Swadeshi and Atmanirbhar Bharat: A call for reviving the nation

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By : Rahul Chimurkar

  • The call of river Sindhu

Last week, the Indian social media was flooded with  images of the Indian Army facing off with the Chinese Army, the PLA in Ladakh. Almost immediately as a mass appeal, came two messages by Sonam Wangchuk, the founder of SECMOL, an indigenous educational movement in Ladakh and many other similar ventures. With folded hands he pointed at the Sindhu river flowing next to him and called to fellow Indians for help. He graphically described the ways in which ordinary Ladakhis faced up to China’s bullying on a daily basis. He appealed to fellow Indians to do away with whatever they could of Chinese products. He twinned his message on national consciousness perfectly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal for Atmanirbhar Bharat and Swadeshi.

  • What is Swadeshi

What really is Swadeshi? Is it going back to an autarkic existence in a ‘globalised’ world? Certainly not. Swadeshi, in a nutshell is Swabhiman (self-respect), Swawalabman (self-reliance), Swa-tantrata ((working with own models suited to one’s situation), Samarthya (National Strength- military, diplomatic, economic, will and character), Samruddhi (prosperity without social exploitation and environmental degradation) and Shanti ( peace- mental, social harmony and international).

Therefore, Swadeshi is the right way of development of our country and there is no need to look for some ‘left’ or ‘right’ way of development. India should follow its own path of development as capitalist model of development believes only in economic growth (unidirectional), not Development (multidirectional). The notion of Swadeshi needs to be applied in all sectors of our lives. In education, it means we must develop our indigenous system of education. In politics, swadeshi means decentralization. We need to develop our villages as 70% of our population resides in villages and primarily engaged in agriculture. The share of agriculture is mere 15% in our GDP. Therefore, a lot more investments needs to be done in our agriculture sector to utilise the benefit of ‘comparative advantage’ with India.Swadeshi involves use of locally produced goods as it would give employment to a millions of people. In a nutshell, Swadeshi model of development looks for developing human beings both materially and spiritually, unlike the western model of Development. In this context the Prime-Minister’s call for Atmanirbhar Bharat is a call for self reliance in economic policies and decision making regarding foreign-investments.

  • China and Swadeshi

 At the moment, China rules us in a very deep and strangulating grip. China has established its foothold in almost all the sectors of India. The investments, however, are not being done on physical infrastructures unlike in other countries but rather on the new Indian start-ups like fintech, media, education, e-commerce etc.  Gateway house based in Mumbai in its report on the ‘Chinese investments in India’ found that Chinese tech giants like Alibaba, ByteDance and Tencent have funded around 92 start ups which includes major apps like Paytm, Byju’s, Oyo etc. The funding is so liberal that 18 out of 30 unicorns are Chinese funded. Tiktok has overtaken Youtube with 200mn subscribers. Chinese smartphone manufacturers in India hold almost 66% share in the smartphone market. India will encounter structural and political challenges in achieving a self reliant India. Given the dominance of China’s investments in India, the question arises what could a common citizen do to minimize its dependence on China ?

  • What citizens can do

Rather than being naysayers or defeatist, we as citizens can start boycotting   Chinese goods at an individual level. One can start by deleting apps like Tiktok, Shareit, Camscanner.It would also encourage people to use domestic products, boost domestic manufacturing sectors, eventually creating self sufficiency in the future. India, with its huge market and vast population will become a lucrative destination for companies moving their manufacturing base out of China in the post COVID world. The government should provide flexible norms and rules for diversifying its supply chain and attract companies from the US, Japan, South Korea to establish their manufacturing units in India.

One aspect of this model is observed in the recent announcement of the government for strengthening the MSMEs. The revival of Small and Medium enterprises like textiles, apparels, footwears etc will not only cut down cost of production and import dependence on raw materials for sustaining heavy industries (iron and steel) but also arrest inequality and rising unemployment among the youth. Textiles will provide leverage to draw women in the major stream to harness their productivity.

The pandemic has also reflected the significance of ‘Community’ in our lives.  Friends, family, neighbours, and volunteers are providing lifelines at a time when the invisible hand of the market and the visible hand of the state are proving to be ineffective in tackling this health crisis. About time we foster this collective spirit by contributing more time and resources something which is not possible in the current pursuit of individual goals or interests .We can mitigate the loopholes of Indian economy by adopting and implementing ‘Growth with equity and justice’, one which includes all Indians and make them equal and responsible owners in nation based on equality-liberty-fraternity- justice and humanism.

The emphasis on ‘self-reliance or Atma Nirbharta’ or vocal for local initiatives by Honourable Prime Minister Mr. Modi is the way to go for our nation. This pandemic has given us an opportunity to adopt the bottom-top approach of development based on justice and fairness or in short ‘Swadeshi model of development’.

Author is a scholar of Dr.Ambedkar and his ideas. He teaches in Lakshmibai college, Delhi University.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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