To the Brink and Back

In December, I finish 3 years working in the banking sector. I spent my teenage years reading books about the history of science. I always had an interest in understanding the reasons for why things are the way they are.

For some time now, I have been looking for some book on the historical facts behind the Indian economy. I have been reading Mint for a year and quite a few of the columnists there made references to the significant events that happened in India in 1991. It was there that my interest in learning about 1991 was piqued.

I first picked up the book by Gurcharan Das, India Unbound. The book, however, turned to look at the consequences of the events of 1991 and had fairly little to offer on the 1991 events themselves, where my interest lay. It was an interview in Mint with the author that got me to this book, To the Brink and Back.

The book is by Congressman, Jairam Ramesh and the book does have a fair amount of a biased narrative. I think Ramesh is quite frank about this. The book is about the political action taken in 1991 by Dr. Narasimha Rao and Dr. Manmohan Singh to take India through a transition period.

The first thing this book taught me was that the reforms was one in a series of reforms measures that had been carried out since 1966. To be sure, there are many books suggested for reading in this book which make quite a handsome list. These measures were seemingly not effective or did not work out. The break from the past that 1991 created seems to be visible more as we look back at it 25 years on with changes still unravelling, as though we opened a Pandora’s box. I did not see many books on the changes that 1991 wrought written by economists and am on the lookout for the same.

The book is one of the first accounts that I have read and Ramesh does a good job of it politically. He has also been promoting the book with the political angle that one of the most revolutionary economic changes that helped India propel into the 21st century was the unshackling of the economy and asks his fellow Congressmen to wear it as a badge. The Congress, though, still requires some unshackling of its own. The book is a good read and I think Ramesh has been quite frank and eloquent in the presentation of his books. I also loved reading his footnotes and annexures which are as good a read as the book itself and hence, don’t give that a miss like you usually do in other books.


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