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Atmanirbharta for New India

The word, “Atmanirbhar” is usually thought of as related to the concepts of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. Limiting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call of “Atmanirbhar” to this understanding would, however, not do complete justice to his vision. To get a comprehensive understanding of Atmanirbhar — the thinking and the processes and programmes associated with it — one needs to appreciate the idea, not just from the current context. It is also important to look at the country from a historical and civilisational lens.

India has historically been known for innovation and intellectual accomplishments — in governance, spiritual thought, education, healthcare, industry, trade and several other fields. Centuries of colonisation and invasions created a sense of inferiority amongst people in the country, led to intellectual stagnation and fostered a slavish mentality amongst Indians at the time of Independence. When the British left Indian soil, they did not just leave us with political freedom. A large section of Indians continued to think and behave like the subjects of a benign crown. For most Indians of that generation, becoming a citizen was a novelty and demanded a change in beliefs, values, and practices. While it is easy to be dependent on a benevolent state, becoming a free thinker and operating with the spirit of citizenship requires conviction, discipline, determined optimism and hard work. This is possible only when there is an ecosystem that promotes self-respect and self-belief.

Unfortunately, for several decades after Independence, the ecosystem in the country did not nurture adequately the idea of engaged citizenship — people continued to look at the state as the “provider”, leaving a large section of Indians feeling unsure about their capabilities. This is no longer the dominant narrative today.

Today, a generation of young people are qualified, competent and confident in deciding not just their future but that of the nation as well. This needs to be seen in the background of how India’s position in the global comity of nations has been enhanced over the last few years. This visibility and respect for India and what Indians are capable of must be seen as an outcome of the several visits PM Modi has undertaken to different parts of the world. Whether it is evacuating Indians from conflict zones, or the Vande Bharat missions, from taking over the G20 presidency to a seat at the UNSC, we can see how the ecosystem has been spreading the feeling of pride and self-sufficiency.

Moving towards self-reliance from the historical dependencies of the past several decades is more than just a paradigm shift. It needs to change the mindset of not just citizens, but also of the political class and the bureaucracy. Programmes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Startup India, Standup India, Yoga Day celebrations and Ayushman Bharat not only reinforced the reasoning that Indians must look to themselves for making the country clean, healthy and economically independent, but they also boosted national pride. These programmes nurtured Atmanirbharata in their own ways.


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