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The Modicum of Atma-Nirbharta

We need job creators and clearly with no idea as to how businesses are scaled on the pivot and modicum of R&D and IPR, we would not be able to escape millions of jobless job seekers.

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The *modicum, (*a small quantity of a particular thing, that is desirable or valuable), of ‘Atmanirbharta’ needs to be pegged on development of entrepreneurship spurred by creation and innovation, similar to eudaimonia, a moral philosophy of Aristotle, that defines right action leading to "well-being" of the individual.

While atmanirbharta is good for those that may have the means or the ends in place, what about those that shall drown because they have neither the means nor the ends in sight. The Jobless!!

Can we accept defeat today? It calls for bravery to accept defeat and foolhardiness to escape truth like extolled in the eudemian ethics. Aristotle even appraises us on the difference between mildness, temperance and liberality if we were to progress. Let’s find some statistics and rationality that provoke us into action beyond the rhetoric.

‘Atmanirbharta’ or self-sufficiency cannot be and will not be achieved unless it is looked at from the point of view of consumption for an increase of it raises GDP by the same amount, other things being equal. While religion and nationalism etc. are chest thumping ideologies, these do not and certainly in the current globalized context cannot spar with products and services without competing on quality and pricing. Lest we are blamed for raising the bogey, we would like to shift blame upon the very erudite Shashi Tharoor albeit in a lighter vein. He alluded to the inescapable truth of globalization in the death of Lady Diana in the following words:

“An English princess with a Welsh title, leaves a French hotel with an Egyptian companion who is a supplanted Pakistani. She gets into a German car with a Dutch engine that is driven by a Belgian Chauffeur, full of Scottish Whisky that is chased by Italian Paparazzi on Japanese motorbikes into a Swiss built tunnel to meet with a crash. An American Doctor using Brazilian medicine attempted an unsuccessful rescue leading to a fatality, while an Indian MP from a place called Thiruvananthapuram told the whole story in Boston”

Our question is: If the entire episode had to be put to a jury, whose fault would it be for her death?

There’s more; post taxes, an individual has the right to use his or her money judiciously and observe thrift. Government needs to focus on that enablement. While Chinese apps can be banned, it’s other products and development cannot be stonewalled or stalled. WTO will grant them enough room and opportunities to invest in countries such as those in our friendly neighborhood, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and sell us their products from those countries.

India is a USD 3.0 Trn economy. Let’s hypothetically say, its growing at 4%. That would infuse an additional delta of USD 100 Bn into the economy next year. While a large part of this will go into infrastructure development, FMCG and other markets, it would still be too imaginative to expect 5% of this going into new jobs. Be that as it may, the USD 5 Billion panned against the 6 million graduates of which 60% are not job ready, even so at an average will fetch each graduate a job of USD 750 per year. That’s how much a Rickshaw puller earns.

The entire system needs to change from creating jobs to creating Job creators. That is exactly where the dialogue of the last several years has remained without making any headway. A lot of conversation on how we should compete with China and beat them in trade and business is on. Here are some pointers.

For starters, look at investments in Research. This is the comparison: China spent USD 279 billion in 2017. India spent USD 15 billion. China spends 2.1% of its GDP (It was 0.56% in 1995) on Research. India spends 0.6% of our GDP (It was 0.6% in 1995) on research. Israel spends 4.3% and USA 2.8% of their GDP respectively on research. India’s spend has been consistent, if also stagnant at 0.6% to 0.7% of GDP for the last 20 years. Only 26 Indian companies as compared to 301 of China are amongst the top 2500 R&D companies in the world in terms of R&D spending.

According to Nature Index Rising Stars, 51 of the top 100 Universities with improved research are from China. None from India. Almost all of our R&D spend is by GOI. None from states. Negligible by private sector. It is our cyber coolies that continue to create world class products for US. Even Our PSUs like ONGC which should invest in research donate for large social and symbolic causes such as statues and Kumbh melas while ignoring funding research projects in universities. On Research Impact (H-Index), India scores 12.6 against China’s 39.2. We publish less and impact even lesser. There is more:

Our CSIR research fellows are paid a pittance and that too is hard to come by. ICMR recently requisitioned Bharat Biotech company to develop a vaccine by this August, much against saner voices among the scientific community. How successful will be the 'drug discovery hackathon' with students helping generate ideas to fight Covid 19 is anybody’s guess. Even Patanjali, otherwise an Indian pride in Ayurveda, pushed an untested Covid Cure much to the chagrin of the believers.

According to an analysis, India has an Academic Freedom Index of 0.352, comparable to the scores of Saudi Arabia and Libya. Curiously, countries that scored higher than India include Pakistan (0.554), Brazil (0.466), Ukraine (0.422), Somalia (0.436) and Malaysia (0.582). Uruguay and Portugal top the list with scores of 0.971 each, followed closely by Latvia and Germany. At the bottom are North Korea (0.011)

Unless we are as farsighted as the Japanese, who could have easily shunned American products post the holocaust, but chose to keep the baby and threw out the bathwater, we will continue to sing patriotism making pennies and living in penury, while creating the next big bang in America for Americans. With its 12.65 Crore population, Japan clocks a GDP of USD 5.7 trn, twice as high as ours, even as it is only 1/10th the size of our population.

The limited point being that we need to create Intellectual Property, build products, create entrepreneurs and newer heroes, of whom India has seen none or a handful in the last decade. Unless we look to that investment, the recent investiture of some of our statues will remain mute witnesses to the erosion of our demographic capital under our muffled trade, to hide our own failure to expand our product baskets.

In the long-term, we must build our internal strengths. It isn't just building new businesses or running them more efficiently. It's the old-fashioned basics of self-reliance, self-motivation, self-reinforcement, self-discipline and self-command. Yes, we need ‘Atmanirbharata’ but unless we invest in R&D and IPR to encourage entrepreneurship, it would only remain a pipedream. We need job creators and clearly with no idea as to how businesses are scaled on the pivot and modicum of R&D and IPR, we would not be able to escape millions of jobless job seekers.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Dr. S.S. Mantha

Former Chairman of AICTE, Dr. Mantha is an eminent academician. At present, he is Chancellor KL University and Adjunct Professor, NIAS, Bangalore.

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Yogesh Kochhar

The author is Corporate maven and a happiness evangelist

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