Self-reliance is a process, Prime Minister, which began long before you
Contrary to the PM’s narrative, the country has strived for self-reliance since Independence, gaining spectacular success in several areas
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is known to be running a government by slogans. And his latest slogan is a call for India to become "Atmanirbhar" (self-reliant). He doesn’t seem to realise that it is an ongoing process which began long before him.
Food security and Green Revolution: The biggest need of India in the early years after independence was feeding its people. India had to become self-sufficient in food production. Bengal famine of 1943 was still fresh in memory and the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru prioritized self-reliance in food production in his vision.
Thus, came revolutionary measures like Zamindari abolition, tenancy reforms, irrigation schemes, dams and various land laws, which eventually ushered in a Green Revolution.
The White Revolution: If India is now the largest producer of milk in the world, the credit for ushering in the White Revolution also goes to government policies initiated long before Mr. Modi came on the scene. Operation Flood was launched in the seventies while dairy cooperatives came up even earlier.
Banking & Finance: Indians, especially poorer Indians, were freed from the clutches of money lenders who charged exorbitant rates of interest on loans by nationalizing banks in 1969 and ensuring cheaper loans to Indians.
Technology: It was Rajiv Gandhi who prepared the ground for India capitalizing on a technology driven world in the 21st Century. Seeds for the IT and computer revolution and mobile telephony were sown in the eighties of the last century. Under Dr Manmohan Singh, the GOI launched massive ICT projects like National Optical Fiber Network for laying down optical fibers reaching each and every corner of India for internet and other communication facilities.
Manufacturing and service sectors: These sectors received a boost following liberalization initiated in 1991 by a Congress government, in case Mr Modi doesn’t remember.
Energy: The Civil Nuclear Agreement signed under Dr Manmohan Singh brought a revolution in the energy sector of India. Installed capacity of electricity went up phenomenally between 2004 and 2012 and Mr Modi will do well to look up the figures.
jobs: The innovative Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme under MGNREGA ushered in by the UPA Government helped cushion India to a great degree following the global financial meltdown in 2008. Boosting rural economy and ensuring money in the hands of the poor had a cascading effect on urban economy as well.
MSMEs and Start-Ups: Congress gave massive loans to startups, MSME'S and small industries which created a fair number of jobs. Even in the last two years of UPA II, in 2012-13 and 2013-14, the number of newly registered companies was 92,383 and 98,437 respectively as against 64,395 (2014-15) and 60,489 (2015-16) in the first two years of the ‘Modi’ Government.
Add to this the pioneering work that was done in the first four decades of Independence, when IITs, steel plants, space research, Science labs were set up to make the country self-reliant.
For Prime Minister Modi, therefore, to claim that nothing was done before he became Prime Minister, that India was a sleeping giant before 2014 is complete nonsense.
(Disclaimer: The author is an active member of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee)