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Amidst, The pandemic which is hanging with all kind of uncertainties and speculation but with a firm hope to come out from this unexpected spell of hitting the world economies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Ji addressed the nation on 12 May 2020 and declared to fight the pandemic coupled with the opportunity to be self-reliant. Thus, he has marked the national goal to become self-reliant with a clear intent to speed up the economic development of the country so that the living standard of the people would improve, further to create a community of 130 million Indians that appreciate their cultural heritage and would be capable of creating new things with a strong feeling for modern civilisation. The move was set to build a generation that will be self-reliant, and participate with their head high in worldwide affairs. We have to show to the World how well we can cope with and overcome a crisis like the unprecedented one brought on by the pandemic and lockdown.


In the golden era of Hindustan, it was Independent, Self-Sufficient and Self-Reliant. The Hindustan was ruled through the villages, and all the villages were self-sufficient to its needs. Self-sufficient village economy refers to such kind of situation in which the village is equipped with all sort of facilities required by the people within it. It doesn’t depend upon neighbouring villages or other places for its needs. At the time of formation of a village, the representatives of a community were called and offered the basic infrastructure to his disposal to serve the villages. The occupations were Lohar, Barai (carpenter), Dhobi (washerman) , Nai (barber), Teli, Kumhar (Poter) Sunar ( goldsmith) Mallah ( Boatman) Jullah ( Weaver) Tarkhans, Bhishti ( Waterman) , Mochi, Mirasis, Churas, Bajigar, Sansis etc. The self-reliant society was the foundation of the self-reliant village. Throughout the historical ages, Indian village remained a unique and remarkable socio-economic organisation. From time immoral, it has assumed a stable character of its own, with its peculiar but distinct characteristics. Till the introduction of the British rule, the village remained the basis of the rural society and economy (Desai, 1948). Interrelating with economic sense, the village has been termed the village community of its sources and resources. The villages enjoyed a self-contained and self-sufficing existence. Our villages were little republics, having nearly everything they can want within themselves. “The activities of the villages were regulated, as far as possible, a self-propelled and self-dependent economic unit (Moreland, 1968).

Hence the needs of the village community were satisfied either within the village or by the neighbouring villages. The necessities were Food, Clothing, Vaidh, Tools, Carpentry etc. The majority of members of the typical village community were, therefore apparent, cultivators and weavers. The additional needs, such as farming implements and utensils, were provided by the smith. The potter made pots, and the goldsmith, ornaments. These craftsmen or merchants could meet the simple needs of the villager. The small trader supplied the other goods which the village did not produce. Economic transactions within the village were conducted lucidly and logically. Traditionally, the cultivator purchased his cloth, oil or pot by paying in grain. Other professional groups of the society were also paid a fixed annual share of grain. This procedure of mutual exchange has been termed as a barter system. Even the salary to the local village school teacher was paid in goods at a particular festival like Dashhera. None of the jobs was there where the residents were required to see outside from their village window. Thus, the people of the village with such type of economy consume food made from the crop grown in their village, wear clothes that are spun in the mills of local areas.

It was only in the British era that money generally began to replace the barter system. But in the traditional village economy money served the purpose of wealth, either in the shape of gold and silver (Bose, 1993; Charles worth, 1982). Whatever any particular village community could not produce it, the adjacent village or villages could supply and, thus, the villages remained interdependent to meet mutual needs. If the needs could not be satisfied within the immediate vicinity, there was a periodical or weekly market of various neighbouring villages, where the required commodities could be available. These markets were arranged at regular intervals.

Moreover, there was the annual fair to which the inhabitants of several villages eagerly looked forward to buying commodities of a specialised nature or technique. It is remarkable that in the traditional village community, the moneylender had an important socio-economic character to perform. The community lived on the principle of self-adjustment. The members shared their prosperity as well as adversity according to prevailing conditions. Their wants being limited to bare necessities, the villagers worked intently to produce them. Self-sufficiency was, more or less, a universal feature except in times of natural calamities. Against such merits, the demerits were equally weighty. The isolated existence of the village and the still and quiet village life made the economic activities stereotyped. The incentive for material prosperity was lost in quietist attitudes of self-contentment. The immobile peasant, after his seasonal fieldwork, had much time to spare. The craftsman and the artisan, with all his gift and talent, did not try to create a higher demand for his goods. The small traders had no transport facilities to carry village products to distant markets. The wealthy people of the village may donate money for infrastructure facilities with the help of which all needs are satisfied within the village. It may have schools, hospital, banks and even the police station too. Now a time to look towards our past for our glorified self- reliant society and further to look into the future with more open eyes from now.

The Gandhian Dream of Self-Reliant India

In between the self-reliant Bharat and the present concept of Modi’s Atamnirbhar India, there was a Gandhi philosophy, which always stood for the self-reliant villages of India. There is only a hairline difference among the old days Self Reliant Bharat, The Gandhian economy of self-sufficiency and today’s thought of Modi’s Atamnirbhar India.

Gandhi highlighted the necessity of self-reliant to achieve equity and sustainability in economic growth. “Swadeshi is the outward, practical manifestation of patriotism. “Their pleas for national self-reliance are not incompatible with international co-operation, provided that latter is on equal footing-with due regard to the national respect of every country.” He stressed that a person could learn from camp life to stay together with mutual co-operation, work together, live a disciplined daily life, follow the rules, respect religious beliefs and be self-reliant. Dattopant Thengadi, an ideological stalwart of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), in his book” Third Way”, had propounded Swadeshi economics in a series of essays in the 1990s. They detailed the conceptual framework of a ‘self-reliant’ India. Both studies spell out the finer details of the Swadeshi School of economics and the model of ‘self-reliant’ India. Gandhi had promoted this alternative British technology in the textile sector with the Khadi movement that was affordable to people. The vision behind the movement was to make people self-reliant, which ultimately led to fearlessness. The underlying philosophy behind the movement was to empower people with technology so that they became fearless. Three years were spent in acclimatising people in the production of alternate clothing.

It was an economic philosophy and was an essential part of the national movement as well. This philosophy is relevant in the present day as well because people should be economically self-reliant. Detailed mathematical simulation studies carried out at IIT Delhi by Alit Kumar (1991) have shown that it is possible to design village republics using the currently available decentralised rural technologies which are not only self-sufficient in so far as their basic needs are concerned, but can generate appreciable surplus produce for the cities.

Gandhi Ji has rightly mentioned that there is nothing to prevent us from profiting by the light that may come from the West. Only we must take care that we are not overpowered by the glamour of the West. We must not mistake the glamour for true light. When Gandhi Ji endorsed the self-sufficiency and self-reliant villages, his vision was clear that the self-reliant villages mean a self-reliant India. If we are to increase the scope on a bigger scale and look at the World as a unified country and countries as villages, the relevance is clear. Gandhi visualised the problems associated with industrialisation and modernisation. He believed that unless villages are developed and made self-sufficient, it will lead to mass migration, overcrowded cities and the vicious circle of poverty and under-development cannot be extinguished. Along with the freedom struggle, vigorous efforts were made by Gandhi for the development of villages by making them financially independent through the establishment of small and cottage industries. He believed that political independence without economic independence was hollow.

He was sure that the progress of the country lies in the development of the majority of its rural villages. Gandhi said that the only way of bringing the hope of good living to the rural people was by making the village the central place in the economic programme. To Gandhi, the qualities of the village and rural life far surpassed that of the city. Still, he recognised that the playing field had to be levelled with both landscapes providing opportunities for personal growth and lifelong learning. Dhiru Thadani (2011). The technology that enabled this exploitation, therefore, needs to be eschewed. In 1934, he created All-India Village Industries Association (AIVIA) to work towards the development of a model of non-exploitative rural industrialisation. It is not that he was opposed to all heavy industries. He was not against science and technology but wanted them to be used judiciously so that the inequity in the society was reduced. But the real development could not be achieved by following the western model of industrialisation based mentioning it as the exploitation of Indian tiny Industries. Such two patterns of development were the need of the hour. India can’t ignore the substantial and new technical advancements. The question is to take a path where a Gandhian thought of economy which was an extension of his love and care for the rural areas can be merged with the modern thought of development through the present Modi regime.

Though, in some way, the indication was made by the 2014 declaration of Make in India. That was surely an extension of old Bharat culture clubbed with the Gandhian thought of self-sufficiency at ground level but keeping a bird’s eye on the development of other nations, innovation of technology and requirements of the rest of India. Hence, the present Modi declaration of Atamnirbhar India is well clubbing all the previous versions on this front with a bright path for the future.

Modi’s declaration of Self-Reliant Naya Bharat 

With the taking over the ruins of our nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched an initiative of Make in India. The concept of making in India was that technology is a powerful tool when it is given in the hands of people. Hence, Make-in-India initiative was to encourage self-reliance in the country on seeds were sown several decades ago by the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi.

From a few months, we are facing an unprecedented emergency of Covid-19, which disrupted most channels of national and international trade. The declaration by Prime Minister, under Atamnirbhar declaration, gave a clarion call for the country to become self-reliant. This is an offence move to come out from the mess of Covid-19 with confidence. Atamnirbhar is a type of sustainable living in which nothing is consumed other than what is produced by self-sufficient individuals. So, Self-sufficiency or say self-containment is the state of not requiring any aid, support, or interaction for survival; it is a type of personal or collective autonomy. On a national scale, a self-sufficient economy that does not trade with the outside World is called an autarky. Here Atamnirbhar is different from autarky. The Prime Minister himself clarified that the current idea of self-reliance is not about a return to import substitution or autarkic isolationism, instead aimed at a quantum jump to the economic potential of the country by strengthening infrastructure, using modern technologies, enriching human resources, and creating robust supply chains. We need the fullest support to the Modi Ji Declaration. The leadership has a vital role in injecting greater self-confidence in the people by reducing the country’s dependence on other nations.

At ground level, people are having their fullest support for the move. The support from the public can be enumerated in the following way. 

House of an older man collapsed in the heavy rain. 

The opposition leader asked the older man, are you worried? 

Older man: Not at all. 

Opposition Leader: Your house has fallen.

 Older man: Right. But instead, my spiritual mainstay has become more robust. 

Opposition Leader: What do you mean by that? 

Older man: As long as we are led by our PM Narendra Modi, we have nothing to worry about. Wait and see. We’ll be leading a much happier life.

To become Atamnirbhar, Modi Ji has a vision and commitment to make it. The first key factor is to spend more money and investment in infrastructure. The increase in public spending will undoubtedly boost demand and generate employment in the short term and add to infrastructure capacity in the medium term. For those measures, the Government has already taken up the stimulators to the tune of Rs Twenty Lacks Crores. This shows the commitment of the political leadership and the capability of the administration to deliver. Few policy reforms were in the pipeline, and the same has been activated. A recent change in the agriculture sector, where the sale produces by agriculture has been opened up, and the farmers made free to sell their produce at any place or any rate of their choice.

Further, such changes in land, labour and other policies could yield results in the medium term. The time will tell about the results of such measures, but the challenge with the Government is to implement quickly and efficiently. But for now, investors will wait and watch to test the sincerity and efficiency of governments at the centre and in the states.

This industry is ever-changing with the development of technological advancement, so this sector will always be there at the forefront. It will be ever multiplying because of the sensitivity of the products. For example, one product is the drone manufacturing. The World is changing; there is a need to have the combat drones and a squadron in the Air Force, a brigade in the Army and also to the Navy. This alone activity can also be used in agriculture. So tremendous probably maybe generate through one such activity. The oil-exporting jobs are another field where we account for a bulk of imports. Whatever new sources of energy India may tap in the foreseeable future, it will scrap our import-dependent status. The sky is the limit on this front also. The other sectors, which are open and much can be done, are solar energy plates, electronics, pharmaceuticals.

Recently, we have faced the border dispute with China. China is a manufacturing hub. However, the spread of Corona has opened up the eyes of the World, and now they are realising the wrongdoing with their dependence on China. Now the companies are shifting their base and India can be a potential place to invest. We have to come out with a high authority which can be helpful to those Industries which are willing to shift to India. The local laws also require to be exempted for the few years on their inception. This exercise requires a close watch over the activities industry to industry and the primary job in the hands of the Government to attract such industries here. Japan has already announced its subsidy plan to their companies shifting their base from China. Our nation should not miss this opportunity and if we analyse such shifting will also be a part of broader Atamnirbhar Naya Bharat of 2020. India will surely achieve self-reliant and globalised at the same time. We are hopeful that multinational companies existing China will relocate to India make India more export-dependent since these MNCs aim to sell globally.

Being vocal for “local” is a crucial complement of Atamnirbhar Bharat. We have to value our local products. We should have the government policies out of the clutches of the babus sitting in the air-conditioned chambers and red tape. The favourable policies alone can give a remarkable boost to our dreams of self-reliant. Thus, policies should enhance domestic competition and eschew crony capitalism. We cannot become self-reliant until we have control over domestic and global supply chains. Thus, there is a need to ensure greater control over certain parts of the global value chain to protect strategic interests, especially in healthcare, agriculture and defence.

After Atamnirbhar success, we can survive even if the World turns upside down. It is because we have our territory, our people, our system and our leader. We lived in difficulty in the past as well. Thanks to the leadership of Modi ji, this noble spirit cherished by the cultured, spiritual approach and is fully displayed his calibre in the building of a thriving India. There is no nation more reliable and more excellent than the Indian people who regard the collectivist outlook on value as a criterion of life, imbue the whole country with human fragrance and work today for a better tomorrow.

“Live in the future.” We live in the present and heads for the future. An important problem for everyone is how to approach the past and the future with the present as the centre. The present is the continuation and accumulation of the past and simultaneously the starting and turning point of the future. “Let us live not merely for today but tomorrow!”–this is a view of life cherished by Modi Ji. Those who believe in their strength, those filled with the hope that tomorrow better than today will surely come, and those who wish for the coming generation’s happiness rather than theirs, can live for tomorrow. “Love the future” and “For posterity”–this is a fighting slogan.

{This article was published as one of an article in a Book “ATMA-NIRBHAR BHARAT” Towards a self Relaint India edited by CA Sunil Vashisht. The 66 Authors are the stalwart leaders of Bhartiya Janta Party & the book is forwarded by Shri Nitin Gadkari, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Shri Prakash Jawadkar & others}


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Author was Member of ICAI- Capacity Building Committee 2010-11 and ICAI- Committee for Direct Taxes 2011-12 and can be reached at email amresh_vashisht@yahoo.com or on phone Phone: 0 1 2 1-2 6 6 1 9 4 6. Cell: 9 8 3 7 5 1 5 4 3 2 having office at 1 1 5, Chappel Street, Meerut Cantt, UP, INDIA) View Full Profile

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July 2024