In 2016, as India marked the 25th anniversary of the opening up of the economy, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the prime architect of the historic 1991 liberalisation, had famously said the country tends to act when there is a crisis. And when it is over, status quo takes over, he had said.
On Friday, marking the 30th anniversary of the economic liberalisation, Singh sounded a warning. He said the road ahead is even more daunting than during the 1991 economic crisis and the nation would need to recalibrate its priorities to ensure a dignified life for all Indians.
Recalling the 1991 moment, he said on this day 30 years ago, the Congress had “ushered in significant reforms of India’s economy and paved a new path for our nation’s economic policy”. Over the last three decades, he said, successive governments have followed this path to catapult India to a $3 trillion economy and into the league of the world’s largest economies. However, he added, “it is not a time to rejoice and exult but to introspect and ponder” as “the road ahead is even more daunting than during the 1991 crisis”. “Our priorities as a nation need to be recalibrated to foremost ensure a healthy and dignified life for every single Indian,” he said.
Singh said he was fortunate to play a role in the reform process along with his colleagues in the Congress but said he was saddened by the crisis that has hit the economy because of the pandemic. “It gives us immense joy to look back with pride at the tremendous economic progress made by our nation in the last three decades. But I am also deeply saddened at the devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and theloss of millions of fellow Indians. The social sectors of health and education have lagged behind and not kept pace with our economic progress. Too many lives and livelihoods have been lost that should not have been,” he said.
loss of millions of fellow Indians. The social sectors of health and education have lagged behind and not kept pace with our economic progress. Too many lives and livelihoods have been lost that should not have been,” he said.
“As finance minister in 1991, I ended my budget speech by quoting Victor Hugo, ‘No power on Earth can stop an idea whose time has come’. Thirty years later, as a nation, we must remember Robert Frost’s poem, ‘But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep’,” Singh said.