Making India Self-reliant


Atmanirbhar mission cannot succeed without government’s eternal vigilance

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been announcing new strategies and plans and amending old laws or making new laws ostensibly to introduce reforms in various sectors in order to lift up the economy from the slough of despondency it has fallen into owing to the disastrous consequences of the raging coronavirus pandemic. One of his most talked-about strategies was the Atmanirbhar Bharat mission to make India self-reliant which he announced on May 12. Financial packages to boost the economy were announced. India is expected to pump in 10 percent of its GDP to achieve the goals. The underlying thinking of the government clearly is that the coronavirus is not going to go away soon and therefore it was necessary to open up the economy and keep supporting it with reforms, laws, financial packages, missions and plans. The other nations too have opened up their economies. The policy adopted by them is that there is enforcement of safety norms in workplaces, but the operations have to go on because if that does not happen, businesses will close down, crippling the economy and causing more unemployment. Already unemployment is at an unprecedented level in the country.

With the radical reforms, which seek to free investors, promoters and operators of businesses from many cumbersome and fettering rules and regulations, India’s ranking in ease of doing business jumped from 142nd to 63rd position. With over Rs 20 lakh crore expected to be pumped in over the year, India can surely see progress towards self-reliance and better economy. However, much will depend on how the mission is taken forward. It is for the central and state governments to ensure that procedures for obtaining permissions, licences and other approvals were simplified and delivered within specified time. India has suffered a lot in the past because of delays in getting permissions as a result of which projects failed to take off in time and the promoters had to incur additional expenses due to cost escalation. The pandemic situation offers a unique opportunity for the central and state governments as well as business organisations to apply and get approvals for projects online. The scope for corrupt practices would be minimal with online applications and decisions, as there would be no person to person contacts.

There were many who took advantage of the announcements of Atmanirbhar Bharat made by the Centre in achieving self-reliance in some fields. Till March India had zero production of personal protection equipment, which had to be imported from other nations, to deal with the rising coronavirus cases. Now over 2 lakh PPEs are being produced daily and the production is increasing on a daily basis. The automobile sector, which saw demand for their products diminish during the lockdown, collaborated with other agencies to make life-saving ventilators. There have also been instances of lakhs of people using the new opportunities to jump the bandwagon to make India self-reliant and change their destiny towards a better living. This has helped not only foster self-reliance but also save foreign exchange. The successes in a few fields can be replicated in other fields. What is required is the push that the officials should give to the entrepreneurs and guide them towards success.

While steps have been taken to change the roadmap to deal with the economic setbacks, much will depend as to how the governments sustain the plans announced by Modi. There have been some successes but it is too early to judge whether the Atmanirbhar mission would transform all sectors. The unscrupulous might take advantage of the benefits of the mission and only brand semi-finished or finished unbranded products from other countries. Self-reliance is not a new concept. It was pursued by the Nehru government, the Shastri government and all the succeeding governments at the Centre, no matter what political hues. Success in self-reliance can come in all sectors if the mission is taken forward with proper vigilance and guidance. The aberrations, follies and shortcomings in the mission must be rectified in the quickest possible time to make it a success. Ease of doing business is one of the key pillars of the mission which, if successful, can make India a major production house.