Steering 1.3 billion Indians ahead


With the country’s economy taking a beating along with its attendant setbacks in the wake of Covid 19 crisis, the Prime Minister has heralded a reversal by issuing the call for Atmanirbhar Bharat. The reforms rolled out with economic stimuli will go a long way in making India self-reliant, feels Gauravi Patel.

The fear of the Covid-19 pandemic and its adverse economic impact was palpable among Indians. Plummeting economy triggered by the lockdown as also the disrupted supply chains were the main cause for concern in households. Reducing sources of income generation, loss of jobs, health crises and rumours of shortage of food and other essential supplies were rampant triggering panic and fear among Indians.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on 12 May 2020 brought much-needed relief to the citizens. He assured them that the country is well stocked in terms of food grains and other supplies and advised them to stay safe and keep moving forward. He also announced a special economic package and gave a clarion call for Atmanirbhar Bharat – a milestone in the journey of a new self-reliant India!

The call out for Atmanirbhar Bharat or self-reliant India was a turning point in India’s success story in handling the Covid-19 crisis. The package along with previous announcements by the government during the crisis and decisions taken by RBI was to the tune of Rs 20 lakh crore — equivalent to almost 10 per cent of India’s GDP. PM Modi emphasised the package would provide a much-needed boost towards achieving Atmanirbhar Bharat. The economic crisis triggered by the 2020 novel coronavirus gave birth to the Atmanirbhar Bharat Mission.

The elements of Atmanirbhar Bharat

The Atmanirbhar Bharat package focussed on land, labour, liquidity and laws. The idea was that it will cater to various sections and sectors such as labourers, cottage industry, MSMEs, industries, the middle class, etc. It was time for the country to embrace bold reforms to become self-reliant and to negate the impact of the Covid-19 crisis in the future.

The reforms that were rolled out with the announcement of this package were path-breaking. These included simple and clear laws, supply chain reforms for agriculture, capable human resource, rational tax system and a strong financial system. The aim of the reforms was to promote business, attract investment and further strengthen the ‘Make in India’ initiative that was launched in September 2014.

The Atmanirbhar Bharat concept has been conceived to improve efficiency in various sectors, ensure quality and prepare India for the competitive global supply chain. The Covid-19 crisis wreaked havoc but also taught the country that it is important and critical to protect and promote local manufacturing, local markets and strengthen local supply chains.

To achieve self-reliance, India must empower labourers, migrants and the poor from organised and unorganised sectors both and the current government reforms are taking the country in that direction.

Covid-19 crisis bred new opportunity

The global supply chains were badly hit due to the lockdown in several countries and the compromised transportation channels. It was then that India’s domestic demands were met ‘locally’, and the nation realised the importance of a local economy, manufacturing and supply chain. To meet the demands of the 21st century India, the only way is to become self-reliant.

India’s self-reliance in times of the Covid-19 crisis is not complete without the mention of how a country that was importing medical kits and health care essentials before the lockdown, increased local production to such an extent that not only were all domestic demands met but India also started exporting the same to other nations: Case in point being, the production of PPE kits N-95 masks, whose production in India went up from being almost negligible to 2 lakh each, on a daily basis, during the lockdown.

Defining a self-reliant India

During his announcement, Prime Minister Modi observed that in the globalised world, the definition of self-reliance has changed. It is not about being self-centred but being progressive and contributing to the progress of the world as well.

He spoke about the devastating earthquake in Kutch that brought the region to its knees and recalled the grit and determination of the people that revived the state. He invoked the resolve and determination of the people in Kutch and said ‘similar to keep determination is needed to make the country self-reliant.’ A self-reliant India will also need to strengthen all stakeholders in the supply chain to increase and to fulfil demand.

A self-reliant India will stand on five pillars: Economy which brings in quantum jump and not incremental change; Infrastructure which should become the identity of India; System based on 21st century technology driven arrangements; Vibrant Demography which is our source of energy for a self-reliant India and Demand whereby the strength of our demand and supply chain should be utilised to full capacity.

Need for collective efforts

A goal of such proportions can only be achieved with the collective efforts of all segments of the society. PM Modi appealed to spiritual leaders of the country to help popularise the government’s initiative of ‘Vocal for Local’ and to campaign for the Atmanirbhar Bharat Mission. He urged the leaders to promote the mission in their preaching and interactions with their followers across the nation. Consequently, several spiritual leaders such as Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Baba Ramdev, Swami Awadheshanand and Devaki Nandan Thakur came out in support of PM Modi’s call and pledged the same.

A statement read: “Sentiment of support and appreciation for the call for Atmanirbhar Bharat resonates through the messages of the spiritual leaders. They are not only supporting the call on a personal level but are offering to coordinate the response of the sant samaj, calling upon their supporters to adopt the ideals of ‘Vocal for Local’ also they are pledging their infrastructure and resources to the cause.”

And, the support is pouring in from all segments of the society. Youngsters are creating apps and promoting the concept through word of mouth, reaffirming their support to the mission and to nation building. Many people are actively embracing local products of daily use to contribute to the initiative.

Business-owners, entrepreneurs, industrialists and manufacturers are also making sure they promote and support local manufacturing processes, products and local supply chains to build a robust local economy that is completely self-reliant and self-sufficient. The Covid-19 crisis was an eye-opener as global market chains crashed and disrupted global supply chains on a massive scale.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced several stimulus packages throughout the lockdown as part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Mission. The third tranche of the Atmanirbhar Bharat package announced by the minister in November 2020 has some schemes that are time-bound while others with a medium-term focus. The package also has a multi-sector focus across the labour market, stressed sectors, social welfare, manufacturing, housing, infrastructure, exports and agriculture.

The five phases of Atmanirbhar Bharat are: Phase 1 focussing on businesses including MSMEs; Phase 2 focussing on the poor including migrants and farmers; Phase 3 focussing on agriculture; Phase 4 focussing on new horizons of growth and Phase 5 focussing on government reforms and enablers.

Reiterating the importance of ‘vocal for local’ PM Modi requested just like India’s freedom struggle, the country can attain ‘Atmanirbharta’ (self-reliance). It is the best way to support the country by supporting the local economy!

Nikita Shastri

Nikita Shastri is a researcher with The History and Heritage Project – a DraftCraft International Initiative to document details, analyse facts and plug lacunae generated by oversight or to further national or foreign agenda in History and Heritage Across India and Beyond Borders