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Aatmanirbhar Bharat different from Nehru’s model: SJM 

Amid the laptop import restriction debate, a new book edited by Dr. Ashwani Mahajan (National Co-convenor, SJM) has argued that the Modi dispensation’s ‘aatmanirbharta’ approach is radically different from the Nehruvian approach which slowed down growth. 

He argues that while many feared that the current government’s aatmanirbharta move of 2020 would be a return to the Nehruvian era license raj, it is now clear that the former is strategically positioned and clearly thought out. 

He holds that while the Nehruvian vision aimed at ‘self reliance through restrictive measures’ constraining the private sector and ‘strangulating’ R&D and slowing growth, the Modi government‘s Mission ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ looks at encouraging domestic efficiency along with protection from unfair practices. 

“It’s all about bringing efficiency and competitiveness. It is a policy aimed at producing things which are currently being imported, and in the process building the capacity to produce for the world”, Mahajanwrites. 

“Low rate of growth, caused by these restrictive policies, was mischievously termed as ‘Hindu Rate of Growth’, which should be termed as ‘Nehruvian Rate of Growth’”, Mahajan writes on the Nehruvian self reliance model, in an introduction to the book ‘Aatmanirbhar-A Swadeshi paradigm’. 

Mohan Bhagwat in a foreword to the book has called for a ‘Bhartiya vision’ on self reliance centric development to replace the ‘materalistaic, fragmentary and consumerist approach’ of the western discourse on progress.

The book is a compilation of 18 essays on Aatmanirbhar Bharat from the likes of economist Prof Ashok Kumar Lahiri to Dr V Anantha Nageswaran, Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India, 15th Finance Commission Chairperson N K Singh, Bibek Debroy, Chairman of the PM’s Economic Advisory Council, Members PM-EAC Sanjeev Sanyal and Shamika Ravi and former Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar among others. 

The Director General of Research & Information Systems (RIS) for Developing Countries, Sachin Chaturvedi holds that the current approach is distinctive as it also protects industry from unfair competition while using a ‘judicious mix of tariff and non-tariff measures’ compliant with signing of Free Trade Agreements. 

Ashima Goyal, professor emeritus of Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research agrees and terms the Modi government’s self reliance model as ‘export competition’ which nudges manufacturing to compete internationally but also protects from unfair competition so that economies of scale can develop domestically.

Ashok Lahiri, on the other hand, has pointed to the ‘root causes of lack of competitiveness’ of Indian industry that need to be addressed to achieve the goals of Aatmanirbha Bharat- lack of logistical infrastructure, high cost of power subsidy for agriculture and households, land acquisition problems, high railway freight cost, inflexibilities in labour markets and absence of scale economies. 

Shamika Ravi, member of the PM-EAC has held that the new aatmanitrbhar bharat approach is not autarky and while market efficiency and privatization should be encouraged, sufficient safeguards and social safety nets must be ensured to prevent concentration of wealth and perpetuation of inequality. She calls for greater self-reliance in food, energy and defence sectors and the need to address domestic development issues. 

Rajiv Kumar calls for self-reliance in non-fossil energy to reduce dependence on imported oil while Prof Abhijit Das of Centre for WTO Studies the new approach is about ‘using international trade strategically for securing its objectives’. 

He also cautions on certain ‘onerous obligations’ in FTAs of Canada and EU that may be detrimental to India’s resolve for self reliance.             


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