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How Modi govt’s push for self-reliance is inspired by RSS model of swadeshi economics

The Modi govt’s insistence that self-reliance is not isolationism is in line with what RSS ideologues have propounded since the 1990s.   

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New Delhi: When Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman rolled out the Narendra Modi government’s plan to make India self-reliant on 13 May, she seemed to have taken a leaf out of the study, Third Way, considered the gospel of “swadeshi” economics. 

The author of Third Way, Dattopant Thengadi, an ideological stalwart of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), had propounded swadeshi economics in a series of essays in the 1990s. They detailed the conceptual framework of a ‘self-reliant’ India.

For those affiliated to the RSS, when it comes to making India ‘self-reliant’, Thengadi’s Third Way and economist M.G. Bokare’s Hindu Economics are the major reference points. Both studies spell out the finer details of the swadeshi school of economics and the model of ‘self-reliant’ India .

The influence of Third Way can be gauged from the fact that the finance minister, while referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address on 12 May,  said, “When the Prime Minister said self-reliant India, he didn’t mean India to be in an isolation.”

Thengadi had spelt this out in the Third Way

“Swadeshi is the outward, practical manifestation of patriotism. Patriotism is not considered as isolationism Patriots are not against internationalism,” he had written. “Their pleas for national self-reliance are not incompatible with international co-operation, provided that latter is on equal footing-with due regard to the national respect of every country.”

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The swadeshi model

In this treatise, Thengadi’s main premise was that neither capitalism nor socialism can be a solution for India. There has to be a ‘swadeshi’ model with a ‘self-reliant’ India — an India-specific model he called the ‘Third Way’.

“Proponents of swadeshi are not prepared to endorse the view that the western paradigm is the universal model of progress and development worthy of being followed by all the people of the world,” he wrote. “People have their own distinct culture and the model of progress and development for each country should be consistent with its own cultural ethos. Westernisation is not modernisation.”

One of his key arguments was against the free trade theory preached by Adam Smith and then established firmly by Ricardo’s Principle of Political Economy’ in 1817

Thengadi, after doing a detailed comparative study of various economic models, had observed that the free trade theory is no more applicable in the present world and India should become self-reliant. 

He founded the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) in the 1990s to push the debate on the ‘swadeshi model’ and also launched India’s biggest labour organisation, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, in addition to an all-India farmers’ collective, the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh. Incidentally, Thengadi’s birth centenary also falls this year.

Bokare, the former Nagpur University vice-chancellor and members of several top economic advisory bodies at the Centre as well as in the state of Maharashtra, buttressed Thengadi’s arguments further.  

Bokare’s seminal work Hindu Economics: Eternal Economic Order, published in 1993, argued that the western paradigm had failed and India could find a solution to its problems in its ancient scriptures. 

Bokare was interestingly a Marxist economist for a long time. He was also a friend of Thengadi even though they stood at the opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. It was Thengadi who encouraged and motivated Bokare to study ancient Indian scriptures for economic thought and concepts. 

“Dr Bokare had been a confirmed Marxist for decades. In his enthusiasm for party propaganda, he often converted his class into a recruiting ground for the Communist party,” Thengadi wrote in the preface to Hindu Economics. “The intellectual honesty of Dr Bokare inspired him to study in depth.. The Gandhian economics and finally Hindu Shastras also.. In 1984, he predicted the collapse of communism; in 1992 he declared that Hindu economics is the economics of the future.” 

Also read: RSS calls for new ‘Swadeshi’ model of development, cautions against feeling of exclusion

The taxless budget

Bokare, who analysed all key western economic models, presented a full chapter on the possibility of  ‘Tax less budget in Hindu economics’ in his treatise.

“There is an impression in Europe and America that ancient Indian did not possess any economic thoughts. This is not true… Holy Vedas have clear reference of market, supply and demand, price, trade, interest and profit and tax,” he wrote. “By interpolation we can deduce lease-rent and wages also for people without property  for income. Mercantile laws governing the economies are codified.”

“Smrutis are the codification of economic activities with some measures of qualifications of the variables,” he added. “Cost of production, market price, percentage of tax, wage-rates, interest rates etc are stated in the codified smrutis. Competition and monopoly are clearly identified. Foreign trade has been explained.”

He further wrote on the theory of economics in the Vedas. 

“The frightening mathematics for economics, ideologically prejudiced theorems, falsehood in the history of economic thoughts etc have manifested in a shapeless corpus of economics,” he added. “Hindu economics traces theory of economics in Holy Vedas and in the course of analytical exercises transcends western economics. It realises eternal economic order for mankind.”

Also read: Online shakhas, free ebooks, an app contest: RSS makes big web push amid lockdown


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  1. India can never become self reliant because the essential construct and design of the British made Constitution laws, and government machinery of Judiciary, Bureaucracy, Police etc is intended to keep India subordinate, importing goods and exporting wealth.
    This remains the rusting colonial iron framework of India from 1921 to 2020. In 1949, Nehru and Ambedkar inlaid some communist notions in order to redistribute wealth a little differently from the purely colonial design which was to enrich the Government and those who ran Government to steal from some for the benefit of others on the basis of caste, tribe religion, gender, language, geography and, as in colonial days, proximity to power.
    This has been championed and reinforced by every Government from Nehru’s to Modi’s.
    As for the 20 Lakh Crore package, please read:
    Why is the fiscal package more about putting people’s own money into their hands than actually kickstarting a crippled economy?
    It is a tacit admission or recognition that the economy was destroyed by the excessive greed of the Modi-Jet Lee Government followed through by the Modi Sitharaman duo who were only catering to the “Infrastructure Election Bond” and “Tech” Fat cats.
    Here is an analysis of mine pegged on the stock market from elsewhere:
    Why did the Indian Stock markets fall almost 3% today (14-May-2020) despite significant liquidity boost for NBFCs, MSMEs, HFCs etc by the finance minister and government of India?
    The fall in the stock market as a reaction to Sitharaman’s proposals is because
    (1) The gamblers on the stock market are as little convinced by this Government’s antics as I am.
    (2) This proposed deployment of (non existing) funds is directed at those not boosted by earlier Modi-Sitharaman measures which leveraged, purely, the capital holdings of High Net Worth Individuals (the fat cats stock holders) and FDI stock investors’ share value by reducing taxes.
    (3) The stock market is less concerned with the overall economy than the very short term gains for which the mostly Gujarati (prospective Bullet Train customers) speculators play on the stock market and to which the Modi-Nirmala policies have been catering hitherto.
    This (illusory) proposal is intended to shore up the financial companies hollowed out by RBI and Government lack of probity and maladministration, and to help increase employment by incentivizing the medium and small scale units. This cannot happen because the reasons for the financial sectors collapse which are RBI and Government acts of omission and commission cannot be addressed by throwing more money at these cess pools. Nor can Small and Medium Scale units, which have been destroyed by excessive taxation and harassment pivoting around Modi and Jet Lee’s insatiable “For Government, By Government, To Government” greed (GST etc) for purposes of Modi’s “Multi Appeasement Policy” and not by the liquidity crunch brought on by Modi’s Shock and Awe tactics such as “Demonetization” which had a temporary negative impact only on the sectors dependent on Black Money such as politics, film production, vice, crime, Government (aka Corruption) and terrorism. The long term impact of demo has only been on industries with long fruition lags like Real Estate.
    Modi’s “Multi appeasement policy” comprises:
    (1) Appeasing with doles, increments and pampering of Moslems, Christians, SC, ST, BC, OBC, Judges, Bureaucrats, Police, Politicians, Public Sector and Crony (election bond) Capitalists at the cost of the rest of the Nation
    (2) Bribe diplomacy of giving doles and aid to countries in competition with a far wealthier and more powerful China at the cost of Non VIP Indian citizens and India
    (3) Appeasing China by running up a trade deficit with China larger than India’s defense budget and taking advantage of India’s woeful lack of indigenous ability and capacities in governance, science, technology, integrity, quality and engineering to purchase arms from the remaining four Permanent Members of the UN Security Council with scant regard for India’s best interests in terms of economy, value for money, military strategy, tactics and readiness
    Let me state that India does not have a middle class outside Government service. India has only rich and poor, and personnel on Government pay roll who rate below the poverty line in countries like Germany, Britain, France and even Japan but for the enormous perquisites that Government steals from the public to offer for their misuse and the enormous cash they extract through extortion by plying India’s atrocious laws and regulations crafted for the purpose and taking advantage of India’s moribund and worthless Judiciary.
    Here is my predictive take on the Finance Minister’s threat to the future of India:
    More Jhumla.
    All about how she intends to spend non existent money to revive the economy. Which cannot be revived except by cutting drastically on anti productive and anti productivity Government that exists primarily to maintain itself in obscene luxury and for the personal pelf, pomp, pleasure, perversions and perpetuation of those on State Pay roll and the State’s preferred Castes, Tribes, Religions, Gender, Languages, Geographies, Cronies and Kleptocrats.
    This Government has dug itself deeper, and deeper into the hole that successive Indian Governments have dug for India since 1947.
    Modi’s 20 lakh crore Nehruvian Keynesian-Rooseveltian Jhumla cannot succeed because India’s economy has already been run into the ground by destroying the productive and productivity to feed Modi’s “For Government, By Government, To Government”, “Multi-Appeasement” policies. All Modi is proposing is to stoke inflation through deficit finance, leading to the collapse of the rupee and the economy in order to sustain and perpetuate a failed Government that has further fattened the preexisting accumulation of unproductive capital, non existent assets, and the exploding ranks of incompetent, corrupt Judges, Politicians, Bureaucrats, Police, Public Sector and others on State pay roll.
    There is no way that India can generate the sort of productivity and quality goods and services to compete Internationally to run up the sort of surplus to fill the contemplated deficit even over several centuries. Indian policies since 1947 to 2020, its Constitution, Courts and laws have seen to this. It would have taken a century after India put an end to corruption and reservation for it to begin to have a fighting chance. It may take several centuries now to pay off the debt Modi contemplates. Modi’s policies will suck the blood of many generations of Indians to come with far greater viciousness than Nehru and his successors!
    I have no faith or confidence that the present Government will do anything other than more of all the failed policies since 1947 which it has implemented with greater fanfare and technology assisted viciousness since 2014.
    I had predicted this right since 2014

  2. One should search a speech by learned former President Abdul Kalam who gave speech to young students to buy products made in India by Indian companies not foreign owned.So this nothing new and has no affiliation RSS or any organisation.Young and old citizens should always consider while venturing to go out to buy should consider or spend time looking up local manufactured products.

  3. RSS has a model for self reliance of India and feel Indians proud.
    What RSS haters have to offer?
    1) Librandus have models to divide India and defame it worldwide.
    2) Leftists have models to manufacture facts and create fake stories, news.
    3) Congress has models of corruption and looting India
    4) Anti-nationals have a model to fool Muslims and use them to create Hindu-Muslim tensions.
    5) Traitors have models to defend India’s enemies and feed them with info for use against India.

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