‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India) is a dream. In this article, the Prime Minister highlights the silver linings amid the pandemic and explains how 2020 was a year of internal discovery for the country.
I wish all readers of the Manorama Yearbook a happy, healthy and successful 2021. Over the last several years, the Yearbook has emerged as a vital reference point for people across all sections of society, spread across the length and breadth of India and beyond.
It is an inseparable companion for those who prepare for competitive examinations and a dependable source of all those who seek information, current affairs, facts and all that is latest and relevant for general knowledge. Publication in various languages including English, Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, and Malayalam speaks about the demand and popularity of the Yearbook.
Some may call the year 2020 as a year of external disruptions due to the pandemic. But I firmly believe that 2020 will be known, not as a year of external disruption, but as a year of internal discovery, for our citizens, for our society and for our nation.
Adversity not only builds strength but also brings out our true innate character. This global pandemic has brought to the fore India’s national character for the entire world to behold, as a resilient and united nation.
Across the world, people have expressed wonder at the way in which Indians, whether poor or rich, young or old, rural or urban, have shown the ability to be responsible, disciplined, focused, law-abiding, patient and composed during a crisis of unprecedented proportions.
We have not only stayed firm in the face of trying circumstances but have also helped the world. India emerged as a pharmacy to the world, sending life saving drugs and medicines far and wide, at the same time ensuring no shortage to our own people.
After the pandemic struck, in no time, our COVID warriors rose to the occasion and led India’s fight from the front. Remarkable efforts on a war-footing made India self-sufficient in PPE production. Thanks to our health care professionals and caregivers, India maintained a high recovery rate and a low death-rate compared to most nations, including advanced Western nations.
Even as we were battling a once-in-a-century health pandemic, various parts of the country faced devastating cyclones and other such hardships. However, the central government, various state governments, and people from across the country came together to face these challenges.
Our nation’s resilient spirit was complemented by our robust systems and institutions. Our physical infrastructure held together by the fabric of our society formed the foundation of our determined response. Our health care infrastructure was tested but never bested. Even as systems were crumbling in many other countries, our infrastructure scaled rapidly and immensely to help crores of people in various ways.
Countless unsung heroes, from ambulance drivers to pharmacists, from security personnel to small neighbourhood vendors, kept our lives going even during difficult circumstances, while carefully maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and adapting to digital payments.
The need to be disciplined did not mask the warmth in our hearts. The compassion of people for their compatriots flowed through both small individual acts of kindness, as well as collective societal efforts.
The pandemic needed behavioral transformation and the nation responded to it admirably at every level. This is the mark of a nation that can and will bounce back stronger from every crisis. A new self-belief has been instilled, that a nation with such a spirit can overcome any odds and achieve anything.
India is a nation that is ready for an ambitious marathon on the road to development in the coming decade. A slew of reforms across various sectors are strengthening our development trajectory. Earlier, reforms used to be hostage to political expediencies. However, political calculations matter only when a nation is aiming low. For an aspirational nation that wants to surge towards its destiny, no bar is high enough for us to leap over.
Today, India is progressing rapidly towards the goal of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat. An Aatmanirbhar Bharat means an India which is more competitive, an India which is more productive and an India which celebrates local talent. An Aatmanirbhar Bharat will increase India’s role in global supply chains by attracting more global businesses to India to take full advantage of India’s policy stability, low taxes and skilled human resources.
The trinity of reforms in the fields of education, agriculture and labour laws will immensely help our students, farmers and youth. They will empower them with more choices and unlock their full potential while maintaining adequate safeguards for the vulnerable.
We are also undertaking deregulation and decriminalisation of offences under the Companies Act to increase the Ease of Doing Business. We are welcoming private enterprises in all sectors to improve competition and choice for the consumers. India is also one of the most open countries today when it comes to FDI, which is resulting in record inflows of FDI from across the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the ability of technology to be a valuable bridge. From multi-nation summits to multinational companies, everyone’s work had to go online. Despite the pandemic-induced disruption, it was the technological platform laid assiduously in the form of JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile) Trinity that helped the government reach the poorest of the poor with direct financial assistance worth lakhs of crores of rupees when even developed nations were struggling with archaic IT systems.
In the coming year, there will be an even greater focus on self-reliance and resilience in technology. In the movement for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, technology — both as a domain and as an enabler — plays an important role. There is a buzz about India’s young and vibrant tech circles. Both the government and the tech ecosystem will continue working closely on strengthening the homegrown startup and mobile app ecosystem.
Democratisation of access will be a force multiplier to the power of technology. It was India’s state-of-the-art digital payments framework which ensured that commerce still connected small businesses with consumers in times of social distancing. To further power India’s tech revolution, we have already committed to taking broadband connectivity to over one lakh villages, and within the next 1,000 days, it will reach all six lakh villages of India.
Be it greater private participation in the space sector or reforms that aid industries, faceless tax assessment platform or the National Digital Health Mission, the coming year will see many such technology-based initiatives go from strength to strength as we future-proof India’s growth trajectory from likely disruptions.
As the only billion people democracy on the planet, we have demonstrated to all of mankind the strength of our social fabric, the resilience of our national determination and the capacity of our institutions to weather grave adversities without compromising on our core values.
We have to continue the brave fight against COVID-19 while also ensuring India’s socio-economic progress. In 2022, we will complete 75 years of freedom. I am positive that each one of us is already thinking of ways in which we can mark this momentous occasion. A strong, self-reliant and inclusive nation is the best tribute to the great men and women who led our freedom struggle. As individuals and as a nation, let us achieve meaningful goals and contribute towards celebrating an important milestone in our nation’s growth.
Reforms and resolve, resilience and responsibility will power our journey in the coming year.
(This article was originally published in Manorama Yearbook 2021)