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Modi’s idea of self-reliant India same as Gandhi’s — modernisation yes, Western dependence no

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ or self-reliant India is Swadeshi economics in other words.

In the Indian context, self-reliance should not mean divorcing international trade. India will have to seriously engage with the region and the world, but at the same time strengthen its own domestic industry by streamlining the governance system and go far beyond mere amendments and announcements. Swadeshi does not and should not be interpreted as isolation. M.K. Gandhi’s Swadeshi movement and self-reliance were two sides of the same coin that would find currency in a globalised world.

Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj explains the “all Indian economic (and political) model” in detail. For Gandhi, swadeshi was the rejection of the colonial exploitation of India to add to British coffers, leading to the detriment of India’s poor and the downtrodden. Capitalism based on unrestricted industrial growth to feed insatiable crass consumerism became the norm of the laissez-faire (free market) Western economic model, which Gandhi criticised in Hind Swaraj. The British colonial model was passed on to the US and was touted as a panacea for economic growth, with technological materialism pitted against dialectal materialism as an inevitable operative instrument. It wasn’t, which is why we need Swadeshi economics back.

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