Manmohan Singh (Punjabi born 26 September 1932) is an Indian economist and politician who served as the Prime Minister of India from 2004 to 2014. 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.
Born in Gah (now in Punjab, Pakistan), Singh’s family migrated to India during its partition in 1947. After obtaining his doctorate in economics from Oxford, Singh worked for the United Nations during 1966–69. He subsequently began his bureaucratic career when Lalit Narayan Mishra hired him as an advisor in the Ministry of Foreign Trade. Over the 70s and 80s, Singh held several key posts in the Government of India, such as Chief Economic Advisor (1972–76), Reserve Bank governor (1982–85) and Planning Commission head (1985–87).
In 1991, as India faced a severe economic crisis, newly elected Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao surprisingly inducted the apolitical Singh into his cabinet as Finance Minister. Over the next few years, despite strong opposition, he as a Finance Minister carried out several structural reforms that liberalised India’s economy. Although these measures proved successful in averting the crisis, and enhanced Singh’s reputation globally as a leading reform-minded economist, the incumbent Congress party fared poorly in the 1996 general election. Subsequently, Singh served as Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of India’s Parliament) during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government of 1998–2004.
In 2004, when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) came to power, its chairperson Sonia Gandhi unexpectedly relinquished the premiership to Manmohan Singh. Singh’s first ministry executed several key legislations and projects, including the Rural Health Mission, Unique Identification Authority, Rural Employment Guarantee scheme and Right to Information Act. In 2008, opposition to a historic civil nuclear agreement with the United States nearly caused Singh’s government to fall after Left Front parties withdrew their support. Although India’s economy grew rapidly under UPA I, its security was threatened by several terrorist incidents (including the 2008 Mumbai attacks) and the continuing Maoist insurgency.Singh was born to Gurmukh Singh and Amrit Kaur on 26 September 1932, in Gah, Punjab, British India, into a Sikh family.He lost his mother when he was very young and was raised by his paternal grandmother, to whom he was very close.
After the Partition of India, his family migrated to Amritsar, India, where he studied at Hindu College. He attended Panjab University, Chandigarh, then in Hoshiarpur, Punjab, studying Economics and got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1952 and 1954, respectively, standing first throughout his academic career. He completed his Economics Tripos at University of Cambridge as he was a member of St John’s College in 1957.After completing his D.Phil, Singh returned to India until 1966 when he went to work for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) from 1966–1969. Later, he was appointed as an advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Trade by Lalit Narayan Mishra, in recognition of Singh’s talent as an economist.
From 1969 to 1971, Singh was a Professor of International Trade at the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi.The Independent described Singh as “one of the world’s most revered leaders” and “a man of uncommon decency and grace,” noting that he drives a Maruti 800, one of the humblest cars in the Indian market. Singh married Gursharan Kaur in 1958. They have three daughters, Upinder Singh, Daman Singh and Amrit Singh. 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 American Civil Liberties Union. Ashok Pattnaik, 1983 batch IPS officer, son-in-law of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was appointed CEO of National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) in 2016.