Atmanirbhar baniye is the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clarion call to our country and its people. And it is emerging as the new hip mantra, whether with nationalists, swadeshi soldiers or the odd youth that seems to have found new meaning in an old cause. Or on the other hand, even as memes and jokes ridiculing the word as simple jingoism. Is that right? Is this jingoism? Are we taking this war to that end? And very honestly, will this work? In the new order of this world, can India afford to set upon this new path?
India no longer remains a dependant country like close to a century back when the pre-independence Swadeshi movement began to evoke a feeling of ‘be Indian, buy Indian’ in a people that had been slaves for generations. Export-import at the time was handled by the British rulers. It did not affect us as a people at all because the margins from the imports were all theirs. Production in India was negligible hence the British stood to handsomely profit from whatever they dumped into our country at the cost of our entrepreneurship. Which is why to stop that fleecing, a call to use everything Swadeshi was given. China seems to have followed the same rule. Cheap, tacky goods are being dumped into our country at the cost of our own entrepreneurs suffering enormous losses.
But that is no longer the case. India has changed; we survive as an economy on our international trade, export and import. And that directly affects our lives. Atmanirbhar should not mean that we need to eschew all that is foreign. If we do that, how do we expect to survive? By all means, go swadeshi as much as you can, but continue with the odd exported stuff. You’re not taking away from your country by doing that, you’re contributing to it.
Atmanirbhar should mean that we need to manufacture in India more, create products at par with the international requirement. We need to balance out our trade deficit. Today, we export less and import more. Let’s pledge to turn this on its head- export more and import less. The stimuli that we have received in terms of the package that the government has handed to the MSME, can help us do this. We need to quantify quality and once we commit to country, we will.
Would that not be the right lesson to learn from this biological warfare unleashed on the world as a whole by China? To defeat this larger conspiracy to ruin the world economy and strengthen their own? So let us not defocus ourselves. Atmanirbhar should mean one thing only- boycott China. Plain and simple. They are a regime and a race that is the enemy of the world and of us in particular. They were, are, and will always be our foes. And after recognising that, let’s organise with the world order to alienate that country completely. It is fortunate that an alliance is being forged between the US, Europe, Australia and Japan on exactly these lines and if we were to support our country, India will emerge as a leader in this endeavour to crush China totally.
If we succeed in closing business with China completely and boycotting their goods as a whole, our trade deficit will improve automatically. The only other place where trade deficit will remain is in petroleum. We shall then move forward towards self-reliance in a small but certain way.
Metaphorically and otherwise, India is not an island. Going the American way is not an option open to us. The US had a robust economy during the First World War which consolidated to become a world power as it went into splendid isolation. India cannot succeed in that.
We are slowly gaining credence in our emerging image as a consensus country. This romantic notion of ‘Aekla cholo re’ is completely misplaced. It will in fact isolate us from the rest of the world and we may unwittingly make other countries hostile.
Maybe we really need to hear our PM once again — nowhere in his speech has he used the word ‘swadeshi’. He continuously harps on being self-reliant, atmanirbhar. He probably, given his status as a world leader, was not able to say what he actually meant- boycott the Chinese. In every way possible.
The actual principle should be: ‘Videshi ko Swadeshanukul, aur Swadeshi ko Yuganukul.” Let us make foreign goods suit our Indian needs, and our Indian goods suit foreign needs. That, to any mind, is the need of the hour.