Mankind has witnessed several calamities and catastrophes. Earthquakes, epidemics, wars and so on. But in an unprecedented manner Covid 19 pandemic has loomed all over the world as a crisis of gigantic proportions, with almost all parts of the world and the entire human race severely affected. Throughout the course of history, many pandemic outbreaks have ravaged humanity, like Cholera, Plague etc. But global integration and increased mobility among nations have made Covid one of the largest pandemics faced ever, with 55 lakh cases reported in around 188 countries, resulting in nearly 3.5 lakh deaths.
Covid 19, along with creating a huge health crisis, has also caused a global disruption unseen before. Never the world had such levels of economic integration before, both at the supply as well as demand sides. Therefore the disruption is also more intense and extensive.
The world faces twin challenges of a massive scale. First, it has to combat Covid19 successfully, with minimum human loss. Second, it has to keep the economy moving and restore it as early as possible. Policy makers and leaders of nations are confronted with unique challenge of tackling both together, effectively. Responses to health challenges may have broad common grounds across nations. But for an economic revival a single model designed somewhere seldom can be applied everywhere. It is neither desirable too.
India as well is passing through an unprecedented crisis situation with a health emergency on one hand and an economic disruption on the other. As it’s leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji has steered the nation adeptly and remarkably during the Covid crisis as well as before it. His framework and action plan for containing and combating Covid was unique and extra ordinary. The high recovery rates and low mortality rates speak volumes regarding the strategy gaining success.
Narendra Modi ji also took the initiative in bringing together the South Asian nations aimed at deriving a consolidated response to the pandemic. A similar initiative of taking the world leaders into confidence and imploring them to take responsibilities could create a common programme for the world in the interest of mankind.
The response from government to the woes of most vulnerable sections during the Covid crisis was instant.
A 1.7 lakh crore Garib Kalyan package was announced in the early stage itself, which provided support to 39 crore people, especially through direct money transfer. RBI in March as well as April initiated sets of emergency measures for cash infusion and easing liquidity upto 8 lakh crores.
Narendra Modi ji’s approach to the situation was unique and exemplary. He urged people to realize the challenge and thereby convert it into an opportunity. The response to the challenge should be superior to the threat, is his line of thinking. The vision of his government had been realising the role that India should perform in the 21st century world. Hence, he appealed to 138 crore Indians to utilize this as an opportunity in making 21st century to India’s century.
In an exceptionally bold manner, he announced the Rs 20 lakh crore Aatmanirbhar Bharat package, which is about 10 percent of India’s GDP. This package was framed keeping the objectives of 21st century India well in mind. Instead of confining to requirements of two or three sectors or welfare needs, he addressed this bigger aspiration without compromising. Disregarding existing shibboleths, he founded it on 5 pillars of Economy, Infrastructure, Technology, Demography and Demand. He asserted on an economy of future which doesn’t talk of incremental change but quantum jump. The package focused on land, labour, liquidity and laws. He stressed on infrastructure becoming the identity of modern India.
Realising the new context of post Covid world and India’s aspirations of 21st century, he enunciated the concept of vocal for local. Self reliance is the core of India’s economic policy. Prime Minister asserted that our model of self reliance should rebuild it’s definitions. Self reliance doesn’t mean self centeredness. It is driven by the principle of Vasudaiva Kutumbakam. This outlook of self reliance needs to be inculcated in the agenda of both the nation and society.
After coming to power in 2014, by transcending from an ecosystem steeped in corruption and policy paralysis to a transparent and corruption free governance, Narendra Modi ji laid the foundations for 21st century India’s aspirations. Within few months the government could open global record breaking number of bank accounts through Jandhan Yojna and altered the paradigm of financial inclusion. With more than 38.5 crore beneficiaries and a balance of Rs.1.35 lakh crores, Jandhan Yojna was one of the initial steps taken towards the larger goal. This has facilitated schemes like PM Kisan Samman Nidhi, through which Rs.6000 will be directly transferred to bank accounts of farmers every year as a minimum income support. As part of Covid relief, 8.19 crore beneficiary farmers received an installment of Rs 2,000. A digitised leak proof system for Direct Benefit Transfer was the much needed firm foundation for the nation’s onward march.
Insuring the uninsured through various insurance schemes is another significant aspect of the strong foundation being laid. Important schemes include PM Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojna, PM Suraksha Bima Yojna, Ayushman Bharat Yojna. Over 65 lakh patients have availed treatment under Ayushman Bharat Yojna. PM Shram Yogi MaanDhan Yojna ensures protection through pension for a huge section of people from unorganized sector, whose monthly income is less than Rs.15000. PM Kisan MaanDhan Yojna ensures similar pension to small and marginal farmers, for which around 20 lakh farmers have already registered. 1.12 lakh houses have been constructed under PM Awas Yojna. Under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan 10 crore toilets were built. Farmers income doubling will be achieved by 2022.
Narendra Modi ji has given the nation the dream of a 5 trillion dollar economy. The firm foundations laid so far and the initiatives for self-reliance are all linked to the coherent objective of bringing back India’s glory again. PM has recalled how India was once the ‘Sone ki Chidiya’ of the world. India is the only nation to claim uninterrupted global economic leadership for more than 1700 years. Our share to world GDP from AD 1 to 1700 was highest at 32.9 percent and lowest at 24.4 percent. China’s GDP share to the world was highest ever at 26.1 percent and lowest ar 22.3 percent. The core of Modi ji’s aspiration lies here. Based on this, since 2014 he has built the foundations and given shape to the aspiration of 5 trillion dollar economy.
A self-reliant India also means widening the security aspects of the nation. Security no longer will be confined to defence, but will include wider areas like food security and health security. Reforms and programmes as envisaged by the Aatmanirbhar Bharat plan comprises it. The government could achieve self reliance in food grains and become the top producer of milk in the world. Oilseeds, pulses and blue revolution finds thrust in our unfinished journey to food security. Rs.1 lakh crore agri infrastructure fund, Rs.2 lakh crore credit boost through Kisan Credit Card, Rs.30000 crore additional emergency working capital fund and a string of measures will enhance our efforts in achieving food security.
MSME sector, the backbone of India’s decentralised economy, provides second largest employment after agriculture and 40 percent of India’s exports. Revised definition of MSME, collateral free automatic loans worth Rs.3 lakhs, equity infusion of Rs.50000, exclusive participation in tenders upto Rs.200 crores and many more measures were taken for empowering the sector and thereby furthering the nation’s aspirations.
Watershed demarcation will distinguish pre Covid and post Covid health sector of India. A 360 degree transformation covering health infrastructure, Swachh Bharat, Ayushman Bharat, AYUSH etc is indispensable. Increasing life expectancy, reducing mortality, handling pandemics and making India health destination of the world is fundamental to fulfil 21st century India aspirations. A large work force of health professionals, immense capacity for innovation and production of bulk drugs have already placed India upfront in the Covid fight.
During the 1965 war, owing to shortage of food, Lal Bahadur Shastri gave the call for sacrificing one meal a day. It helped India stand back on its foot. In 2020, when we embarked upon the Covid fight, India was not manufacturing PPE or N95 masks. But within 60 days, we have become the second largest PPE manufacturer with 4.5 lakh pieces produced a day. Whenever this nation faces a challenge and has an able leader to guide, it has bounced back with more vigour and strength. After becoming a free nation in 1947 and long debates in the Constituent assembly, India decided to create an egalitarian society based on equity. The concept of Aatmanirbhar Bharat is based on this unfinished dream of our freedom fighters, founding fathers and leaders who dedicated their lives to build a glorious India.
(The writer is National General-Secretary of BJP)