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Atmanirbharata for a New India

‘Atmanirbharta’ is self-sufficiency. It succeeds when entrepreneurship is spurred by right action, creativity and innovation. Its five pillars, economy, infrastructure, system, democracy and demand seek mildness, temperance and liberality in thoughts. It cannot be achieved unless we understand the tenets on which it stands.

Globalization is how trade and technology transform the world into a more connected and interdependent place. Whether it is economic or political or cultural globalization, it captures the economic and social changes that come about in the society. Whereas it is built on ideas, knowledge, information, goods and services around the world, in business, it integrates economies marked by free trade and free flow of capital among countries. Globalisation by definition must allow easy access to foreign resources and labor markets, so returns are maximized. 

Are ‘Atmanirbharata’ and Globalisation antithetical to each other? Atmanirbhar Bharat is a neo-globalization perspective, differing greatly from what we understand about anti-globalization. We have been a consumer market in the past and we are the same today. Britishers who ruled at the time, saw to it that we did not reap benefits of industrial revolution, though we were part of a large trade that happened with the world. Post 1991, we became a part of the globalisation process which allowed several MNC’s to set base in India. Though, we adopted the best practices brought by them, the local companies were hard pressed to match quality and compete with no matching inputs. They only ended up cutting costs and corners to stay competitive. In the process, our research potential was effectively laid to rest. Catching up, meant a slow degradation of our strengths, be it in agriculture, traditional manufacturing, metal working or textiles. Defence is an area where we import almost 80% of our requirements. Globalisation rendered us dependant on world trade. Though the World Trade Organisation (WTO), an intergovernmental organization, was expected to regulate and facilitate international trade, it has never been fair to developing nations.

What must countries like India do? ‘Atmanirbharata’ or self-sustenance is the answer. This is not protectionism but a means of ensuring a level playing field that WTO didn’t ensure. Atmanirbharata, apart from adding to the economy, will create new employment markets and opportunities for the local population.

That ‘Make in India’ initiative covers most sectors like pharmaceuticals, medical devices, aerospace, defence, bio-technology, capital goods, automotive and auto components, textile and apparels, electronics system design and manufacturing, leather & footwear, chemicals and petro chemicals, food processing, shipping, railways, gems and jewellery, new and renewable energy and construction is a boost for the objectives of ‘Atmanirbharata’. That massive work is seen to be done in various sectors is most welcome.

The entire system is now geared to change from creating jobs to creating job creators. However, a lot needs to be done in terms of investments in research that drives ‘atmanirbharata’. Whereas China spends almost 300 billion dollars in research, India spends 15 billion dollars. That is 2.1% of its GDP to 0.6% of our GDP. Only 26 Indian companies as compared to 301 of China are amongst the top 2500 R&D companies in the world.

According to Nature Index Rising Stars, 51 of the top 100 Universities with improved research are from China. None from India. Almost all of our R&D spend is by GOI. None from states and negligible by the private sector. On Research Impact (H-Index), we score 12.6 against China’s 39.2. We publish less and impact even lesser.

We must take a leaf out of the Japanese spirit. Post the holocaust, they spent time and money on research, building their own superior products which eventually threatened the American markets. With its 12.65 Crore population, Japan clocks a GDP of 5.0 lakh crores almost 60% as high as ours, even as it is only 1/11th the size of our population.

The limited point being that we need to create Intellectual Property, build products, create entrepreneurs and newer heroes. Unless we look to that investment, we will remain mute witnesses to the erosion of our demographic capital under our muffled trade, and hide our own failure to expand our product markets.

In the long-term, we must build our internal strengths. It isn’t just building new businesses or running them more efficiently. It’s the old-fashioned basics of self-reliance, self-motivation, self-reinforcement, self-discipline and self-command. Yes, we need ‘Atmanirbharata’ for ourselves and our nation.

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