Self-Reliant India

Self-Reliant India

Self-Reliant India is a concept, which has its roots in Nehruvian socialism. Currently, it is the most talked-about topic, after PM Narendra Modi emphasized on Self-Reliant India recently. After COVID-19 Pandemic hit India, there was a Huge shortage in production and India had to depend on imports for meeting its requirement as domestic production was insufficient.

Our Honourable Prime Minister said in a deep crisis like COVID 19, Self-Reliant India is the need of the hour and it has become the new mantra. Every crisis comes with a new opportunity and according to him, an opportunity has arrived where we can increase our domestic production and its quality.​


Being a self-reliant Nation is a major leap in Indian Economy, from Nehruvian socialism to 1991 economic reforms to Make in India and now self-reliant 2020.​

A perspective for Indian self-reliance in science and technology (S&T) and industrial sectors in a globalised world is a long overdue. Just after independence, we had heavy industries and good strategic sector but we missed out on 3rd industrial revolution in the 1970s and 80s when we chose to be isolated and self-centred.

Our economy shrunk as there were no policies of globalization and we adopted self-reliance. We badly needed economic reforms to cope up with the rapidly growing world and that was done by our then finance minister Mr Manmohan Singh, who came up with LPG policy i.e. liberalization, privatisation and globalization, which proved to be a major landmark in the Indian economy. Then our economy grew as is seen in GDP growth and since then, we have been an important part of the world economy.

Challenges To Be Self Reliant​​​​​​​​​

After Independence, India was Self Reliant in state-run heavy industries and strategic sector but we never modernised these Industries to sustain the dominance. India’s industrial environment was poor, hence low productivity, poor quality, low technology and globally uncompetitive. This led India felling off the technology ladder.

The 3rd revolution which we missed was mainly about electronic goods, microprocessors, personal computers, mobile phones, decentralized manufacturing and Global value chain during so-called lost decades. Today India is the world’s 2nd largest consumer of the smartphone market but sadly doesn’t make any of these.

After 1991 economic policy i.e. LPG, we thought we will grow in self Reliance for our Industries but we went to buy higher technology from outside at low cost, then self-reliance proved to be tantamount only.

So we never focused on being truly self-reliant, instead, we went on buying Technology from other countries and never built our own. Then another idea prevailed i.e. the public sector undertakings (PSUs) which proved to be sluggish and uncompetitive in the global market.

Overall PSUs were unable to match up with the tasks assigned and with many nascent research and R&D efforts for instance, in photovoltaics, semiconductors and advanced materials.

On the other hand, the private companies showed little interest in the research and development department but once the foreign companies came, they went into collaboration or they imported the new technology at a low cost.

Given the disinclination of most of the private sector towards R&D and high-tech manufacturing, significant government reinvestment in PSUs and R&D is essential for self-reliant.

The second idea was that inviting foreign direct investment (FDI) and manufacturing by MNCs would bring new technologies into India’s industrial ecosystem, eliminating the need for indigenous efforts towards self-reliance. However, mere setting up of manufacturing facilities in India is no guarantee of absorption of technologies (the ability to independently take them to higher levels). There is no evidence from any sector that this has taken place or has even been attempted.

​So barely setting up of manufacturing plants doesn’t mean we are self-reliant, we need to work on our R&D and innovation. These can prove to be a major landmark.

There are many challenges but, if we come up with something very innovative that nobody ever has, then other challenges like price bar, goodwill, reputation, market etc everything can be accomplished.

Countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong took a huge technological and industrial strides in the 1970s and 80s seeing Japan’s post World War 2 success.

Taiwan put their hands in robotics and microprocessors, while Singapore and Hong Kong chose advanced technologies in niche areas.

Sectors where we are not Self-Reliant

We never exposed the electronic equipment manufacturing sector of our nation. So we basically import smartphones & computers and they are a key part of the import bill. Mostly we reassemble those parts in India and my dear friends, assembling doesn’t mean manufacturing. For instance, around 88% of the components used in the mobile handset are imported from foreign countries.​

When we talk about handling COVID-19, then we found out the harsh reality that we need to be self-reliant because 60% in medical devices we had to import to meet our needs. So we need to boost our medical devices manufacturing specially ventilators and ICU badly. I am sure you all are aware of medical conditions in India especially in rural India and the need for investment to improve health infrastructure.

The health infrastructure should be our first and foremost priority so that we can save lives as much as possible. As common men, we hardly care how we get them(medical equipments), we just need to get them ASAP, as the situation is worsening in Maharashtra and Delhi a lot, around 99% ICU’s are already in used and 90% of ventilators are also being used. So the first sector, where we need to be self-sufficient should be medical sector, where we want to boost our medical equipment like ventilators and ICU beds for ensuring the survival of the common people.

There are sectors where we partially depend on imports, India’s Pharmaceutical is one of them​​​​​. We are capable of making finished goods, but currently the industry import some key ingredients for antibiotics and vitamins. Although on a positive note, we are trying to encourage domestic firms to make those key ingredients known as fermentation-based API. However, this will take at least a few years to do so.

The automobiles manufacturing industry also depends on the import of different components. Just to make it clear, we depend on Chinese manufactured chemicals used to make cathode and battery cells in electrical vehicles.

Sectors where we are Self-Reliant

The textile industry is one of the few industries where we are self-reliant. Other than that there are domestic products like hot water bottle, mercury thermometer, hypodermic needles, wheelchairs and patient monitor display units but the worrying thing is that these items we used to produce domestically. Apart from that, there are certain industries which are self-reliant right now but the future is uncertain for them due to global competition. We need to take impactful steps to keep them alive.

Like the tourism industry where you see a number of forts throughout the country but maintenance and awareness is still a noticeable issue. We can make a lot of money from our tourism industry and make people visit our monuments and forts, by taking proper care of them.

Thanks to the Green Revolution, we are now self-sufficient in food production. The supply chain is also good and our stocks are full even at the time of COVID-19 pandemic.

Way Forward

Unfortunately, it is a harsh reality but India may well have missed the trick in acquiring many of these technologies in which the U.S., Europe and China have established perhaps insurmountable leads. Yet self-reliant capabilities in electric and fuel cell vehicles, electricity storage systems, solar cells and modules, aircraft including UAVs, AI, robotics and automation, biotech/pharma and others are well within our reach.​

India needs to set up Research Institutes and also boost the existing ones with money and proper controlling through PSUs. If we aspire to be self-reliant and self-sufficient then it’s the only way. If some foreign company starts manufacturing in India, it doesn’t mean that we have become self-sufficient because at the end of the day, the goods are not ours and the innovation is not ours. If we boost the R &D sector then not only India but the whole world would reap the rewards of Indian Innovation.

To boost any country’s economy and their self-sufficiency, you need good education from the very bottom because no country without providing good quality education to the majority of its population has been able to do it. The lack of good quality education in India is a well-known fact and we need to improve it to grow as a nation.

There are many other solutions which we need to apply to become Self-reliant. Some of these solutions are discussed below:

  1. Increase excise duty on import so that our own market can survive.
  2. Increasing manufacturing units at the grassroots level i.e. village level to boost their work, especially in Handicrafts and giving them financial support and markets.
  3. Decrease GST on domestic products. Especially for those goods who are not able to breathe post the COVID-19 World, just to keep them alive.
  4. Vocal for local is good for awareness and will work as an advertisement for the local markets and will enhance them.
  5. Increase cash flow or liquidity in the market by DBT(direct benefit transfer) or give them the financial help by loans on low interest and easy EMIs.
  6. Coordination between state and Centre is a must. We must use co-operative federalism and work for the unorganised sector which is tough to reach.

These are a few solutions which I feel are necessary. Your solutions are also welcome in the comment section. On a positive note, we have the best talent, most young Nation and vibrant democracy. We can achieve what we want as a nation.

Author, QuaRANT9 Ex-KVian | UPSC Aspirant | Armed Forces | Love to discuss, write, read and Cricket of course | Consistency is the ultimate jack of all trades

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