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Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan and Further

Prime Minister announced ‘Make in India’ initiative on 25th Sept. 2014 and followed it up with Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan 5 years later. This needs to be further followed up by a clear adherence to Swadeshi. — Ravindra Mahajan


Launching Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (ABA)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a call for Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan or Self-Reliant India Movement on 12th May 2020 through his televised address to the nation. He outlined: FIVE PILLARS OF ATMANIRBHAR BHARAT as – 1. Economy, 2. Infrastructure, 3. System, 4. Vibrant Demography and 5. Demand.

He also announced Special economic and comprehensive package of Rs 20 lakh crores - equivalent to 10% of India’s GDP. The package was to cater to various sections including cottage industry, MSMEs, labourers, middle class, industries, among others.

Bold reforms were promised across sectors to drive the country's push towards selfreliance. PM also appealed that “It is time to become vocal for our local products and make them global.”

Good Follow up actions

Government quickly followed up the announcement of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (ABA) with several actions.

1.    Finance Minister put out details of major actions under ABA. Fifth and final tranche of the economic stimulus package under ABA was announced on 17.5.2020.

2.    Restrictions were put on investment from neighbouring countries (mainly China).

3.    On 23.6.2020 the government procurement portal GeM made it mandatory for sellers to mention 'country of origin' on products they wish to sell through the platform.

4.    On 30.6.2020 government announced gearing up to place tighter restrictions on the import of 371 items - ranging from toys and plastic goods to sports items, and furniture - which are worth $127 billion.

5.    Mandatory licensing norms are being put in place for vast segments of India’s imports that have not yet been properly categorized and remain immune to policy measures. Through the move, the commerce ministry plans to put some restrictions on imports costing around Rs 4 trillion, primarily from China.

6.    Government reiterated its intention that non-strategic PSUs will be privatized.

7.    PM unequivocally stood for the positive and essential role of private enterprise in national development. Probably this was so assertively underlined by a PM for the first time after independence.

Right move boosting National Confidence

This initiative of ABA was hailed by the countrymen particularly when PM mentioned – “Our dream is Atmanirbhar Bharat’, “World progress is part and parcel of Bharat’s progress”, “Our medicines proved crucial at the world stage in the life and struggle during pandemic’, “International Solar Alliance and International Yoga Day is the gift of Bharat to the world”.

Such a move was long overdue and it certainly gave a boost to the national confidence for strengthening and promoting local industry and business. This also can also prove to a motivating force for the people at large in the country and particularly for budding entrepreneurs and innovators.

Some weak links in ABA

While the ABA has been received enthusiastically, it falls short on full details like definition of self-reliance, the targets, the roadmap, the monitoring system etc.

Defining self-reliance

ABA does not clearly define ‘self-reliance’. Self-reliance is the social and economic ability of an individual, a household, a community or a nation to meet essential needs (including protection, food, water, shelter, safety, health and education) in a sustainable manner and with dignity.

We should also distinguish between ‘self-reliance’ and ‘self-sufficiency’. Selfsufficiency means manufacturing all items within the country, almost no imports. Selfreliance refers to production of vital goods and services like food grains, defence equipment, energy, IT etc. within country from security, employment & development point of view while non-crucial items can be traded with other countries based on mutual benefits. To practice self-sufficiency in the present times is difficult and it is not necessary.

Targets of self-reliance their review not clear

The targets and timeline have not been clearly spelled out. Government should also have a monitoring mechanism for this initiative and it should put out annual reviews by experts about the implementation, difficulties faced and the course correction.

A roadmap of ABA has not been put out. But few things are worrisome like stress on urbanization, active promotion of foreign investment, pursuing of same old development paradigm characterized by high energy intensity, automation at the cost of employment, neglect of genuine decentralization etc.

Pursuit of Self-Reliance

Every country in the world actively pursues national self-reliance without which it cannot be truly independent and stand up to the blackmail of rogue nations and pressure of imperialistic ones through their TNCs.

Need for self-reliance

1.    Swapan Dasgupta in his article (Times of India dated 17.5.2020) succinctly underlines the need for ‘atmanirbharta’, “In an increasingly selfish world, self-reliance is the only route for India…. America has eschewed its global role; Europe is pulling in conflicting directions; and China’s power is laced with menacing connotations. The vision of a globalized world has crashed…. In such a situation, there is no alternative to India bolstering its own capacity and aiming for maximum self-reliance. This is not a prescription for insularity, but a process of pragmatic adjustment based on the conviction that India’s future cannot be based on either someone else’s benevolence or abject subordination.”

2. National sovereignty can be in danger without self-reliance.

3. Self-reliance is also must for giving full scope to indigenous talent.

4. Lack of atmanirbharata has prevented Bharat from realizing its full potential.

Damage done by ignoring self-reliance

Ignoring atmanirbharata and following Western recommended paradigm that was accepted by a section of anglicized ruling and economist elite, has slowly put our economy under foreign grip. See below-mentioned news items (the latest situation may be grimmer):

–    (ET 1.4.2015, pp11) As per RBI at the end of Dec.2014 the value of foreign-owned assets in India was $847bn (Rs 52,51,400 crore). (The foreign assets in India in 1990 were Rs 5,800 crore, Indian GDP is around $1,400 bn)
–   (ET 13.5.2015, P.5) In a survey “India’s Most Exciting Brands – 2015” carried out by Nielsen there are only two Indian brands Airtel (no.4) and Reliance (no.14) in the top 20. All others are foreign brands. (Indian mind-space colonized by foreign brands)
–    (TOI 16.5.2015, p.24) FII ownership touched a new high during the quarter ending March 2015. FII holding (including ADRs and GDRs) reached 25.3% ($343bn) in BSE 200 companies. FII plus foreign promoters holding reached 35% (valued at $ 470bn). (To this we must further add foreign holdings held via mutual funds etc.)

Resolute Pursuit of Atmanirbharata Essential

The real challenge for proceeding on the path of atmamnirbharata is internal. Typical bogeys like isolationism, cronyism, likely shortages, quality, lack of openness etc. will be vehemently raised by foreign inspired and supported section in bureaucracy, trade, economists and media.

It is important, at the very onset, to clarify that this idea of self-reliance is not about a return to mindless import substitution, isolationism nor a return to licence-permit raj and inspector raj of the socialist era. The negativism mentioned earlier has to be overcome patiently through better performance of economy in holistic terms.

Action for a follow up of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan

Government is following up with actions as it deems fit to further ABA. The following important actions need to be taken by government:

1.    Bharatiya Talent and World Knowledge: Do not appoint economists, technologists and advisers from foreign universities and organizations whose primary commitment is to their job in a foreign country. This should be strictly followed even if the persons are with Bharatiya origin. If must, we should get their advice on a particular aspect on payment basis. Talent hunt within the country and knowledge hunt all over world should be the approach.

2. Antyoday: The mission of antyoday should be pursued with vigour with a final view of ending the need for antyoday by empowering the disadvantaged sections of the society as well as creating a social attitude of attending to it locally. The mission should in no way promote dependence syndrome in the receivers of help. We should always stress on purushaarthee samaj i.e. self-sustenance and advancement through own efforts. Freebie culture should not be promoted.

3. Non-economic motivations: Utilize devotion to Param vaibhav (Pinnacle of Glory) of Bharatmata as well as pursuit of Poornatva (perfection) inherent in Bharatiy Culture. In his ‘Open secret of economic growth’ David McCord Wright had observed: “The fundamental factors making for economic growth are non-economic and non-materialistic in character. It is the spirit itself that builds the body.”

4. Appropriate Technology Policy: Policy to use ‘most appropriate technology’ after samagra (holistic) and ekatma (integral) review – be it the latest or traditional or tailored one or specially developed technology or any judicious combination of them. A ‘Future Technology Commission’ should be established for mapping out the future path.

5. Sampoorna Rojgaar: Government should take a bold and unprecedented step to decide that Sampoorna Rojgar is the prime aim in economic field. Employment generation should not be a by-product of economic growth but must be a central aim. (THIS IS POSSIBLE ref. SAMPOORN ROJGAR Ed.Rajendra Koppikar, prepared by Ekatma Prabodh Mandal, Mumbai)

6. Household industries: Small manufacturing or processing units primarily owned and operated by a family with substantial fund and time participation need to be promoted by shifting the manufacturing activity carried out in medium and large manufacturing industries to the household industries, wherever feasible. With advancement in manufacturing including nano-tech, 3D printing, IT advance etc., this can be done.

Marching towards ‘Swadeshi’

It appears that all functionaries of the central government are avoiding mention of word ‘swadeshi’ in deference to the sensitivities of foreign investors and to preclude or minimize criticism about ABA. Such a precaution is uncalled for. No country upholding national interest can go away from Swadeshi in one form or the other. In such an important matter to be assertive is a national imperative. We should be clear that foreigners cannot carry out national development for us or make us atmanirmabhar or advance us on Swadeshi ethos. That is primarily the responsibility of Bharatiyas alone.

The word ‘atmanirbharata’ or self-reliance has normative content that has its philosophical roots both in the nationalist as well as the moral economy suggested by Lokmanya Tilak, Mahatama Gandhi and others. Aatmanirbharata or self-Reliance is as much an old idea as it is new because it is a dynamic concept.

Swadeshi is a wider concept which spans all walks of national life and for economy it, inter alia, includes atmanirbharata, decentralization, promoting local raw materials, local talent, local designs, local innovations, local management and ownership, using world knowledge by indigenizing it, not only sustainable production but sustainable consumption approach, eco-friendliness, utilizing non-economic motivations etc.

Prime Minister announced ‘Make in India’ initiative on 25th Sept. 2014 and followed it up with Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan 5 years later. This needs to be further followed up by a clear adherence to Swadeshi. The countrymen eagerly look forward to that day which will substantially expedite our march towards being a respected benign world power. qq

(Ravindra Mahajan, M-9082265728, auraent@gmail.com, written for Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, Mumbai October 2021)

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