Dr. Manmohan Singh, served as the 13th Prime Minister of India. An exceptional economist, renowned world over, he began his bureaucratic career as an advisor in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Considered to be a man of few words, he has ensured that his work speaks more for him. A reform minded economist, he was the chief architect who liberalised the Indian economy in 1991 as the Finance Minister of India. There is so much more to Dr. Manmohan Singh than him being a politician or a Prime Minister.
Here are some lesser-known but interesting facts about Dr. Manmohan Singh which you must know:
1. First non-Hindu to become Prime Minister of India
Dr. Manmohan Singh is the first Sikh and thereby, the first non-Hindu, to occupy the office of Prime Minister of India.
2. Since Jawahar Lal Nehru, he is the only Prime Minister to be re-elected, after completing a full five year term.
3. Was blessed to be born in Undivided India
Born in a modest Sikh family in Gah village (now in Punjab, Pakistan) to Gurmukh Singh and Amrit Kaur.
4. Lost his mother at a very early age and was raised by his paternal grandmother.
5. He used to study under the dim light of a kerosene lamp
There was no school and electricity in his village, but that did not deter him and he walked miles every day to the school. He has often attributed his success to education.
6. His birth date may not be the real date of his birth
His grandmother gave his date of birth as 26 September, 1932 while getting him admitted into school, though she was not sure of it. And it became his official date of birth.
7. After partition, his family moved to Amritsar, India.
8. Dr Manmohan Singh alma mater
He completed his initial schooling from Hindu College and went on to complete his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Economics from Panjab University in 1952 and 1954 respectively, standing first in the University. Thereafter he did his Economics Tripos (Under Graduate Degree programme in Economics) from Cambridge University in 1957 and obtained Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) from Oxford University in 1962.
9. Dr. Manmohan Singh was a shy student while he was at Cambridge
In one of his interviews with the BBC correspondent in India, Mark Tully, he told him that throughout his stay at Cambridge he took cold water bath. Being the only Sikh student, he had long hair and felt a bit shy. He wanted to avoid other boys, who would all bath when hot water was available. Hence he chose to bath when no other student would, which was, when hot water was unavailable.
10. He married Gursharan Kaur in 1958
And has three daughters. Upinder Singh, Daman Singh and Amrit Singh.
11. He declined an offer from the first Prime Minister of India Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru to join the government in 1962
As he did not want to dishonour his commitment of teaching at his college in Amritsar.
12. Country first
Dr. Manmohan Singh worked with United Nations Conference on Trade and Development under famous economist Raul Prebisch, from 1966-1969. He however chose to come back to India, when he got an offer to work as a Lecturer from Delhi School of Economics. This is when every brilliant economist dreamed of working for the UN.
13. Between 1970s and 1980s, in his bureaucratic career, Dr. Singh held a series of key posts
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 1976-1980 and then as its Governor from 1982-1985. He also remained Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission and Chairman of University Grants Commission.
14. Start of political career in 1991
When India’s Prime Minister at the time P.V. Narsimha Rao appointed him as the Finance Minister in his government. He ended the Permit Raj, deregulated the economy from State control, allowed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and initiated the process of privatisation of Public Sector Undertakings . All these reforms helped India to come out of a serious economic crisis.
15. Dr. Manmohan Singh can easily be dubbed as the most erudite Prime Minister in the world
With 14 honorary degrees, ranging from Doctor of Civil Law, Doctor of Social Sciences to Doctorate of Letters and many more.
16. He has never won a Lok Sabha seat
But continues to serve as a member of the Parliament of India, representing the state of Assam in the Rajya Sabha for the fifth consecutive term since 1991.
17. Khushwant Singh eulogised Dr. Manmohan Singh for his integrity
In his book “Absolute Khushwant: The Low-Down on Life, Death and Most things In-between”. He cites an incident when Dr. Singh lost the 1999 Lok Sabha elections and immediately returned ₹2 lakh which he had borrowed from him for hiring taxis.
18. He listens to BBC every morning
This helped him to respond immediately to the 2004 tsunami crisis, even before the PMO was alerted by the disaster management officials.
19. Surprisingly, Dr. Singh cannot read Hindi
But is fluent in reading Urdu. All his Hindi speeches are written in Urdu, and his first TV speech needed three days of practice.
20. Has written several articles that have been published in various economics journals
He wrote the book ‘India’s Export Trends and Prospects for Self-Sustained Growth’ in the year 1964, which is considered to be India’s first and most critical Trade Policy criticism.
21. In 1987 he received the Padma Vibhushan Award
In 1993, Asiamoney and Euromoney named him the ‘Finance Minister of the Year’. In 2005 Time magazine listed him among ‘The Top 100 Influential People In The World’. The list of awards goes on and on for him.
22. In 2010, an American weekly magazine ‘Newsweek’ described him as a world leader who is respected by other Heads of States
In same year he was ranked 18th on Forbes list of ‘World’s Most Powerful People’. However in the later years he also faced criticism. Time magazine’s Asia Edition, in its July 2012 cover page, remarked him as an “underachiever”. British online newspaper ‘The Independent’ claimed that Dr. Singh did not have genuine political power.
23. Dr. Singh has undergone multiple cardiac bypass surgeries
The last one took place in January 2009.
24. In the 2014 general elections, Dr. Manmohan Singh did not contest the Lok Sabha seat and opted out of the race to Prime Ministers Office.
25. His biographical film named “The Accidental Prime Minister” released in January 2019
It is based on the memoirs of the same name by Sanjaya Baru, who was the Media advisor and chief spokesperson of Dr. Manmohan Singh from May 2004 to August 2008. The film depicts the life, works and controversies related to Dr. Manmohan Singh during his term as Prime Minister of India.
As a brilliant economist, an outstanding bureaucrat and an honest politician he has discharged his responsibilities with full commitment. Dr. Manmohan Singh would always be remembered for his significant contributions in shaping India’s emergence as an economic power in the world.