Atmanirbhar Mission in Perspective



"Localize the Economy; Globalise Humanity"

Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan made a lot of buzz since its announcement in 2020 as part of the Covid Package. Catchy slogans such as 'atmanirbhar Bharat' 'vocal for local' 'local for global' and 'make for the world' raised much hope. Some call this a re-packaged version of the 'Make in India' Mission.


'Atmanirbhar' means 'self-reliance' or 'self-sufficiency'. The focal point of the concept is to make the nation self-reliant with more focus on local manufacturers and service providers. With Atmanirbhar Bharat government expects to strengthen the economy, improve the standard of living, and improve the trade deficit and the exchequer balance of the country. Apart from making the country self-reliant in all spheres - from manufacturing to supplying, it will help reduce its dependence on imports and boost exports. As per PM, the fiscal stimulus will help revive every sphere of the economy-from demand, supply to manufacturing.

The five pillars of Atmanirbhar Bharat are Economy, Infrastructure, Technology-driven Systems, Vibrant Demography and Demand. PM said, "it is making India a bigger and more important part of the global economy, pursuing policies that are efficient, competitive and resilient, and being self-sustaining and self-generating". In the same breath, the government declared, "Aatmanirbhar Bharat is not about being self-contained or being closed to the world. It is about being self-sustaining and self-generating. It will pursue policies that promote efficiency, equity and resilience. Foreign direct investment is welcome; technology is welcome ...self-reliant India... translates to being a bigger and more important part of the global economy." 


Prout on Self-Sufficiency:

According to Progressive Utilization Theory (PROUT), self-sufficiency of an area means fulfilling the people's basic needs by utilizing the locally available resources and providing every individual with adequate purchasing capacity, ensuring an ever-increasing standard of living for everyone. It means 100% Employment for Local People. The minimum essentials for existence - proper food, clothing, housing, education, and medical care are guaranteed. Therefore, we should arrange the minimum essentials as a Right through cent per cent guaranteed employment, not through welfare or dole-outs. 


Those who have merged individual socio-economic interests with the socio-economic Unit's interests, wherein they reside, are considered members of the samaj. Those who earn their livelihood in a particular socio-economic unit but spend earnings in another are migrants or non-local people.


Prout's Self-Reliant Samajas:

Industrialization in one area cannot solve the problems of the people living in other parts. Therefore, each socio-economic Unit or Samaj would plan for self-reliance with a consumption-driven planned economy against the current profit-driven system. The following are the Important spokes of the Samaj economy in materializing self-reliance.  

  • No Export of local raw materials - processing industries established at the site.
  • Avoiding Import of Outside Products. 
  • Check the drain of money from one region to another. 
  • Encourage barter system in preference to the export system.
  • The Local Language as the Medium of Communication and Instruction. Of primary importance are the negative cultural and socio-economic consequences of linguistic imperialism.

Path to Self-Sufficiency:

If a country has to become economically self-reliant, every corner of the nation has to developed. Economic progress and development in a few parts of the country cannot be ideal. Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization policies are being pursued in an atmosphere of a centralized economy, where self-sufficiency remains a dream. Implementing a decentralized economic system with decentralized planning is the only way to develop the entire nation. India is a country with vast and varied resources with geographical and topographical specialities. A single typical plan will not be suitable to explore the potentialities of the entire country. It needs area-specific planning. Before that, we have to identify socio-economic Units which have the potentiality to become self-sufficient. 


Self Sufficient Socio-Economic Zones:

Now, there are various socio-economic units with different economic problems within the same political zone. If state boundaries are demarcated based on political considerations, we cannot draft appropriate socio-economic plans, and these economic problems do not get due attention. Therefore, Prout suggests that we establish rational socio-economic Units or Samajas in India and worldwide for proper socio-economic development. The justification for establishing socio-economic units lies in the fact that any attempt to develop an area economically must start at the grassroots level. Therefore, growth should be from the bottom to the top. Also, the contrary approaches have proved to be impractical and have failed time and again, causing inequality and strife in society. 


Universal in Spirit - Regional in Approach:

A sound ideological base is a prerequisite for groupification or re-districting the world as socio-economic Units (Samajas). Further, the spirit of Prout's universal neohumanism has the potential to unite all humanity. Thus, Prout has adopted a rational method to solve socio-economic problems, which we may characterize as universal in spirit but regional in approach. 


Re-districting as Samajas: 

While forming socio-economic units, the following factors are adopted. They are - same economic problems, uniform economic potentialities; similar geographical features; ethnic similarities and the sentimental legacy of the people. Based on these factors, can reorganize India and the entire world into socio-economic units. In India, as a first step, 44 socio-economic Units may be formed (and may also create 243 socio-economic units worldwide]. In most cases, each socio-economic Unit will correspond to one political Unit, but in some cases, more than one socio-economic Unit may form one political Unit. These units would not merely be geographical areas but also socio-economic regions. The primary considerations are social, cultural and economic and not religious or sectarian. 

Sentimental legacy includes factors such as language, historical traditions, literature, common usages and cultural expressions. It is the common chord in the collective psychology of a particular group of people that gives them their unique identity and sense of affinity. Human beings are predominantly sentimental by nature. So those sentiments which are conducive to human unity should be encouraged, and the sentiments which divide human society should be ignored.

 

Samaj Not Set in Stone: 

The size of Prout's socio-economic units is ever-expanding. Thus, when there is economic parity, cultural mixing, communication facilities, and administrative efficiency - it will be easy and natural for two or more adjoining units to cooperate because they will have attained a high degree of socio-economic uniformity. In such cases, they would merge to form a single larger Unit. Further, the world governance structure will be a Federation of the Samajas.


Prout's Decentralized Planned Economy: 

Each socio-economic Unit should prepare its developmental programme considering several factors like natural resources, topography, river systems, cultural conditions, communication and industrial and developmental schemes or projects, etc. Implementation of a Decentralized Economic system is a must to make each socio-economic Unit self-sufficient. It involves block-level planning based on the principles of a Balanced and Tree-tiered economy. Block-level planning boards will be the lowest level planning bodies.


Prout's Balanced Economy:

Prout suggests the following allocation of a socio-economic Unit or Samaj population for a balanced economic environment. That is, thirty to forty per cent of the people depend on agriculture, and about twenty per cent on agro-industries, twenty per cent on agrico-industries, twenty to thirty per cent on non-agricultural industries, ten per cent on general trade and commerce, and ten per cent on intellectual or white-collar jobs.


Prout's Three-tiered Economy:

Prout adopts a three-tiered ownership policy that divides the industrial structure into three parts – key industries managed by the immediate or local government; Small businesses should be left to individuals and private enterprises. Cooperatives should run  all the industries between the key and small enterprises. This system will eliminate confusion regarding whether or not a particular Industry or sector should be managed privately or by the government and avoid duplication between the government and private enterprise.


Analysis of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan:


The five pillars of 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' are Economy, Infrastructure, Technology-driven Systems, Vibrant Demography and Demand. PM said, "it is making India a bigger and more important part of the global economy, pursuing policies that are efficient, competitive and resilient, and being self-sustaining and self-generating". In the same breath, the government declared, "Aatmanirbhar Bharat is not about being self-contained or being closed to the world, it is about being self-sustaining and self-generating. It will pursue policies that promote efficiency, equity and resilience. Foreign direct investment is welcome, technology is welcome ...self-reliant India... translates to being a bigger and more important part of the global economy." 


As part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat package, numerous government decisions have become operative, such as changing the definition of MSMEs, boosting private participation in multiple sectors, increasing FDI in the defence sector etc. Further, the government of India has enacted Reforms in the Land, Labour and Farm Sectors to shape the country into a business-friendly nation.


Agriculture and Allied Sectors:

 

The government initiated reforms in agriculture by enacting three farm laws, giving more opportunities to corporates who are already exploiting farmers by exercising control over seeds, fertilizers, etc. 




The solution to the crisis of the agriculture sector lies in implementing the policies of encouraging cooperation in cultivation and taking up the procurement, processing and distribution of agricultural produce exclusively in the cooperative sector. (farmers and consumers cooperatives), which will lead to self-sufficiency. 

Privatization of Public Sector Enterprise (PSEs):

A new policy has been announced to privatize PSEs, except those functioning in specific strategic sectors, which the government will notify. At least one PSE will remain in strategic sectors, but the private sector will also be allowed. Overlapping of public and private sector enterprises in the same sector or industry is not in the interest of self-sufficiency. Allowing private enterprises in the key industrial sector will undermine the principle of self-sufficiency; because of the private sector's greed, the price of essentials will go up, and the common people will suffer. 


Plans to vitalize the Energy sector, such as liquidity support for distribution companies (DISCOM), privatization of power distribution, etc., will not safeguard consumer rights and interests. Still, the corporates in the energy sector will get the opportunity to increase undue profits. Energy being a key factor of economy, local government should have the responsibility of managing it. 


Mining is a key sector that should be under the control of local government and is against self-sufficiency principles. On the contrary, the government increased the private sector role in Mining by diluting and removing many regulations for private company mining in the coal sector. The proper way to retain employment opportunity and increase production is to convert the sick units into worker cooperatives. The Centre's Insolvency resolution is not in this direction.


Changing the Definition of MSME: 

MSMEs are concentrated mainly in cities and do not offer a solution to the unemployment problems of rural area. To be successful, MSMEs need a continuous supply of raw materials and a ready market, which needs implementation of block-level planning. Mere changing of definition will not achieve self-sufficiency; implementing the three-tiered industrial policy is required, which the government does not want to do. Moreover, the government's steps to protect small units from unfair competition from foreign companies do not protect them from unfair competition by large Indian companies.


Migrant Labour & Labour Codes:

The existing 29 labour laws were condensed into four Labour Codes to decrease the compliance burden of the Firms (especially the MSME). These codes made it easier for the companies to hire and fire employees with minimal government intervention. In addition, the trade union powers are curtailed.


Migrant labour issue handling by the Central government lacked sensitivity. Later, the efforts to lure them with some short term benefits prove that there are no plans to create local employment opportunities in the long run, which is essential for achieving self-sufficiency.

Decrease in Purchasing Power:

Government proposal to enhance the loan amount, provide loans to street vendors and entrepreneurs, concessional credit boost to farmers; payment of contribution to EPF accounts etc. may generate liquidity. But, on the other hand, support to the real estate sector, housing and financial assistance for mutual funds will fuel speculative activities but does not assure purchasing capacity to the people, which is an essential self-sufficiency requirement.

Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan – A Distraction:

Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan is a political move to divert people's attention from the government's failures on the economic front by sentimentalizing the masses in the guise of self-sufficiency.  As a result, employment opportunities are dwindling, small and medium scale businesses are collapsing, with hardly any ray of hope of revival of the economy. On the other hand, the wealth of a handful of corporate giants is increasing at alarming rates. Soaring stock markets indicate the increased speculative activities, while the GDP is going negative.

The Centre is gradually infringing the powers of the state. But, giving more economic power to the States is necessary to achieve self-sufficiency. Further, Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan' does not mention or refer to any of the factors required for making Bharat into an economically self-sufficient, self-reliant nation, where the living standard of the masses will be on the increase. 

The Five Pillars: Mixed Signals

The five pillars of Atmanirbhar Bharat are Economy, Infrastructure, Technology-driven Systems, Vibrant Demography and Demand. PM said, "it is making India a bigger and more important part of the global economy, pursuing policies that are efficient, competitive and resilient, and being self-sustaining and self-generating". In the same breath, the government declared, "Aatmanirbhar Bharat is not about being self-contained or being closed to the world. It is about being self-sustaining and self-generating. It will pursue policies that promote efficiency, equity and resilience. Foreign direct investment is welcome; technology is welcome ...self-reliant India translates to being a bigger and more important part of the global economy.".. "The mindset of free India should be 'vocal for local'... that products be made competitive vis-a-vis global brands" and that "it didn't mean that one must only buy products that have a logo 'made in India' on it. An extension of this slogan is 'local for global' that local products in India should have global appeal and reach.

All this is a contradiction in terms and a web of deliberate confusion that confirms our suspicion that the 'atmanirbhar' mantra is only a facade for pursuing neoliberal economics favouring crony capitalist groups. It appears that the five pillars of the Abhiyan were left to the 'policy termites' to rot and collapse.


Self-serving intellectuals who have pledged their intellect at the feet of crony capitalists are guiding the government in framing policies of liberalization, privatization, and globalization. They also claim the government moves as Cooperatization, while it is Corporatization in reality. They are good at coining catchy, hypocritical slogans pleasing to the ear but can never be materialized. The new 'Abhiyan' is the latest in this series, which is an eyewash. The policies and programmes pursued by the government in the guise of helping the masses are helping the wealthy grow richer. It is increasing the gap between the haves and have-nots. Unless the government thinks beyond the capitalist claptrap and starts implementing a balanced and decentralized economy, 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan' will remain only as a distracting slogan. 



Prout Promises Prosperity:
 

The definition of 'Local' cannot be entire India at this stage; it must be limited to a socio-economic zone. Even if they are of poor quality, local products need to be supported in the initial stage to help them survive. Production has to be taken up mainly under the cooperative sector, and the private sector needs to be restricted. Wherever FDI is allowed, the local people and the region will lose benefits of the manufacturing activities, 'vocal for local' will remain a hollow slogan, and self-sufficiency will be a dream. Increasing exports is not the solution, as it leads to exploitation, devaluation etc.; barter trade should be the option if necessary. Each socio-economic zone should try to become self-sufficient and strive to increase the standard of living of its inhabitants. It requires local consumption of locally produced goods and services. Only such a system would guarantee a hundred per cent living-wage employment and promise welfare and prosperity for the individual and society.                    


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Ganesh Bhat SirsiEmail: ganeshbhatsirsi@yahoo.com



  




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