‘Vocal for Local’, India’s new mantra


The positive side of Covid-19 crisis has been the call to promote local products. By pushing and pitching the “Vocal for Local” India has effectively demonstrated that it can withstand and brave the situation with remarkable resilience, asserts Trisha Sharma.

2020 was an extraordinary year in more ways than one. The pandemic sparked off an unprecedented crisis disrupting the lives of billions of Indians. At the risk of jeopardising their own lives, frontline workers put their best foot forward to emerge as heroes in tackling the pandemic and protecting citizens. It could aptly be summed up as unity in diversity as the crisis brought the nation together in myriad ways. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative to strengthen and sustain the nation’s manufacturing sector. And, it grew and how!

During his Independence Day speech, the Prime Minister reiterated India’s vision of ‘Vocal for Local’ and emphasised on the government’s vision for the same.

India, a country of more than a billion people, is probably the only nation that has managed the Covid-19 crisis so effectively despite the constraints of an astronomical population, shrinking healthcare personnel and the lockdown that lasted months. However, it was PM Modi’s timely call for Atmanirbhar Bharat and the push for ‘Vocal for Local’ that ensured livelihood and supplies for Indians throughout the lockdown.

Independent India’s new slogan

The call for ‘Vocal for Local’ from Red Fort on India’s 74th Independence Day was a moment in history as the nation was in sync with the leader as one. Prime Minister Modi spoke of the country’s resolve to become self-reliant and explained how large companies from around the world are finding India a promising ground for business and enterprise and turning towards India in big numbers. He said, “We have to move forward with the mantra of ‘Make for the world’ along with ‘Make in India’.”

And, the nation realised the importance of being ‘Vocal for Local’ especially after the Covid-19 crisis that shook the foundation of the strongest regimes and establishments. When the novel Corona virus was ravaging nations across the world, India resolved to self-reliance and pledged to be ‘Vocal for Local’. Prime Minister Modi explained it well when he said, “This dream is turning into a pledge. Atmanirbhar Bharat has become a ‘mantra’ for the 130 crore Indians today. I am confident of the abilities, confidence and potential of my fellow Indians. Once we decide to do something, we do not rest until we achieve that goal.”
India epitomises ‘Vocal for Local’

It was only a few months ago that India was importing PPE kits, ventilators and N-95 masks. It was an extremely challenging time for the country when in times of a health crisis; some of the most essential items needed to combat the infection were in short supply. The Indian government took it as an opportunity to make the country self-reliant.

Within a span of a couple of months, India became self-sufficient in the production of N-95 masks and PPE kits: Production, in India was scaled up to such an extent that she even started exporting these essential items of healthcare to other countries too. It was a tremendous feat given the global competitiveness of the sector and the challenges involved in achieving the desired goal. And quite graciously, the Prime Minister gave all credit to the crores of Indians who worked together to find a solution to a grave situation. The ‘Vocal for Local’ movement is urging Indian to develop a ‘Vocal for Local’ mindset in buying and all things related. The idea is to appreciate local products and encourage and promote local products so they get the right opportunity and environment for development and commerce.

“Indians are an enterprising community. The ‘Vocal for Local’ initiative has given just the right impetus to promote and sustain local economies and cottage industries. I am so happy and am sure it will affect people in going local, sooner than later,” feels Mumbai-based shop-owner Bhavin Joshi. “This push will encourage many people to make and sell things in local markets and will boost trade and commerce.”

The constant efforts by the current government and the policies that they have implemented are to promote locally-made products and create markets for the same. It started with the Make in India movement that has matured into the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative. It’s no surprise that last year India witnessed a record 18 per cent increase in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

These developments indicate that the world is showing confidence in India and want to promote trade and commerce ties with the country. The government is working on framing the right policies, stabilising the political scenario and strengthening the foundation of the country’s economy to further the initiatives.

Message is loud and clear

In late October, during his monthly radio programme Mann ki Baat, PM Modi urged the citizens to go ‘Vocal for Local’. He said, “When you go shopping, do remember our resolve of ‘Vocal for Local’. While purchasing items from the market, we have to accord priority to local products.” India’s heritage is a product in itself. For example, Khadi that was once considered old-fashioned has gained popularity in recent times and has found a prominent place in the fashion industry. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Khadi again gained popularity when self-help groups (SHG) and similar entities started making Khadi masks at several locations in the country.

“We were really impressed with the ‘Vocal for Local’ initiative and realised how important it is to make and buy local products and be self-reliant. So we started making Khadi masks and there is a huge demand for these masks now, even in urban set-ups,” offers Delhi-based Malati Devi who supervises work of a few SHGs in the area.

In fact, Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) supplied 60,000 high quality Khadi cotton face masks for school children in Arunachal Pradesh as the schools were reopening for the first time after the lockdown in November 2020.

Festivals too promoted ‘Vocal for Local’

Diwali was different this year and it was not just because of the Covid-19 crisis. After months of lockdown gloom people were just waiting for a reason to celebrate and Diwali was just the right occasion. Additionally, the ‘Vocal for Local ‘mantra had caught on well and people had realised the importance of promoting and buying local products.

“I am all for ‘local for Diwali’ just like our PM said and I even bought all local products this festival season. I think it’s our collective responsibility to promote local make items to boost the economy that took a hit during the pandemic,” offers Panjim-based social worker Shweta Malvankar.

The ‘Vocal for Local’ mantra is striking a familiar chord with every Indian today. Diwali was just a glimpse of how India is embracing the new mantra. Indians went overboard buying local products and wares with a new-found pride. Indians are now talking about local products, promoting them, spreading the message and are being part of the initiative. This is encouraging local makers and producers too who are now confident that there is a market for their wares that won’t be affected by ‘competitive’ foreign products.

This time around, in Diwali, surveys revealed that almost three-fourth of Indians profiled purchased only Indian goods giving their Chinese counterparts the go-by. Nationalism had assumed newer, brighter colours now.

People are identifying with the cause and adopting a more proactive role in the entire process.India is changing swiftly, for the better and…for good!

Trisha Sharma

Trisha Sharma is a media 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