Self-reliance of India!

"The state of the world teaches us today that "self-reliant India" is the only path. It is said in our scriptures – Ishapanth." - Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.


India, the world's largest democracy, is one of the oldest civilisations on Earth. It holds a complex past shaped by many different religions, languages, and cultures. Yet, one thing that has remained constant is India's underlying proclivity to be self-reliant across history. Spanning over five thousand years, India's long history is also defined by its resilience in the face of numerous invaders and rulers and other challenges, including recurring colonisation, famine, and wars. Yet, it has maintained its stance of being a thriving economy on the global front while competing continuously with first-world countries since independence. It's the birthplace of the world's greatest philosophical and scientific minds. It gave the world the "zero" and the concept of mindfulness, Yoga, advanced medicine through Ayurveda since the mediaeval ages, the USB, and whatnot!


In the past, India has been able to feed, clothe, and provide education for its population without relying on other nations' help for quite a few decades. From the Taj Mahal to the Rajput forts, it is a land of contrasts and surprises. Yet, the one thing that’s surprised me the most is that despite being one of the fastest growing economies in the world and the seventh largest economy globally, India has lost its path to being self-reliant.


Though we had difficulties with it after we gained freedom, the desire for self-dependence never faded. Self-reliance was one of the three declared objectives of India's fifth Five-Year Plan (1974–1978). Yet, since India did not modernise its tech industry to move up the global tech ladder in the 1970s and 1980s, we saw a significant decline in the actualisation of Nehru's self-reliance paradigm. Under the Bombay Plan, the private sector made minimal effort to revamp quasi-businesses, contenting itself with near-monopoly arrangements in a sheltered market. Thus, India's industrial progression was stagnant due to its low production efficiency, subpar manufacturing, and outdated technologies.


The worst, however, happened when India began its liberalisation, privatisation, and globalisation initiatives at the beginning of the new millennium. This was the critical period when the idea of our nation's independence was contested. It stemmed from an idea that since cutting-edge technology could be easily purchased from any source at a cheaper rate, doing so would enable us to help our economy to meet the rigours of the changing marketplace. This was when the third industrial revolution had already seen fruition. Therefore, neither proper authority over the production and dissemination of products nor a shift to new technical paths was attempted. Most Indian private enterprises withdrew into technology imports or partnerships when multinational businesses entered the market.


Yet, not all hope is lost. Over the years, we have had governments that believe in making India self-reliant again. Even in the face of economic turmoil presented by the roaring pandemic, the Indian economy has been able to withstand the storm and come out stronger than before. Still, the focal point of it lately, I believe, has been the "Make in India" and initiatives like "Atma Nirbhar Bharat" that are taking us back to our roots and ethos of leveraging the vibrancy of this mammoth nation to sustain a notion of self-sufficiency.


To help India reach its full potential, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's concept of self-reliance calls for a support and facilitation strategy rather than an isolationist or protectionist one. The "Swadeshi Struggle," which began in 1905 as a component of the Indian independence movement, has often been compared to the initiative because it was founded following COVID-19. The Swadeshi Movement, led by Mahatma Gandhi, was intended to advance Indian nationalism at the time while also establishing and expanding a basis of local manufacturing. The Indian government is now working to realise this goal, founded on the straightforward concept of attaining self-sufficiency and self-reliance through various policy measures. Similarly, under Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, India's White and Green Revolutions helped the country achieve self-sufficiency. It sought to establish the nation as a global leader in producing numerous agricultural goods, including milk and tea.


The New India we live in today is defined by the new generation of Indians who have successfully navigated their way through the country's hypercompetitive economy. They’re the young entrepreneurs who have transformed the country's economy and society and helped it compete with global giants by focusing on being "vocal for local." But when you look closer, you realise that these Indians are not a homogenous group. They come from diverse backgrounds, and that's where the beauty of it all lies. To undo the damage of the past, we need to educate the masses on the need to support local businesses as the focal point of changing our purchasing patterns.


The reason it's the ideal time for Indians to wake up and bolster their endeavours in the direction of self-reliance stems from the fact that even amid a pandemic, Indian enterprises continue to get significant capital funding, giving the Indian economic environment an edge over many global competitors. The goal is to expand local brands and market them internationally rather than restricting expansion to a single country. The emphasis is on both strengthening export activity and raising local consumption. Instead of competing for space in the economy, the opportunities on the market are the selling point. Aatma Nibhar Bharat truly refers to the ability of our country to create all of the goods it requires domestically and eventually contributes more to the world's marketplace by exporting the remainder.


The world is interconnected, with trade and travel between countries increasing daily. It's crucial for us to be self-sufficient to be liberated from our existing over-reliance on other developed countries and industries. If we can achieve this, it’ll give India a massive global competitive edge and the sustained ability to make decisions based on our own needs instead of following other superpowers' decisions. This is one way that India would be able to become more sovereign in the future, which is nonetheless a desirable goal.


Moreover, India should be self-sufficient in order to remain economically sound. When a country imports a product, it takes money away from its economy as it would not have imported the product had it had the capacity to manufacture it. This can lead to inflation and a drop in the country's economy. Similarly, most countries have a trade deficit as they’re importing more goods and services than they are exporting, which has several negative consequences. India is no exception as the Rupee has weakened against the Dollar, and a spiral of trade deficit is presently plaguing our country. The ultimate consequence would be that our wealth will flow out because we are import-dependent and it’ll create a mammoth gap in the country's economy.


Another reason why self-sufficiency and self-reliance are crucial for India is that on our way to converting ourselves from a developing to a developed economy, we cannot stay at the mercy of existing superpowers. Self-reliance does not mean saying no to trade, but blind dependence on them can prove to be catastrophic. For example, if tomorrow, owing to our age-old tribulations with Pakistan, the USA decided to take a step back on our oil imports, a massive surge of instantaneous imbalance in our industries would see fruition. Similarly, as seen in the latest war between Ukraine and Russia, the country with a more substantial degree of self-reliance is comparatively less affected by global sanctions. Hence, to not have to succumb to our dependence on imports and the whims and wishes of how other nations choose to leverage our dependence on them, we must work our way towards becoming self-reliant to the maximum extent possible.


The government of India has thus offered rescue schemes and development aid to key industries to improve financial flexibility on the domestic commercial front to increase the effectiveness of the project for establishing a self-reliant India. During the lockdown, our Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, unveiled a macroeconomic proposal, later known as the Atma Nirbhar Bharat campaign, with a cumulative estimated value of US$283.73 billion, or around 10% of India's GDP.


The five facets that this need-of-the-hour scheme focuses on revamping include —the economy, infrastructure, system, vibrant demography, and demand. Through this plan, the current government has chosen to concentrate primarily on specific areas like liquidity, legislation, and land and offer all the ideal circumstances for the firm to flourish as it will invariably help strengthen India's self-sufficiency.


A ray of optimism for progressing on the right path could be seen as we neared the historic conclusion of 75 years of Independence and fervently celebrated "Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav." It sprang from the fact that India's push for self-reliance ensured the manufacturing of two lakh PPE kits and two lakh N95 masks per day within two months of a severe dearth of medical supplies. This was the course of events in a nation that couldn't manufacture PPE kits, N-95 masks, and other essential gear in our earlier battle against Covid-19.


"Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav" again shares a solid synergy with our past as its formal voyage began on March 12, 2021, in Sabarmati Ashram, a location closely linked with Gandhi. This year, the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav is devoted entirely to the Indians who have played a significant role in the country's long developmental quest and would help realise Prime Minister Modi's aspiration of enacting India 2.0, which the ethos of Atma Nirbhar Bharat would accelerate.


To sum up, a nation may develop economically and modernise itself by leveraging its own resources or importing resources from abroad. Avoiding importing items that can be produced domestically is a sign of self-reliance. A rising nation like India should strive to achieve "Atma Nirbharta" to lessen its reliance on imports, which might expose us to foreign influence over our economic policies and ultimately result in losing our economic sovereignty. Additionally, imports kill the fledgling indigenous businesses and deplete the limited foreign reserves that are crucial for any economy that is still emerging or undeveloped. As a result, becoming self-reliant is seen as a key goal for India to prevent yielding to Western nations.

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