New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Saturday urged Indians to work towards a ‘Atmanirbhar’ Bharat or self-reliant India, and said the country should strive towards bringing down its import bill and consume more locally manufactured products.
Reiterating his call for India to ‘Make for the world’ in his Independence Day speech, Modi said the slew of reforms and legal changes initiated by India over the last few years is seeing many global firms look to India to invest and set up their manufacturing units.
“We need to become self reliant to contribute more to the world … We need to increase value addition in the country,” the Prime Minister said from the ramparts of Red Fort.
“For how long, will the country export raw materials and then import finished products? I admit that there are challenges towards making India a self-reliant nation, but 130 crore Indians can rise up to meet these challenges,” he added.
Global mobile manufacturing firms like Samsung and Apple phone component manufactures like Foxconn, Wistron and Pegatron have evinced interest in stepping up investments in India.
Covid example, China impetus
Modi, in his speech, recounted how India managed to ramp up domestic production of items required in its Covid fight thereby reducing its reliance on imports of these items.
“Our policies, our processes and our products should be the best in the world,” Modi said, pointing out that this will help in achieving India’s aim of becoming “Ek bharat, Shreshta Bharat”.
He also stressed on the need for India to move forward with new strategies and new customs in the 21st century, pointing out that “being ordinary” will no longer work.
The concept of Atmanirbhar Bharat was coined by the Modi government in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many measures towards meeting the government’s aim of a self-reliant India were announced as part of the Rs 21 lakh crore economic package announced in May. These included three major agricultural reforms that would help the farmer get the right price for his produce as well as opening up the coal sector for commercial mining without any end use restrictions.
The India-China border tensions has also strengthened the call for the country to reduce its dependence on imports, especially from China, and consume locally made products. Swadeshi groups like the Swadeshi Jagran Manch and the traders group Confederation of All India traders have been at the forefront of raising these demands and calling for a boycott of Chinese goods.
India’s imports have fallen in the last couple of months with the country reporting a trade surplus in June. But economists pointed out that this was more because of the complete halt in economic activity on account of the pandemic that led to a sharp fall in domestic manufacturing rather than India reducing its reliance on imports.
This was reflected by the return of the trade deficit in July on account of a marginal revival in economic activity.
“Today, many big firms are looking towards India. We need to Make in India and make for the world,” Modi said.
The world is watching India’s reforms closely, Modi said, pointing out that the foreign direct investment into India has “broken all records”, registering a 18 per cent increase in FDI in 2019-20. He added that the FDI coming into the country is on account of the slew of reforms and legislative and administrative changes brought in by the government during this tenure.
The government has so far, taken many steps to reduce dependence on imports. These include curbing imports of 101 defence-related items as well as restrictions on imports of television.
Specific to China, the government has put investments by Chinese companies into India under the government approval route from the earlier automatic route as well as placed curbs on government procurement from Chinese companies.