Atmanirbhar Bharat officially kicked off during the Covid-19 era on May 12, 2020, when Hon’ble PM announced a relief package of Rs 20 lakh crore, which was about 10% of India’s GDP at that time. Of course, now it would be around 13-14% due to the economic recession that countries world over are facing.
The immediate motive of this campaign is making India a self-reliant country as much as possible by utilising the areas of comparative advantage. There are many fields that are going to be covered under it immediately and some others will catch up eventually. Major areas that are going to benefit India under this scheme are as follows:
Food and agriculture industry is the driver of the Indian economy, contributing to about 16-17% since the beginning of 21st century. The share of agriculture increased to 19.8% in 2020-21 from 17% in 2019-20. Schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) were launched to boost sustainable development of fisheries sector. They will be implemented in a period of five years (2020-21 to 2024-25).
The industry is a primary source of livelihood for about 60% of Indians and the problem is not insufficient production. The problem lies in the management of the agricultural and food sector. Silos have been overflowing with grains ever since we started reaping the benefits of the Green Revolution. India’s rank in Global Hunger Index in 2019 is 102 out of 117 qualifying countries. Our beloved neighbour Pakistan has got a rank of 94 and appears to feed its people well even after taking huge amounts of loan from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, China, Asian Development Bank and the list goes on. The problem has not been production, storage and transportation, the problem has been in the grains reaching the plate of the people of the country.
The share of exports for this sector has been the least as well. The share was less than 1% in 1991 and rose to just 2.6 in 2014. Although agri commodities have national markets, laws and practices under the Essential Commodities Act (ECA, 1995) and the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act make marketing of agri commodities riskier and less efficient.
India has become the world’s third biggest military spender in the world with a budget of $71 billion. This has also made India world’s fourth largest arms importer, sad but harsh truth. Things started changing after talks of privatisation of the defence sector and implementation, though it has been in a scarce amount. Nonetheless, it is better to have something than nothing. Corporatisation of the ordnance factory board and listing it in the stock market is a milestone. Moreover, the FDI limit has been pushed to 74% from the present 49%.
A list of weapons has been created that will be banned from imports and indigenisation of spare parts that were being imported. The most recent developments being ASMI (9mm machine pistol), Arjun Main Battle Tanks, Astra (beyond visual range air to air missile) and the list goes on.
Imports of India have gone down by 39% from 2010 and with new policies being implemented, Indian defence looks pretty solid to contribute to her economy. The DRDO, along with its Russian counterpart NPOM, has successfully made versions of Brahmos that can be launched from from any of the three platform and export deals with countries such as Vietnam and Philippines have already been signed to check Chinese naval dominance in South China sea.
Probably the sector that lags behind the most among them all. Latest estimates on Gross Value Added (GVA) have mentioned that the industrial sector is expected to record a growth of -9.6% with an overall contribution in GVA of 25.8% in 2020-21. Since we are so fond of comparing our economy with China, let’s have a short comparative study.
China got independence two years after India became independent and has still managed to achieve supremacy in the field of manufacturing and Infrastructure in Asia. What China did is that it focused on liberalisation of the market that came way later in India. Negligible regulatory factors such as fixed working hours, environmental regulations, child labour, minimum wage, health and safety norms don’t apply in China, artificial depression of the Chinese currency to invite investment and setting up of marketsby foreigners in China has played in its favour.
India, however, has launched schemes such as PMKVY to give the youth of the country at least a basic skill-set because the trend of the Indian youth opting to go into the service sector after getting a technical degree is not declining because of lack of infrastructure and employment opportunities for them.
To make India truly Atmanirbhar, Indian youth with techinical knowledge should be promoted to do skill enhancement and be provided with programmes and incentives to keep learning and exploring their field of interest. India has one of the highest number of people in the working age, a demographic factor which is highly in our favour to turn ourselves into a world factory. But for this to happen, this area of concern must improve leaps and bounds.
This sector’s significance has been constant and the co-pilot of our economy along with agriculture and agri-based industries. The share of services in our GDP has been constantly improving, especially since liberalisation policies of 1991. Rapid growth in the service sector after regulations and removing policy bottlenecks in 1991 has led to India’s increased penetration of the world services market over the past two decades, reflecting India’s growing competitiveness in the world service market, especially in the post-2000 period.
There has been a diversification of the services export basket, with the emergence of segments such as financial, insurance, communication, and construction services. Overall, India’s services exports have become more broad-based over the past decade.
Services liberalisation has, however, not been a smooth process in India. One such segment is retail, which to date remains only partially open to FDI. Likewise, legal services remain closed to foreign firms and service providers due to resistance from the concerned regulatory body. There is, however, concern over the sustainability of a services-led growth process and the current pattern of services growth, which largely stems from exports of skill-based services. The prevailing view is that for services growth to be sustained, the sector cannot remain dependent on external demand. It must also be driven by internal demand.
Healthcare and welfare have taken the central stage finally, with the Budget 2020-21. The once-in-a-century outbreak (Covid-19) has taught the world some lessons which, if paid attention to, can make way for an ideal world-like scenario. There has been an increase in allocation for healthcare by 137% from last year’s budget and the government of India has promised to enhance the healthcare infrastructure under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.
One such policy that has given some relief in the healthcare and welfare is the PMJAY (Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana) As per reports by the government, states that have adopted PMJAY and an enhanced the health insurance coverage have fared better in infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate, under-5 mortality rate, and other factors for improving the mother and child care.
The Economic Survey 2020-21 shows that the progress made under BNI (Basic Necessities Index) has improved for a majority of states. It also shows that 74% of outpatient care and 65% of hospitalisation is provided through the private sector in urban India.
The National Health Mission launched by former PM Dr Manmohan Singh has been a successful mission because of which it has been extended by the present government to enhance the health and nutrition sector in the under-cared rural areas of India. The National Health Portal launched by the government provides authentic information about various diseases, symptoms, cure and health tips along with health insurances.
The Telemedicine facility launched during the lockdown is another example of atmanirbharta in the field of innovation and medicine. There are a good number of measures taken by the government of India in the health and welfare area after being hit by the pandemic and realising that health is wealth is much more than just a proverb.
Overall, India’s attempt at making herself atmanirbhar has been mildly successful. However, it is just a start and continuing it across all fields, especially in those sectors where we have comparative advantage, might result in making India a strong, self-reliant country. But along with that, the government must not forget to promote growth in sectors where India lacks the most by giving fiscal incentives and intervening time and again in form of government policies to remove hurdles from the producer’s path.
Alongside, the government also carries on its shoulders the responsibility of creating an internal demand for home-grown goods and promoting it with campaigns like ‘Vocal for local’, which might result in a surge in demand for domestic goods. This process has full potential if tapped into well, and will have great benefits for the Indian economy in the long run. Hope we all are up for it.