The Untold Story of Indian Reforms 1991-2016

On 16 May 2014 at 12:09 p.m. Modi tweeted ‘Achhe din aane waale hain’. I believe, had an RBI action of cutting interest rates by 100 bps followed, India by now, would have been on an irreversible growth path. And no one would have dared mock Achhe din kab aayenge?

01 April, 2016 Book Review, Economy
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From L to R: Kamineni Srinivas, Minister of Health, AP; Y S Chowdary, MoS-Science & Technology; M Venkaiah Naidu, Urban Development Minister; Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister; Sameer Kochhar, Chairman, Skoch Group & Secretary General, CAII; Suresh Prabhu, Railway Minister; Ashishkumar Chauhan, MD & CEO, BSE; Vijay L Kelkar, Former Chairman, Thirteenth Finance Commission


On 16 May 2014 at 12:09 p.m. Modi tweeted ‘Achhe din aane waale hain’. I believe, had an RBI action of cutting interest rates by 100 bps followed, India by now, would have been on an irreversible growth path. And no one would have dared mock Achhe din kab aayenge?

Fighting against the upper house of the Parliament, a belligerent RBI and an inherited rusted machinery, the record of the first two years of the Modi Government is not to be scoffed at. If you are lucky enough to get a peek behind the iron curtain, you would witness underway the difficult job of an open heart surgery while keeping the body alive and repairing deep-set rot.

Tendering and purchase decisions do not go to ministers anymore. In a candid conversation, Piyush Goyal, Minister for Power told me, “We have taken each problem case through a root cause analysis for a better understanding on whether the case deserved merit and the policy needed change or whether the policy was robust and the case deserved to be rejected.”

Thus far, the Modi Government has not been involved in any corruption scandal. “We have started delegation—not a single rupee tender has come to me and it will never come as long as I am the Minister,” articulated Suresh Prabhu, the reformist Minister for Railways.

The JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, Mobiles) trinity will eliminate cash dealings between the government and the citizen in the transfer of social security benefits and subsidies. Arun Jaitley during his budget speech in February 2015 called JAM trinity a game changing reform. Crop Insurance has been rolled out. With Aadhaar getting legislative backing, DBTs are slated to become a game changer.

For the first time, we have a housing scheme for the poor that comes with a water connection and a toilet. Smart Cities have started a competitive race between shortlisted 20 municipalities and municipal reforms and finances have become mainstream discourse. Credit goes to M. Venkaiah Naidu for pushing for this.

“Let us not forget, what kind of economic planning led us to right till about 40 years after Independence that we were growing at 2-2½ per cent. India’s economy and its growth used to be referred to as Hindu rate of growth. Anybody who was satisfied with that inadequate growth level used to be sarcastically referred to as growing at a Hindu rate.”
Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister
“What the author claims is a monograph is actually a book on the story of economic reforms since 1991. It is perhaps the most detailed contemporary record of the last 25 years of reforms. It is a treasure of information, events and policies pertaining to that period and may verily become an important source of reference for scholars and students of economics.”
P Chidambaram, Former Finance Minister

UDAY has been a comprehensive and game changing reform in power sector, which will result in savings of R1.8 lakh crore every year, within three years from now.

At the same time, not everything is hunky-dory. Digital India is as confused as NeGP was under the previous regime.

And it is not just mobile services but also Internet connectivity and Bharat Broadband that have become disaster areas. Technology choices and preferential treatments are creeping into policymaking—this is certain to distort the playing field.

Skill India is spending a lot of energy handling inter-departmental turf issues and Swachh Bharat is in serious need of a holistic plan and a fresh approach…


“The book is a comprehensive account of the reform measures introduced since they were launched in early 1990s. It offers a critical but constructive review of the various steps taken by different administrations and lays the foundation for future reforms. Truly an important guide book for policymakers. Congratulations to Sameer for a lively recapitulation of an exciting saga.”

C. Rangarajan, Former RBI Governor


There is a great dearth of literature on the years of reforms, which have elapsed and articles have been written, some of them have been good, well informed but a person like me has been missing an authoritative account of what happened and as far as possible from first hand sources, I think this book fulfils the need to a great extent because the period has been covered very well, each period has been covered separately and all the important events with regard to economic reforms, which happened during this period have been faithfully recorded and it will be a great contribution to the literature on the subject. The book has an honest assessment of the impact of the reforms on our economy and if we go by the fact I was looking at the figures to find out how many times India has grown at over 7 per cent annually, you will be surprised that before 1991, that is from 1951-1991, in 40 years there have been only 6 years when India’s national income had recorded a growth of over 7 per cent and the growth has not been sustained beyond a year and collapsed the next year. We went back to perhaps the Hindu rate of growth. Post reforms, between 1991 and today, there have been 12 years of 7 per cent growth rate—12 in 25 years, 6 in 40 years. If it had not been for the great tragedy of 2008-09—we mismanaged our economy thoroughly in 2008-09. If that had not happened, the growth rate would have been sustained. It is important to take note of the fact that for the first time in our history, India grew more than 8 per cent continuously for five years, between 2003-04 and 2007-08. We have never had such a period of growth in any set of time. There is no doubt that reforms have stood and done good to India. Unfortunately even after 25 years, there is no political consensus on economic reforms. And that’s why important reforms are held up even today for political reasons.

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