Atmanirbhar Bharat: An Opportunity to Build a Vibrant Economic System

The Central Government has unveiled the details of an economic package worth Rs. 20 lakh crore or 10% of India’s GDP in 2019-20, aimed towards achieving the mission- Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. What possibilities it can bring for the workers in India’s MSME and informal sectors, which constitutes 90% of workers, whose fragility stand exposed during the COVID-19? Definitely a ray of hope. However, time is running out, and there is a need to act now.  I see five key drivers to achieve this mission.

1.      If India has to be self-reliant, its self-reliance need to emerge from the 2,69,347  Gram Panchayats (GP), the smallest unit of our governance system. Each cluster of 10-15 GPs needs to excel in some sustainable economic activity- production and/ or commerce. It should result in sustainable livelihood for at least three fourth of the families in the cluster.

2.      There are a lot of talks and reports regarding the need for reforms, or the right reforms. Re-form means some incremental improvement in the present form/ regulations. Time has come to create new regulations to support economic activities, rather than adding more pages and complexities to the existing complex regulation concerning land, labour, taxes, and the environment and protecting the rights of people.

3.      If economic activities at the GPs are to be sustainable, there is a need to empower the locals with knowledge and skills. This can happen by integrating our economic activities to the education system right from the higher secondary level. Every student from higher secondary level and onwards, need to spend one-day equivalent in a week directly or indirectly in economic activities at the GP-Cluster level. The so-called socially useful and productive work (SUPW) in the school/ university curriculum needs to be replaced with economically useful and productive work (EUPW) and enforced.

4.      To manage the interdependencies with rest of the economic system, economic activities of each GP-Cluster integrated to a larger economic cluster, depending upon the nature of the interdependency. This is in line with the cluster development approach of the Government of India for the MSMEs.

5.      Finally, the Provision of Urban Amenities to Rural Areas (PURA), a concept given by former President late A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. That is, need for establishing physical, electronic and knowledge connectivity, so that economic connectivity will emanate.

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