From ending Licence Raj to becoming an accidental Finance Minister: 5 fascinating facts about Manmohan Singh

Veteran Congress leader and renowned economist Manmohan Singh will turn 88 on Saturday. He served as the 13th Prime Minister of India between 2004 to 2014 under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

Apart from being the first Sikh in office, Dr Singh was also the first Prime Minister of India, since Jawaharlal Nehru, to be re-elected after completing a full five-year term. But, long before he took over as Prime Minister of the country, he cemented his place in Indian history by putting it on track for big-ticket reforms with the liberalisation roadmap he laid out in 1991 through the Union Budget.

Here are five interesting facts about Former PM Manmohan Singh:

Not just 'Accidental Prime Minister', but 'Accidental Finance Minister', too

Manmohan Singh, during launch of his book 'Changing India', had said he was not only an "accidental prime minister" of India but also the country's "accidental finance minister”. Recalling how he became India’s Finance Minister by “accident”, Singh said that the then Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, wanted economist I.G. Patel for the post. However, as Patel was unwilling to take the job, it was assigned to Singh. “People say I was an accidental Prime Minister, but I was also an accidental Finance Minister,” Singh said on a lighter note.

Freed India from the Licence Raj

In 1990-91, India was on the brink of financial collapse. The country was reeling under extreme economic pressure with just enough foreign exchange reserves left to sustain imports for no more than two weeks. In the 1991, business in India was marked by a series of regulations and licences — aka ‘Licence Raj’ — that were seen as barriers for new players, including foreign ones. In 1991, Singh, as Finance Minister, freed India from the Licence Raj.

Left UN job to work in Delhi School of Economics

After obtaining his doctorate in economics from Oxford, Singh worked for the United Nations during 1966–69. During his tenure at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development between 1966 to 1969 he was one of the few lucky ones to get an opportunity to work under the supervision of renowned economist Raul Prebisch. But, destiny had other plans for him.

During the same time he got an offer to join the Delhi School of Economics as a lecturer. He accepted the invitation, deciding to return to India in 1969.

Held key posts between 1970s and 1980s

Such as an Economic Advisor with the Ministry of Foreign Trade, Chief Economic Advisor with the Ministry of Finance and Secretary-Ministry of Finance (Department of Economic Affairs). He served as a Director of Reserve Bank of India from 1976 to 1980 and then as its Governor from 1982 to 1985. He also remained Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission and Chairman of University Grants Commission.

First Sikh to become Prime Minister of India

Dr Manmohan Singh is the first Sikh to occupy the office of Prime Minister of India. Apart from being the first Sikh in office, Singh was also the first Prime Minister since Jawaharlal Nehru to be re-elected after completing a full five-year term.

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