Piyush Goyal set the record straight on what his government’s goal of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India) actually means.
Goyal was delivering the inaugural address of the webinar series on ‘The Road To Atmanirbhar Bharat’ organised by Swarajya in association with Vedanta Resources Limited.
Clarifying that the Modi government’s vision is not to turn inwards or protectionist, Goyal said that the idea of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ was ‘about opening India’s doors wider so that India engages with the world from a position of strength, on equal, fair & reciprocal terms.’
Goyal stated that the government was focusing its energies on creating ‘what we can within the country, learn from experiences across the world, bring best of technologies to India, attract capital, skills and high-quality education and healthcare.’
Goyal pointed to the example to India’s response to Covid-19 pandemic hit and underscored the importance for India to become self-reliant. He narrated how Janata Curfew and then total lockdown were the first steps in building capabilities as it bought the government time to ramp up testing, labs, production of masks, PPE kits, ventilators, creating Covid wards, more ICUs, etc. The success of scaling up indigenous capabilities on all these fronts has given India the confidence that ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ can indeed be achieved, Goyal added.
Goyal stated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal is to prepare India to become a global player in resilient supply chains. ‘A trusted partner, when like-minded countries are looking to expand trade or looking for alternate sources for the manufacture of their goods and provision of services,’ he added.
Goyal listed various initiatives the government is taking to operationalise the vision of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.
Production Linked Incentive Scheme To Build Domestic Manufacturing Capabilities
Goyal spoke extensively on the recently launched Production Linked Incentive scheme which has received a great response from both domestic and international players.
Covering more than 10 sectors at the cost of Rs 2 lakh crore over the next five years, Goyal assured, that PLI scheme will help create an ecosystem that will add Rs 20 lakh crore worth of manufacturing ecosystem and three crore well-paying jobs.
Apart from PLI, Goyal said, the government is identifying various other sectors for targeted development, sectors which may need de-regulation, hand-holding and some other form of support and incentive, especially the areas where India has potential, capability and competitive advantage to make for the world.
“In manufacturing and production, we are looking at the high quality & high productivity levels. Quality and Productivity will be hallmarks of India’s future manufacturing industry,” he added.
RCEP and Free Trade Agreements
In a response to a question posed by Swarajya Editorial Director R. Jagannathan, who also moderated the webinar) on factors that influencing government’s decision to not join the RCEP, Goyal said “One of the primary reasons we could not join RCEP was that some of the countries in RCEP were not democratic, transparent trading systems. One does have to be cautious when dealing with a partner who does not give a level playing field or reciprocal access,”
On FTAs, Goyal said that the government’s focus is on leveraging Free Trade Agreements “with countries with whom we have a transparent trading mechanism, working with transparent business systems, whom you can engage with from a position of strength for certain products.’
“India should focus its energy on doing FTAs with developed countries who are looking for market access in the large Indian markets, but who can also provide us high technology products while opening the doors in their countries for products where India has strength,” he added.
On Railways, Goyal told the audience that the ministry is looking for more & more Indian suppliers for everything it needs and that it only procures under 2 per cent of the current procurement from outside the country and the goal is to replace that 2 per cent also with Indian products.
The Philosophical Underpinnings of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’
Interestingly, Goyal interpreted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ in terms of nationalism and dharma and explained how the goal of self-reliant India was in consonance with these two cherished values. On Dharma, Goyal said that India’s cultural heritage has always reflected a little bit of focus on ‘Atma Nirbhar Individual, Atma Nirbhar Society and Atma Nirbhar Nation.’
“The essence of Upanishads was also to talk about making India strong so that it can pave the way for the liberation of oneself and also of the nation,” he added.
To justify his equivalence of self-reliance with nationalism, he quoted his party’s ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay who had said that ‘It is essential that we think about ‘Our National Identity’ without which there is no meaning of Independence.’
Goyal elaborated that in national identity, ‘while national pride is one concept, there is also national ability to meet the needs of the people of India.’
Agriculture Reforms and Self-Sufficiency
While Goyal was speaking, he was cognisant of the fact that thousands of farmers are protesting his government’s farm reforms. But Goyal tried to frame the farm laws brought by the government as another aspect of the government’s vision for creating a self-sufficient farming class. “Our farmers have made us self-sufficient in food grains.
We are now looking at strengthening the hands of farmers,” he told the audience. The new liberty given to farmers to market and sell their products anywhere in the country was part of that same vision, he explained.
Goyal quoted C. Rajgopalchari, the illustrious founder of Swarajya Magazine, who had said, “It is easy to yield to the current pressure of opinion and it is difficult to impose on enthusiastic people any policy of restraint.” It can be seen as an indication of the government’s resolve to get tough reforms passed keeping the long-term positive benefits in mind and not giving into current protests.
Goyal said that the goal of Atmanirbharta can be achieved only with the participation of people of India. “The dream of Aatmanirbhar Bharat can become a reality only if we follow PM Narendra Modi Ji’s clarion call of Vocal for Local,” he said while concluding his speech.