Better late than never. It took us 75 years, but we have finally begun our journey towards self-reliance. An ongoing pandemic overflowing with uncertainty, Covid-19 has impacted lives and livelihoods across the globe. Even as the best minds in the world race towards finding preventive and curative solutions to combat and curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the current crisis has been an eye-opener to several opportunities that have presented themselves during this time. To this end, Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi made a much-needed call for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat or a self-reliant India that would be a source of local ingenuity creating global impact. He exhorted fellow citizens to utilize this time of crisis to be vocal for local and be self-reliant. Atmanirbhar Bharat is the vision of making India a self-reliant nation.
The first mention of this came in the form of the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharata Abhiyan’ or ‘Self-Reliant India Mission’ during the coronavirus pandemic-related economic package announcement on 12 May 2020. This self-reliant policy does not aim to be protectionist in nature. It does not mean isolating away from the world. Foreign direct investment is welcome, technology is welcome, self-reliant India translates to being a bigger and more critical part of the global economy. He eloquently identified five pillars on which Aatmanirbhar Bharat would stand and on which a New India could pole-vault to an era of sustainable economic prosperity and societal good, bridging the financial as well as digital divides between the haves and the have-nots. Creating a nation of job-creators and not just job-seekers is the key. And central to this is the need for extensive collaboration between corporate industry, academia, and governments at the village, district, state and central levels. Such synergies have indeed gained momentum with the Covid-19 crisis and need to be further capitalized on. We begin with the pillar of demographic dividend. With over 65% of our country under 35 years of age, more than 1.4 million schools and 10,500 engineering and related institutions, a whopping 39,000 colleges and universities, India enjoys a demographic dividend like no other in the world.
We must enable the channelization of this youthful energy towards nation-building activities by focusing on developing vocational, technical and managerial skills while fostering a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at the school, university and industry levels. The recent announcements of private sector participation for innovations in space and defence sectors open up a flood of new opportunities for the MSME industry. Any solution developed for 1.3 billion people can also be a possible solution for the 7+ billion people on the planet. The recently launched Bharat App Innovation Challenge by MeitY, MyGov, and Atal Innovation Mission is a welcome step to identify and create world-class apps that can be used by the rest of the world too. India has the perfect environment. It has over 1.3 billion people, a youthful population, a growing middle class, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, and affordable, available advanced technology to re-imagine new solutions to existing and emerging consumer needs. An ideal situation for thousands of startups and companies to capitalize on and fulfil pent-up demand for new solutions and consumer- or citizen-centric services in every vertical— agriculture, healthcare, education, water management, clean and renewable energy, affordable housing, defence, space, transportation, or retail. The following few examples prove the need and efficiency of a long due movement which will go on to rake supreme growth for our country:
1)The growth of India’s personal protective equipment (PPE) sector from zero before March to 1,50,000 pieces a day by the beginning of May, is considered a fine example of a self-reliant India. The PPE industry in India has become ₹7,000 crores (US$980 million) in two months, the second largest after China.
2) The largest fund in the country worth ₹21,000 crores (US$2.9 billion) was set up by the IIT Alumni Council with the aim of supporting the mission towards self-reliance.
3) India’s own ‘Made in India’ 5G network was also announced in July 2020 by Reliance Jio. Mukesh Ambani announced in mid-July that “Jio has created a complete 5G solution from scratch, that will enable us to launch a world-class 5G service in India, using 100 per cent homegrown technologies and solutions”.
4)For the first time, in July 2020, it was announced that Apple would manufacture one of their premium iPhone models in India.
5)August 2020, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced that the Defence Ministry is “now ready for a big push to Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative” by imposing an “import embargo on 101 items” in a staged manner over a period of 5 years.
Aatmanirbhar Bharat provides a truly watershed moment in our history to ignite the innovative entrepreneurial spirit of New India by focusing on strengthening the above pillars, which will ensure an unprecedented wave of long-deserved growth, prosperity and well-being that can serve the interests of the rest of the world as well.
Written by – Radhika Ahuja