The Editor: I have seen a statement in the Times of India, May 12, reporting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to his fellow citizens, “Coronavirus: Let’s resolve to make India self-reliant.”
I believe that there is a message there for us in the nation (and region).
The statement is significant because, since Independence, India has been on a growth path. Despite problems such as massive inequality, as well as communal, religious and ethnic tensions, not to mention severe disruption caused by natural disasters, successive administrations have been guiding India toward becoming a world power.
India’s agricultural output is phenomenal. India is the largest producer of milk with 18 % of world production, second largest producer of rice, over 100 million metric tonnes, wheat over 90 million tonnes, sugar 25 million tonnes, fruits and vegetables over 200 million metric tonnes. India is also the largest producer of cotton with a production of 6.51 million tonnes of the fibre.
It is unrivalled in many aspects of science and technology. Its telecommunication industry is the world’s second largest. It is the world’s tenth-largest oil producer and the third-largest oil consumer. India is a space power. Its first aircraft to Mars entered Mars’ orbit years ago.
And don’t talk about soft power specifically Bollywood and cricket.
Nonetheless faced with the covid19 pandemic the Indian Prime Minister finds it necessary to rally India toward self-reliance.
I do not expect that every word PM Modi says is relevant to TT. But there are some things which we already know. For a start, we already have government’s files laden with developmental ideas.
PM Modi’s call for India’s self-reliance, would be founded on five pillars: economy, infrastructure, systems, demography and demand. Where economy was concerned. Modi said “we do not have to make incremental change but have to build an economy that takes quantum jumps.”
The focus of the economy would be on cottage and village industries and the micro, small and medium enterprises sector.
He has urged India to buy and endorse local products.
“Every Indian must become vocal for local. Besides using the local goods, every Indian must also publicise them.”
He said one should get happiness in what is under their control.
“Self-reliance also empowers us besides giving us happiness.”
Nothing that Modi has stated should be strange to TT. We had our Grow More Food campaign during WW II. There were buy local jamborees complete with calypso competitions and floats during Carnivals in the 60s and 70s. The PNM was heavily-involved in it together with the Manufacturers’ Association.
We have innumerable examples of self-reliance. Peasant agriculture among Africans and Indians in Trinidad, as well as in Tobago, the development of the steelband, the establishment of private schools when the State was not providing them.
In “The Peoples Declaration of Policy for the Development of a New Trinidad & Tobago” (The Blue Book) NJAC wrote about the machinery and method of shaping consumption values.
“The dominance of the US in creating tastes in the society is both harmful culturally, because it robs us of thought and creativity in an important area of life, and harmful economically, because it increases our dependence on imports and stifles the potential of the domestic economy. Resources are wasted because there is no demand for what we can produce ourselves.”
“It is only by serious self-analysis and coming to terms with reality on the part of the people that anything can be done to changing the situation.”
Effective leadership is at the heart of the problem. We have to take ourselves in hand, study what we have accomplished, turn the nation in on itself, step by step, over a time, so that we become “vocal for local.”
We must become passionate advocates for TT’s self-reliance as PM Modi has suggested to India.