Dear Prime Minister Sir ,
I remember working as the Head-NRI Marketing for the ANZ Grindlays Bank, New Delhi. Your breakthrough policy of economic liberalization in 1991 as Finance Minister changed my banking career, which had begun to somewhat stagnate. Business suddenly exploded, NRI remittances soared, partial convertibility of the rupee made forex transactions fascinating and a sense of buoyancy bounced in the air.
Frankly, in that historic decision to dismantle controls and obliterate quota restrictions and the famous License Raj, you had truly unleashed India's hidden potential, what you have often referred to as the "animal spirit". The somnambulant elephant had begun to transform into a crouching tiger. You changed the course of India's economic history giving it abundant hope of an exciting future. I rode the wave created by your epochal decision. So did India.
When you became the Prime Minister of the UPA in 2004, I am aware that many of the political adversaries of the Congress party were convinced that you would fail, and that the UPA would just be a transitory intrusion, a fleeting roadblock in their political ambitions. But you proved them so wrong! India changed - and how - under your caring leadership. The Congress-led UPA passed landmark legislations that have created unshakeable foundations, policy lodestars for the future: Right to Information (transparency), Lok Pal Bill (anti-corruption), Right to Employment ( increasing rural prosperity), Right to Food (assured minimum essential food at subsidized prices), Whistleblower's Bill (protecting witnesses) and Land Acquisition Bill (ensuring no exploitation of farmers), among others. 140 million Indians were alleviated above the poverty line, through a combination of growth initiatives and welfare programs.
In the middle of your tenure in 2008, the Lehman Brothers collapse had precipitated a global financial crisis resulting in the Great Recession that would send the USA into a severe depression and a near- fiscal cliff, and leave the Euro zone comatose. They are still convalescing, and have only recently perked up. But India would continue to accelerate ahead with cool aplomb, registering an average GDP growth of over 7.6% during your period as PM (second only to China), treble it's GDP and per capita income from 2004, and become the world's third largest country , eclipsing Japan, in purchasing power parity terms.
By any standards, extraordinary achievements which were globally applauded, but were tragically contumaciously dismissed by local cynics and embittered adversaries. By 2011, unfortunately, self-flagellation was India's most popular national sport. Yes, inflation remained a critical challenge, but few recognized the long-term impact of a substantial fiscal stimulus, changing consumption patterns, rising rural and urban prosperity and higher international oil prices.
In a time when everyone wants to be a Prime Minister, even if for a day, you staked your own exalted authority and the UPA government over the Indo-US nuclear deal; national interest and honor preceded any private predilections. And you did not hesitate to speak to the nation on the importance of having FDI in multi-brand retail. Yet, you were often criticized for speaking less, because perhaps in the times that we live in, being seen and heard has become more important than the act of doing things itself.
It is a ruthless 24x7 media scrutiny that evaluates public personalities on a yardstick that is set up unilaterally by a loose confederation of oligopolistic media czars. It is a sign of the times. Few understood what , in fact, a discerning US President Barack Obama actually did - that you were distinguished, decent and dedicated. A personification of humility, a paragon of grace. Someone to look up to. An exceptional economist, a scholarly thinker. And that during your ten years, in practically all fields, India grew better, stronger, fitter, and flew higher.
A well-known writer recently referred to 2004-14 as the "golden age" of the yet unfolding India story. Of course, there are many challenges yet to be overcome, but we are certainly headed in the right direction. History will indeed record your innumerable accomplishments in many an encyclopedic study.
Thank you for everything, dear Prime Minister!
(The views are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Indian National Congress party)
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