On 12th May 2020, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, Indian PM Narendra Modi addressed the nation. His speech emphasized on making India self-reliant, and he announced a special economic package of INR 20 lakh crores for various sections of the society suffering from the pandemic and consequent lockdown.

The concept of self-reliance has been present in the core values of the Indian civilization. Also known as Swadeshi, it was a fundamental strategy of pre-Independent India against its British colonizers. India’s leaders and freedom fighters encouraged boycott of British goods and use of domestic or Swadeshi goods. Today, New Delhi has reincarnated the idea of Swadeshi into the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan‘ with five pillars of self-reliance – economy, infrastructure, system, demography, and demand.

As India battles on the healthcare and economic fronts, it has revisited the century-old idea of a self-made India, but with a renewed vision. In the 21st century, no country can isolate itself and be as self-reliant as it was envisioned during the struggle for Independence decades ago. Rather, the new idea focuses on taking a middle path by strengthening existing domestic industry and international trade and providing assistance to the world. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the reality of complex interdependence among countries across the world. India experiences this too; over decades, the country has grown increasingly dependent on imports of various commodities, technologies and services which has led to restrictions on independent growth of national economy. This hard-hitting reality has given birth to the idea of Atmanirbhar BharatAbhiyan.

The initiative is likely to give Indian industries an opportunity to grow and make full use of their potential under the previously launched scheme of ‘Make in India’. Strengthening of production and supply chains is key to become self-reliant at the global stage. 

PM Modi pointed out the need to ‘vocal for local‘ in order to boost the economy. India has stepped up its production of PPEs (personal protective equipment), masks, and ventilators within a short span of time. A team at IIT- Roorkee has made a low-cost portable ventilator with the help of an AIIMS-based doctor for the treatment of Covid-19 patients. 

India is engaging in active medical diplomacy, assisting many countries around the world in combating the pandemic. As a part of this effort, the pharmaceutical industry has sped up its production and exports to reduce its dependence on imports of APIs(Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients) i.e. the raw material needed to manufacture medicines, from China. 

Such an initiative does not come without challenges. The chief challenge is curtailing dependency on imports. However, the blame game between states and the central government is also a major hurdle and makes the execution difficult. To become successful, the initiative also requires skilled workers, land reforms, private-public sector collaborations, decentralisation of power, and governance reform.

The global economy has slowed down due to the ongoing pandemic and several countries have adopted nationalist and revisionist policies. Even though New Delhi aims to be self-reliant, its policy is not completely inward-looking. While it aims to develop its economy and promote consumption of Swadeshi goods, it also seeks to engage, especially through medical and developmental assistance, at the international level. 

India’s quest to become self-reliant will benefit it, both domestically and globally, in the long run. With the concept of ‘India First’, the country will develop as a manufacturing hub. Along with the five pillars of the Abhiyan, India must focus on the three forgotten Ps – Purchase, Production and Promotion – of Swadeshi goods. 

While emphasizing on them will result in an upsurge in demand for goods, this demand must join hands with manufacturing activity and attract global investment. India’s tremendous natural and human resources could be used to their fullest.

The economy will become more flexible with increased production and more demand for raw materials and finished goods. Strengthening of supply chains will further boost trade by both value and volume. All this will ensure growth of the national economy and increased per capita GDP, but the real goals of the Abhiyan are impossible to meet without equitable development of each state. The present unevenness in development requires that the poorer states be given more focus during the execution of the initiative.

The idea of an Atmanirbhar Bharat will accelerate domestic industries and reduce India’s reliance on imports. India’s road to self-reliance is only possible if every Indian citizen takes pride in domestically produced goods and services. Through further boosting and building its image as a global service provider, New Delhi can reduce the trade deficit it faces with most of its trading partners. It can also undertake infrastructural initiatives, especially development of ports, roads, and maritime routes with its trading partners.

With a stronger economy, India can play a more significant role across international organizations and emerge as a powerful leader as well as a global economic player. This kind of influence will give New Delhi an upper hand in addressing critical issues related to international borders, maritime security, and emerging non-traditional threats. 

A self-reliant India is the best possible answer to tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. India stands for its interests of national growth and independence and through a collective effort between state and central governments, bureaucracy and especially its citizens, India will be able to implement the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan and rise as a stable economy. Thus, the reincarnation of the age-old idea of Swadeshi will become India’s steppingstone into the post-pandemic period.

Suyash Tawde
Suyash Tawde has completed a bachelor's and Master's degree in Political Science from University of Mumbai.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.


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