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In Defense of the Fallen Leader

Manmohan Singh on 3rd January made it amply clear that he would not be indulging in the rat-race to become the Prime Minister in the hotly-contested 2014 General Elections. In his so-called "farewell speech", Manmohan also lashed out at the media claiming that history textbooks would be more kinder to him than the media.

Manmohan Singh : The Underrated Administrator
Perhaps Manmohan is right and his administration has in fact, overseen commendable progress in certain sectors alongside it's miserable failings in the field of tackling corruption and the bout of stagflation India has seen for the past two years. Since 1947, we have always attached overriding importance to eradicating poverty and during the UPA's tenure, this ambition of ours has received a fillip. Poverty which as recently as 1996 crushed almost half our populace has now reduced to an all-time-low of 22%.

Under UPA, 2% of our population has been escaping the shackles of poverty every year, an unprecedented number. Diminishing the dependence of our workforce on agriculture for employment - a age-old ambition of our founding fathers has been achieved, with non-agricultural sectors now employing a simple majority (51%)  of our workforce. Economic growth has averaged 7.6% in the past decade, despite the sharp slowdown in recent times. The epoch-making Land Acquisition Act which has come into effect this year has replaced an antiquated law from the British Raj times and has for the first time brought cohesion to government policy over this subject.

By passing the groundbreaking Right to Information Act, the Government has also brought in a new dimension of transparency to policy-making. Ironically, this also dug the UPA's grave with many scams, notably 2G, being unearthed due to it . The Lokpal Law, if accompanied by companion bills like Whistle blowers Protection, Judicial Accountability and Grievance Redressal, poses a formidable challenge to graft.

The Government has also doubled the amount it pays to farmers per tonne for rice and wheat over the past decade, compared to a miserly 25% hike in the five-year NDA rule. While this could have been a major factor behind spiraling inflation, it has also led to the inclusion of the humble farmer into the economic scenario. Many have also noted that a consumption boom of sorts has been noted in rural areas. The share of non-food items shot up from 36.8% to 51.4% in rural areas. Rural folk now have the capacity to break free from worries of starvation and dream of owning tractors and motorbikes.

The North-East once faced with a dozen separatist movements is relatively peaceful now. Overseas, barring the Khobragade affair, relations with US have been on the upswing characterized by the landmark Nuclear Deal. In UPA 2, terrorist attacks have waned with the Indian Mujaheddin now a considerably weaker organization. With primary education now near universal (courtesy - Mid-Day Meal Scheme and Right to Education Act) and infant mortality dropping as much as 30 points, our young have a reason to rejoice. 

In all, the UPA's policies have laid fertile ground for a renewed take-off for the Indian economy. The structural transformation in the economy has made growth an all-inclusive affair and empowered the farmer to heights never seen before. A stable North-East, a healthier and well-educated youth, a new set of economic reforms and the distinct possibility of curtailed graft are added bonuses. The UPA's greatest mistake however has been it's inability to communicate this to the electorate, which will cost during the 2014 elections. Future governments shall reap the benefits of UPA's groundwork.

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