challenge of removing poverty has not moved forward.In fact if figures are to be believed the Indian nation has hurtled downwards in the spiral of poverty and the differences between the rich and poor have accentuated. One of the reasons is that Man Mohan Singh without a political base failed implement policies he believed in. He was dominated by Mrs Sonia and being almost a puppet, he was severely handicapped.

The Lost Dream

Manmohan Singh has perhaps himself realized that poverty has not been curtailed.This is the reason that he himself or his government is not talking of these last 10 years as an achievement. This is the period he has been the head of the government.They are silent on these 10 years which appear like a lost dream for the Indian nation. The fact is that despite the reforms the economic divide between the poor and the rich has widened in India. Can Dr Singh take any credit for this?

Administrative Paralysis

What has happened? It appears that judicial activism which is on the rise and rampant corruption under his very nose has taken their toll on Dr. Singh. He has allowed these forces to assert themselves due to a complete paralysis of his administration, particularly during his second stint as Prime Minister. Being beholden for the seat of the Prime Minster Singh has allowed gigantic corruption scandals to go on. Things are so bad that even half a dozen cabinet ministers have been part of this looting spree.

The supporters of man Mohan Singh have trotted out some figures, but a closer look shows that these worthies are themselves not convinced about their arguments. The result is that the last 10 years has seen India slide down in the poverty index and the Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh appears more and more as a villain.

The Figures of Poverty

Let us have a look at the figures as given out by the government. The government of India appointed 2 committees to study the poverty scenario in the country. The first committee the Tendulkar Committee in its report has pointed out that 37% of the Indians live below the poverty line. That works out to figure of 450 million. The second committee chaired by the noted economist Arjun Sen Gupta estimated that 77 % Indians live in poverty. This works out to a figure of 900 million and ones mind can get numbed by these figures (these are figures drawn from government appointed committees).

Gap Between Rich and Poor

In addition Credit Suisse Wealth Report 2010 mentions that the in India there are 25-30 billionaires with assets running into billions of dollars. The same report said there were 1,080 Ultra High Net worth Individuals (HNIs) in the wealth strata of $50 million-$500 million and 7,800 HNIs in the wealth strata $10 million-$50 million. Sad, where the majority( 75%) of the population subsists on one dollar a day.

The UNDP Human Development Index (HDI) has seen India slide down from 95 in 1990 to 119 in 2010. The HDI is a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy and living standards including health. Though the middle class has grown to 350 million as well.

The Curse of Poverty

But the truth is the curse of poverty has not gone away. The poverty among the people is visible every where, in Bihar, Orissa or Andhra. Man Mohan Singh has no explanation for this. His silence is eroding his credibility. The PM has made matters worse for himself and his paltry supporters by repeatedly saying "he has a job to do". The truth is bitter and people all around are loudly whispering that is that he has merely a job to keep for the heir apparent, Rahul Gandhi.

Dr Singh, it’s about time you did some introspection and think how you would like history to remember you.

Last Word

The end of the road is in sight with the 2014 election approaching. More than likely that Dr Singh and his mentor will bite the dust as forgotten men of Indian history

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Comments 9 comments

VENUGOPAL SIVAGNA profile image

VENUGOPAL SIVAGNA 5 years ago from India.

The responsibility of a government or its head is to create opportunity for the common man to develop himself and not to go door to door and making every poor as rich. And there is no magic to make such things happen. Those who has a will to develop are developing. In Bihar, Orissa and Andhra, they are tribals living in forests and they think that the whole forest belongs to them. Even a foreigner called Jim Corbette called it "My India" and named a forest after him called "Corbette National Park". This kind of self proclaimed ownership makes those tribals lazy and prevent their development. If Govt. plans some development in the area and goes in for starting some big industrial houses there, those tribals prevent it and are prepared to die rather than starting the industry.

I think it will be enough to explain the reason for not developing by those ignorant tribals. It will take a revolution like that of Chinese cultural revolution to make India equal in all areas and among all societies.

Manmohan Singh need not be made a scape goat for each and everything. He was a white collared worker before coming to government. So, he will be silent, disciplined and work oriented. You show a single white collared officer shouting like a politician in front of others.... He is the most disciplined PM and his contribution to India's nationhood will be remembered for centuries.


MG Singh profile image

MG Singh 5 years ago from Singapore Author

Dear Venugopalji,

Thank you for your comment, but I am talking of the entire India and not of tribal's only. There is no denying that poverty has increased as the government figures themselves reveal. Going down in the UNDP, Human Development index is unpardonable.

A leader is a man who leads and must take the blame for the end result.That is history.So Manmohan Singh has to shoulder the blame. The fact that he was a white collar worker cannot be taken as an excuse.

India is a nation of 1.2 billion people and surely we deserve something better. We cannot be foisted with a leader who cannot even win a panchayat election and is in power at the mercy of a foreigner.

Leaders lead and shoulder the end results. However I enjoyed reading your comments and thank you for them


soumyasrajan 5 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

Hi! Singh

very nice and informative article. I have to go through your other articles also, titles are so attractive. Poverty has indeed increased. Also I am not so sure that credit for reforms in 90's should all be given to Manmohan Singh. He did a good job indeed those days as finance minister. But main person responsible for reforms surely was then Prime Minister. He was the one who took bold decisions and created environment to get them passed in Parliament. Congress at that time had practically no experience of running government without a majority. The current leaders still do not know how to run a government when they do not have majority. It was Narasimha Rao's political manipulations and coordination with BJP which allowed all the main reforms decision to be passed in the Congress. He later got entangled in corruption and also manipulations by feudal rulers in Congress (Sonia Gandhi etc.). He could never come out of it. In the first 2.5 years of his rule he could get two things done removal of license raj in industrial production and a little less control on foreign exchange and imports. Accept for these two aspects I do not see much reforms done by Congress regime that time as well as today. For both these reforms credit really goes to Narasimha Rao and support indirect he got from BJP. Credit to Manmohan Singh at that time goes for handling finance ministry well so that India could withstand such major changes very smoothly. Indeed we came out of socialist slogan shouting economy and politics of four decades (only slogans no real measures) at that time much faster and much more smoothly than similar changes taking place in communist countries of East Europe etc. Partly it was also because our economy was never any way completely closed.

Real strength India got financial and economic during BJP rule. At that time team was quite strong. With Arun Shorey, Jaswant Singh, Yahswant Sinha and equally strong team of experts who were Reserve Bank Governers then Ranga Rajan and Bimal Jalan. Add to this political skills of Vajpeyee. They could open several sectors (Telecom, Electricity production road building etc. ) from Government clutches (public sector, unions etc.). At the same time they could keep control on inflation. That was first era in India when our rupee was completely stable for several years and we had inflation less than 4-5%.

We have still quite closed electricity distribution, infra structure creation etc. it is mostly under government control and that causes big problem and almost no opportunity can be easily created. You need electricity to do any thing. But we do not allow that to be created or distributed easily.

Current era of Manmohan Singh is very disappointing. He looked all this earlier time at least a person with integrity. But now he does not give that picture. When he says there is no corruption in decision making and when he puts criminals as ministers and says I am helpless, you start wondering is it the same guy. Result is also clear. Even in opened out sector, Congress feudal regime via Manmohan Singh is trying to recreate License raj back by using environment, electricity etc. as tools. Even communication sector which was opened out (it is pity we could open communication but not electricity) they try to bring back ad-hoc decision making (Raja is example, is there much doubt that main booty of Raja's ad-hoc decision making machine must have gone to Feudal rulers in Congress?). With such a regime one can not expect reforms. They will just try to strengthen their feudal rule and Manmohan singh seems to be today enaged in just helping them in this process. What they are trying to do is bring back their feudal control which they lost with License raj gone.

Two examples show what building up of infra structure and creating opportunity can change. In one Week after the telecom sector was opened out and decision making changed from ad-hoc to technical with telecom authority in force, Reliance company could give more telephone (mobile) connections than in entire 5 decades Government could give. How much opportunity telecom sector created.

Opening of malls today has given jobs opportunities to lakhs. Most people employed in these sectors and IT sectors are happy with these jobs and many earn enough to support their families well. (note salaries in malls though not great are far more than those in small shops and numbers employed in this sector is increasing).

We should not count billionaires and feel bad about them. Let there be many billionaires, how does that matter for poverty ? What is needed is building up of infra structures (roads, houses, electricity, shops schools colleges etc. etc.) by private sector and government. Focus should be more on how to provide enough opportunity to Business people as well as government managers so that enough infra structure can be created for every working person in our country to have earning enough to support his/her family.

India is rich enough not only to do it for itself but also to provide enough opportunity for neighboring countries and others remember figures in y article on population myths).

Current rulers do not seem to have this in mind (including Manmohan Singh). Only grace is some thing done during Narasimha Rao's and Vajpeyee's time can not be closed by them easily what ever they try (they seem to be trying hard indeed). I hope Manmohan singh is not responsible at least to generate such corruption but he is surely responsible to allow it under his nose and also he does not seem to have capacity to do necessary political manipulations as could be done by Vajpeyee and Narasimha Rao. Excuses Manmohan Singh gives that I have to work with feudal rulers of Congress and other parties are very lame. Narasimha Rao had much more difficult time. Feudal rulers of Congress were against him and Vajpeyye had much more difficult parties with him.


jaspalkaler profile image

jaspalkaler 4 years ago from Chandigarh, India

Excellent hub. My issue though is how on earth you expect poverty get removed when you pay your work force a pittance. The statutory minimum wages are not enough to provide food twice a day for the family of say four. What about other requirements? What happens to education of the guy's children. And even if he is sagacious enough to think of it and put the children in school, there is no guarantee the education the children get will help then improve economic status of the present of future generation.

I think the first and foremost reform we need is to take minimum wages law out of states sphere of responsibility and put it in centeral one and fix minimum wages at around fifteen thousand a month. This will allow the guy to provide for decent living standard and invest in skill improvement for himself and also good education for his children. And for god's sake close down all those government school which can not teach their students alphabet in their entire primary course and adding simple numbers in high school.

The moot question is where from the money comes to pay the high wages? My answer to this is that economy will generate enough money to cater for high wages. For high wages will not only lead to better work force and higher production levels it will also lead to increased aggregate demand, thereby providing opportunity to employer to increase profits. Generating multiplier effect will be a challenge for the economic policy planners but then that their job. To be continued ..........


jaspalkaler profile image

jaspalkaler 4 years ago from Chandigarh, India

Coming to education, I think the system of education in vogue in India is both unfair and unproductive. It is highly subsidized but not free and in consequence is not inclusive. Brilliant students are left out because they can't afford high levels of cost of education.

Education seekers end up paying huge costs because of high levels of cost of education. Others simply can't afford. This creates problems in providing level playing field for merit. There is no guarantee that two equally meritorious students will get same opportunity to access education and that a meritorious student will not be left behind because of his poor economic status.

One solution sought to be made available is to provide education loans. The efficacy of such loans is highly suspect, for on one hand the lenders are highly conservative about credit worthiness of the prospective borrowers and on another the prevailing rates of interest @11% to 12% are simply prohibitive. It can be therefore be argued that even those who can ill-afford high cost of education due to their poor economic status are required to pay same level of costs as those who are relatively affluent. This can at best be termed as unfair and at worst as regressive state policy.

High levels of subsidies at school level also mean lack of facilities in these educational institutions, leading to denial of access to acceptable standards of education. The subsidies are meant to provide relief to the poor and also to ensure universalization of primary education. I for one however regard this as a bad policy option. The alternative I hold good is the one advocated in my previous comment, that is to raise statutory minimum wages and allow everyone to earn decent wages to be able to pay for the services, education included, they require.

A comment on those engaged in providing education shall also be in order. Generally the teachers come from poor and lower middle classes. It seems to me that they have forgotten their moral duty of raising a generation to good citizenry. Otherwise how do you explain the fact that they do not prefer to send their own children to the schools where they or their colleagues teach. The sooner they realize that they are part and parcel of the society which looks up to them with hope and expectation the better. A better society shall be their future as well and they owe it to the nation.


jaspalkaler profile image

jaspalkaler 4 years ago from Chandigarh, India

I can't denounce the rich for their riches. The rich can only be denounced for their dirty riches.

The economy must grow and develop for poverty to get removed. The capitalist is a pre-requisite for that. How on earth can I expect the wage earner to get decent wages unless the employer is earning enough to pay him. The problem starts when the rich gets dirty rich and pays his workers sub subsistence wages. And the trouble with India is that its rich are busy building 'Antilas' while the poor can't afford even two square meals a day and yet the Government treats anyone with 32 rupees daily spending in urban areas and 26 rupees in rural areas as NOT poor.


jaspalkaler profile image

jaspalkaler 4 years ago from Chandigarh, India


MG Singh profile image

MG Singh 4 years ago from Singapore Author

Yes Jaspal, you have hit the nail on the head. India is facing myrid problems, that appear to defy a solution. It is people like you who have to show the way forward


pramodgokhale profile image

pramodgokhale 4 years ago from Pune( India)

India's rich and poor gap is century old and reason is our feudal and affluent societies never allow downtrodden to come up.In India development plans are always good with good intention but implementation is poor. Planning commission installs American university trained academicians to run the economy then i do not expect poverty line levels will reduce or our dream of poverty

eradication.

Rural employment scheme is good but frauds and misrule in the states it could not bring desired results.Transfer of subsidies by cash but there is opposition to implement.

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