Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan
As the whole world, including India is reeling from the crisis engendered by the COVID-19 pandemic, India saw this as an opportunity to relook at systems and institutions to not just combat the crisis but also to prevail.
Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (Self-reliant India Mission) has been launched by the central government with an economic stimulus package of Rs.20 lakh crore and a host of recommendations for reforms to be included in relief efforts following the COVID-19 pandemic. This amount is equivalent to 10% of India’s GDP and includes packages already announced at the beginning of the lockdown incorporating a slew of measures from the RBI and the payouts under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana. Prime Minister in his speech has emphasized that, in order to make 21st century India’s, the way forward is to ensure that the country becomes self-reliant.
Five Pillars of a Self-reliant India:
To build a self-reliant India, Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan rests on 5 pillars:
- Economy – quantum jumps, not incremental changes
- Infrastructure – one that represents modern India
- System – Technology driven
- Demography – Vibrant demography to make India self-reliant
- Demand – full utilization of the power of demand and supply
Self-reliant India Mission is not only about financial stimulus, but also of a reform stimulus and emphasizes on land, labour, liquidity and laws.
The reforms and stimulus measures under Rs.20 lakh crore package were announced by the finance minister in five tranches.
In the first set of relief measures, the focus was laid on MSME segment for which Rs.3 lakh crore collateral-free loans and Rs.50,000 crore equity infusions through Fund of Funds was announced.
NBFCs and power distribution companies also received liquidity relief measures worth Rs.30,000 crore and Rs.90,000 crore respectively.
Advisories were issued to states for extending the completion dates of real estate projects under RERA to de-stress developers and ensure completion of projects.
The second tranche of measures catered to migrant workers, street vendors and farmers.
‘One nation one ration card’ was announced to enable access of PDS across country. Centre had also released Rs.11,000 crore to augment the funds of State Disaster Response Fund for setting up shelters for migrants. Close to 2 lakh crores will be given to farmers through Kisan credit cards and 2.5 crore farmers, including fishermen and animal husbandry farmers would also get institutional credit at a concessional rate.
The third tranche of the measures worth Rs.1.5 lakh crore focused on agriculture and allied sectors including dairy, animal husbandry and fisheries.
Funds worth Rs.1 lakh crore was announced for agricultural cooperative societies, farmer producer organizations and start-ups for boosting farm-gate infrastructure. Rs.20,000 crore was announced for fishermen through PM Matsya Sampada Yojana and Rs.10,000 crore for formalization of micro-food enterprises. The Rs.15,000 Crore Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund will be created. Herbal cultivation and bee-keeping initiatives also received financial impetus.
Amendments to Essential Commodities Act to de-regulate cereals, edible oils, oilseeds, pulses, onion and potato was mooted to enable better price realization for farmers.
The reforms introduced affect 8 sectors namely – coal, defence production, minerals, civil aviation, power distribution in UTs, space and atomic energy. There is a huge emphasis on privatisation. It includes provisions for banning the import of some weapons and platforms to indigenize defence production. Private involvement in space will be encouraged. The Finance Minister also announced the commercial mining in the coal sector and privatizing discoms for better accountability.
In the fifth tranche, the Finance Minister announced Rs.40,000 crores increase in allocation for MGNREGS to provide employment boost. Health, technology-driven educationand decriminalization of Companies Act defaults were other announcements in the last tranche of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan
Positives of Self-Reliant India Mission
During the pandemic, the global supply chains were disrupted and restrictions on mobility have resulted in tighter controls over the flow of goods, services and labour across the borders. The importance of local manufacturing, local market and local supply chains was realized against the backdrop of changing international economic order during the pandemic. Atmanirbhar Bharat Mission stresses on the need to be vocal for local products.
The government has used the pandemic as an opportunity to introduce some much-needed reforms in Agriculture Marketing and measures like introducing a law on contract farming will certainly work in the favour of farmers. Increasing the budget for MGNREGA will help the migrant workers to find meaningful employment when they return home.
Several reform measures like opening up more sectors for private participation are long-term structural changes that have been pushed through, on the pretext of COVID-19 relief measures.
Criticisms of the economic package
- An economic package to the tune of 10% of GDP was announced without a clarity on the source of funding and oversight.
- The job losses that have happened in the aftermath of the pandemic have been largely unaddressed. Many workers in the organized sector have suffered job losses and a sharp fall in the income.
- Farmers find it hard to get Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their produce. The package remains silent regarding the resumption of normal procurement operations.
- The government has focused largely on the supply-side push, while the demand stimulus has been ignored.
- A large part of the economic package has been announced earlier under various programmes. For example, the defence indigenization plan and commercial mining of coal are not new.
- While the state governments have shouldered the fight against the pandemic, they have not been adequately supported by the economic package.
The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the failings of multilateral and regional institutions to respond effectively to the changing economic order. Atmanirbhar Bharat can be conceived as a programme that is against the unbridled adoption of Western economic model. It is an attempt to cement India’s place in the ever-changing economic order, by transforming our local industries and engender what is known as ‘glocalisation’ that serves both local and global markets. Self-reliance does not mean isolation from the world. It aims at making globalisation a human-centric one, as opposed to the current profit motivated model.