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History of Indian Reforms

P Chidambaram-A View from the Inside

P Chidambaram is a rare combination of political maturity coupled with intellectual brilliance. He has the capacity to address any issue logically and consistently. His outstanding performance as a Commerce Minister, Finance Minister and Home Minister is a testimony to that. His first love though, remains law.
As Commerce Minister he dismantled various controls over imports and brought down the import duty very drastically. EXIM scrips were introduced by which additional premium was payable to the exporters. India moved towards the reform of exchange rate regime.
He introduced moderate rates of taxation that resulted in a rise of tax-GDP ratio. His term as Finance Minister saw the highest rise in growth rates in the Indian economy.
Chidambaram had the courage to notify Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act. He rationalized the tax administration side by underlining the importance of information technology and introduced the requirement that companies have to file electronically.
He played an important role in introducing VAT. He ensured that tax administration is simple, straightforward and moving towards a system in which the rates are low, base is wider and exemptions are limited. The Direct Tax Code was completely re-written by him to become simple and easy to understand.
Chidambaram is keen on financial inclusion and believes in a banking system that is commercially viable. The big slew of items which began with Bharat Nirman programmes in terms of extending the reach of credit, rural road connectivity, improved access to agriculture and farming, many initiatives in the areas of education and health, all suggest that he was clearly seeking not only high rates of growth but seeking a more egalitarian society.

Montek Singh Ahluwalia - The Growth Maker

A key figure in India’s economic reforms from the early 1980s onwards, Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s fingerprints can be found in policies in every sphere, ranging from economics to education reforms. He has been a driving force in the liberalization programme of the past 20 years or more. Having studied in St Stephen’s, this Oxford-educated economist as a Rhodes Scholar, has spent 11 years with the World Bank in Washington before returning to India in 1979 to work as an economic adviser to the government. After having been adviser to IMF as the first Director of the Independent Evaluation Office, he returned again to become Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission. Importantly, his work has shaped economic policy making in India. Decisions like broadbanding of licenses, deregulation, and several such measures were taken during his tenure as Finance Secretary leading the country on to a path of economic liberalization. His commitment to poverty alleviation and inclusive growth can be found in his early writings as long ago as 1970s and as Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission currently, he has managed to translate this into the country’s Plan process from the 11th Plan onwards. Team Skoch has observed his contributions since 2005 and has had the privilege of interacting with him ever since.

Vijay L Kelkar - India on the Growth Turnpike

In a remarkable, 33 year-long career in public policy, Dr. Vijay Kelkar has been one of the key players in the vanguard of India’s economic reforms, making lasting contributions in shaping the development of the economy to this day. His uniqueness lies in the fact that even after his retirement, both the public and private sectors continue to vie for his talent. Among his early contributions was India’s trade policy, as member secretary of the committee that drew up the roadmap for reform of the policy. From that time to his last responsibility of chairing the 13th Finance Commission, causes espoused by Dr. Kelkar exhibited his deep understanding of and dedication to the forces of growth and development. His core competence, however, remains prices and fiscal reform, where he has made waves through petroleum price reform, tax committee recommendations, the Fiscal Reform and Budget Management Act, and now the far-reaching 13th Finance Commission report.

Sam Pitroda - A Dreamer

For a man who had never even used a telephone till he was 22 years old, Satyanarayan Gangaram Pitroda, better known as Sam Pitroda, is credited with bringing the telecom and IT revolution to India. He left a reasonably successful business in the US to come back to India to serve the country. Through his mantra of indigenous manufacturing, shared access, rural telephony and using the power of young talent, he made the rural telephone exchange and the Public Call Office – PCO - at every nook and corner of India happen. He was the founding father of Centre for Development of Telematics – C-Dot. Competition from C-Dot ensured India getting one of the cheapest costs per phone line from global companies. He laid the foundation of the new telecom policy and brought in modern management practices through technology missions. He was instrumental in helping kick-start software exports from India and providing economies of scale to computer manufacturing in India. He served India at a great personal cost. On behalf of the ordinary people of India, we salute the extraordinary work of Sam Pitroda through the Skoch Challenger Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan

The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) focuses on issues of transparency in public works. Located in the village of Devdungri, near Bhim in Rajsamand district of Rajasthan, MKSS has only a handful of dedicated workers. But that hasn’t hindered its successful campaign for public right to information. It all started with MKSS demanding access to Panchayat records on the plea that that there had to be transparency in the use of taxpayers’ money for public welfare programmes. Over time, a process called ‘social audit’ – connoting comprehensive review of expenditure and asset creation from public work programmes – has been institutionalised. What started as a movement to bring in transparency in the functioning of a Panchayat later snowballed into a national movement and legislation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The MKSS is now working on social audits with the Andhra Pradesh government, and has so far helped recover nearly Rs 7 million. A Skoch team attended one of the social audits in Devdungri recently.

C Rangarajan - The Philosopher King

Dr C Rangarajan is a leading economist of the country, who has played a key role both as an academician and a policy maker. Currently Chairman, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, he was also Chairman of the 12th Finance Commission. He was Governor of Andhra Pradesh between 1997 and 2003.
As Governor, Reserve Bank of India during 1992-97, he was instrumental in steering the country through Balance of Payments crisis. He initiated far reaching reforms in India’s financial sector to make banks competitive and efficient. These included deregulation of interest rates, introduction of prudential norms and credit regulation, shifting to market determined exchange rate system, making the rupee convertible on the current account and the cessation of the automatic monetization of the budget deficit.
As Chairman of the 12th Finance Commission, he brought about a paradigm shift in fiscal federalism, reinforced the imperative of fiscal responsibility for growth and poverty reduction and defined a framework for fiscal adjustment at the centre and in the states.
It was, Dr Rangarajan who introduced computerization in banking system. Despite facing resistance from trade unions, he went ahead and made it mandatory, starting with RBI followed by banks. He also took the bold decision of opening up bank accounts for women Self Help Groups. This was when many said – don’t do it! Today there are more than 2 million Self Help Groups with bank accounts. Due to his commitment and his deep foresight, Dr Rangarajan was recently appointed Chairman of the Committee on Financial Inclusion.
He was a Member of the Planning Commission in 1992. A teacher at heart, Dr Rangarajan was for over a decade and half, Professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad before he took up the position of Deputy Governor at RBI.

Chandu B Bhave

A 1975-batch IAS officer of the Maharashtra Cadre was an executive director in charge of the secondary markets at SEBI, Mr C B Bhave set the markets afire when he managed to persuade all market players to agree to accept the new system of trading in dematerialized shares or debentures. This resulted in setting up of a National Securities Depository Limited or NSDL. Today there are over 7.5 million depositors who have accounts with NSDL, with over 538 billion dollars worth of securities dematted. India has been the fastest to implement paperless trading. With such a track record, it is hardly surprising Mr Bhave’s NSDL has been chosen to implement the Tax Information Network for the Finance Ministry. Mr Bhave is now playing a crucial role in introducing reforms in tax administration.

R H Patil - The Miracle Man of the Markets

Dr Patil has been instrumental in changing the face of the Indian stock markets. Apart from helping to set up the National Stock Exchange that handles more than 10,000 crores a day at transaction costs that are a tenth of what they were a decade back. He helped set up National Securities Depository Limited (NSDL), introducing paperless trading and killing the problem of fake share certificates. Dr Patil also set up the Clearing Corporation of India that handles forex trading that has already brought the costs down by half.


Snow White & The Seven Dwarves - National Stock Exchange


NSE has been credited with setting up one of the robust risk management system – PRISM – that makes it one of its kind. Set up completely with local knowledge and expertise, it remains one of the lowest-cost initiatives of its kind till date. The risk management system has protected customer interest ever since.

Re-engineering Mindsets - National Securities Depository Limited


When in early-2000’s NSDL proposed to introduce paperless transaction of securities, no one believed that this would happen. Today, all the transactions are paperless, securities are dematerialized and the settlements take place in T+1 only. The film captures the process of change and transition.

Reforms in Tax Administration-Income Tax


Changes in the entire income tax administration led by technology has brought transparency into the system. Application for PAN cards can be filed electronically and within seven to ten days the card is received by the applicant. Further OLTAS, has reduced the assessement time from over a fortnight to merely two days.

Reforms in Tax Administration- Customs


The computerization of customs procedure has spread to over 23 locations countrywide where 99% of the documents and declarations for inbound and outbound cargo are filed electronically. The dwell time has reduced from days to a few hours. Custom House Agents do not need to visit the customs office as the duty assessment and payments are all done online. For importers the goods can reach their warehouse within 48 hours of landing and sometime even during the same day. A new risk management system has brought in the system of accredited customers with the help of which the shipments are cleared through a fast track. Importers are saving on demurrage costs and time to market.

Yashwant Sinha - The Swadeshi Reformer


Women in Panchayati Raj


The 73rd Constitutional Amendment provides for 33% reservation for women in Panchayati Raj. At places like Karnataka and Uttaranchal it is found to be more than mandated (almost 40%) where elected women representatives have been dedicatedly involved in carrying out the development agenda – water, electricity and roads. While Surojana Devi at Darkaan in Uttarkashi has solved the drinking water problem in her village by laying a pipeline from a water source using gravity, Anita Negi from Hariyawakala near Dehradoon has built a concrete road in her village. Another, Dodamadamma in Jaipura Village in Mysore Taluk as banned addiction, in addition to electrifying her village.