This is a serious blog & that is why I have given it the title “Independence-interdependence” & not “Atma nirbhar” because I do not take the statements of our beloved PM seriously. Since the issues like ‘vocal for local’ & independence are being currently discussed in the public domain I am writing my views on the subject.
Independence at Individual Level: Good Virtue
When a child is born it is highly dependent on the parents for survival. Very slowly it gets out of the dependence stage to the independence stage. Not all people gain adequate psychological independence & remain dependent upon others.
Gaining physical and mental independence is a worthy goal for a youth and we must all strive for it. When a youth becomes competent to support himself or in simple words gets a job and a salary he/she becomes reasonably financially independent. The financial independence of an individual impacts his/her psychological and social independence as well. This is an important stage of growth of an individual. For this reason I insist upon my students to start working soon after they have graduated.
Interdependence: Higher Virtue than Independence
The modern world demands specialization & super-specialization. Please just observe the doctors around you to get the answer. If you look around the world job market you will realize that so many new jobs have come up today which never existed earlier. We are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution. If I can hazard a guess then I feel that 90% of the youth, in their lifetime, will have to make drastic changes in the nature of work that they are doing today. I was just reading an article as to how COVID-19 is likely to make a great shift towards online coaching and virtual classes from regular classes. This is just one small change. We will witness numerous changes & the nature of the world will keep evolving. Anyway, the issue of discussion is independence and interdependence. Let us note some facts:
· It is not possible for one person to know or do everything.
· It is not sensible also to try and know & do everything. Why? Just think is it sensible for Messi to get his laptop repaired by a specialist or spend 2-3 years in learning how to do so & then keep upgrading his knowledge to keep up with technological advancements & repair his laptop himself? It makes more sense for him to just play good Football (his specialization) & use the money earned to get all other support he needs to live in the world. This logic applies to a doctor or a lawyer or to you & me as well.
· Gandhi ji was a great advocate of self-reliance. He wanted to do most of his things by himself. I am a great admirer of his thoughts but just imagine in current times if I try to weave my own cloth, grow my own vegetables, cook my own food, string my Tennis racket & so on. It does not make economic sense.
· It makes economic sense for me to focus on my core competence and that is personality development guidance and take support of the world for other things. It does in no way mean that I cannot grow vegetables, cook food or understand medicine or law but I realize that it makes sense for me to focus on what society finds me most suitable at. The more I work in my chosen field the more proficient I become & market forces determine the value of my work. This is the essence of efficiency as identified by Adam Smith.
· At home we all evolve some kind of a division of responsibilities. Once again each individual becomes proficient at what he does regularly. This brings efficiency in managing the work at home.
· When I started taking personality development classes I was practically worked alone for two years. As the work grew I began taking help. I had to delegate work. This is a reality of the inter-dependent world. I focused on my core area of work and delegated other areas of work. To grow, this has to be done. Delegation is an essential ingredient of growth and acceptance of the reality of an inter-dependent world. Imagine Munjal of Hero Moto Corp running around 40 work stations to produce one single motor cycle, then running to despatch it & then running to corporate office to buy electoral bonds or donate for PM CARES fund & handle plenty of other office work. This will clarify to you that delegation is essential in modern life.
Nation’s Reality: Independent or Interdependent?
A nation can be compared with an individual, family or an organization, as discussed above. Independence or self-reliance is a good virtue in so far as a country can finance its needs (equivalent to an individual earning his/her livelihood). This makes it self-reliant. We will study Hero Moto Corp as an organization to draw lessons for us.
Hero will need the best & cheapest labour to be globally competitive. Some of the high skilled workers maybe foreigners & maybe from states other than the state in which the plant is located.
It will need the best & cheapest material. The major ingredients are steel, copper, rubber & plastic. It will buy it locally if the material is meeting the quality and cost criteria or from China or anywhere else which is ideal for it.
It will use equity or debt at the cheapest rates be it foreign or Indian to maintain global competitiveness.
For other things like land, electricity, logistics cost, laws & policies it will have to depend upon India.
How Government Can Ruin or Promote Business?
· Government can ruin the business of Hero by:
o Increasing import duties on material imports to promote local manufacture.
o Creating troublesome laws & policies.
o Forcing hiring of only local workers.
o Increasing electricity & logistics costs.
· Government can promote business by not interfering in any of the above things as also lowering electricity and logistics cost.
· It is quite obvious from the above that by bringing in ‘vocal for local’ business can be ruined.
· By lowering the exorbitant tax on petrol it can increase the domestic demand for motor cycles.
· Government can promote exports through policies.
· In the long run allowing free flow of labour, capital, imports and exports & improving the ease of doing business a government promotes business. This is what India did in 1991. In keeping with the spirit India should have become a signatory to the RCEP. These are the things a good government should do.
Why Trump Won Elections on the Plank of ‘Make America Great Again’ & Why Modi is Calling for “Atma nirbhar” India?
These are predominantly meaningless slogans which do not help to promote business much. As explained earlier in the example, such interferences can only have adverse impacts on the business. ‘Minimum government, maximum governance’ is the right thing to do by a government and thus allow people to make themselves self-reliant. Unfortunately the majority of voters fall for such slogans and gimmicks in the entire world & that is why such slogans are used in elections. The educated and aware citizens should not fall for such trash slogans. We should know that neither Trump will make America great nor
Modi will make India, “Atma nirbhar”. We are democracies and should ask questions and demand performance from our elected representatives. Let us resolve to force them to perform and not fool us by trash slogans.
How Can India become Self-Reliant?
India or any country can become self-reliant just like an individual. The actions required to be taken are:
· Improve education (increase GDP expenditure on it).
· Improve health-care (increase GDP expenditure on it).
· Improve the economy (get double digit growth for 8-10 years).
· Improve defence preparedness & enhance influence in the Indian Ocean as well as neighbouring countries.
These are all long term actions & require systematic effort. What Trump & Modi are doing are just selling ideas appealing to the emotions of people. What is needed are sound & rational long term actions. Boycott of goods and services do not make any country self-reliant.