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Due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus disease, that eventually lead to the COVD-19 pandemic, the year 2020 has been disastrous not just for India, but for every country in the world. And the impact on the economy has been significant, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports; the global economy is expected to be affected by over 3% in 2020, which is considered to be the most severe slowdown since the 1930s Great Depression.
The situation has been worsening with each passing day, leading to the world’s longest imposed lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19. Domestic economic activities have been severely impacted. As a result, it has caused losses to the national economy worth of over Rs 30.3 lakh crore, as per the reports by SBI Ecowrap.
Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) is the vision of the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi to establish India as a self-reliant nation. The mention of the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ or ‘Self-Reliant India Mission’ came into existence during the announcement of the COVID-19 pandemic related economic package on May 12, 2020. The focal point of the concept is to strengthen the economy, make the country self-reliant in all areas – from manufacturing to supplying, and improve the trade deficit.
The Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan breakdown:
The primary focuses of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, known as the ‘Five pillars’ are:
- Vibrant Demography
And the phases of the mission are:
- Phase-I: Businesses including MSMEs
- Phase-II: Poor, including migrants and farmers
- Phase-III: Agriculture
- Phase-IV: New Horizons of Growth
- Phase-V: Government Reforms and Enablers
The package has been distributed into four tranches. The distribution has been mentioned as follows,
- Tranche I: This portion of the fund worth of Rs 5,94,550 crore includes funding and also assures loan for MSMEs, NBFCs/HFCs, contractors, real estate and salaried workers.
- Tranche II: This portion of the fund worth of Rs 3,10,000 crore is more focused on the poor, which includes migrant workers, farmers and street vendors.
- Tranche III: This portion of the fund is worth of 1,50,000 crore. The areas of focus are on the agriculture and other sectors such as dairy, animal husbandry and fisheries to strengthen the farming sector as a whole.
- Tranche IV: This portion worth of Rs 48,100 crore, focuses on the critical sectors such as – Coal, Defense Production, Minerals, Airspace management (ASM), Social Infrastructure Projects, Space sectors, Power distribution companies and Atomic Energy.
On May 12, the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, announced a special economic package of Rs 20 lakh crore (equivalent to 10% of India’s GDP) intending to make the country independent against the competition in the global market and help empower the poor, labourers and migrants adversely affected by COVID. Following the announcement, the Finance Minister, Ms Nirmala Sitharaman announced the detailed measures under the economic package. Here are some of the highlights,
Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises: About 67 million MSMEs are being operated in the non-agricultural sectors in India. Hence, a major focus of the schemes was on MSME sector and its development, as it provides substance to a large proportion of the countrymen.
The government will provide businesses (including MSMEs) with collateral-free automatic loans of up to 3 lakh crore rupees to borrowers with up to Rs 25 crore outstanding and Rs 100 crore turnovers. A fund with a corpus of Rs 10,000 crore will be set up for MSMEs which will provide equity funding for MSMEs that have the potential for growth and viability. Approximately Rs 50,000 crore is expected to be leveraged.
The government will facilitate subordinate debt to MSMEs worth of Rs 20,000 crore. Micro and Small Enterprises will be provided Rs 4,000 crore to the Credit Guarantee Fund Trust.
The boost to the MSME sector will be of great benefit to various other industries as well, the automobile sector in particular, as most of the auto companies, are MSMEs.
Energy: The government will provide liquidity support of Rs 90,000 crore to power distribution companies (discoms) and independent power producers.
Moreover, the government is going to invest Rs 50,000 crore on infrastructure development for the evacuation of coal, which includes investment in the mechanised transfer of fuel (conveyor belts) worth Rs 18,000 crore.
Agriculture and allied sectors: The government will provide institutional credit facilities at concessional rates through Kisan Credit Cards to the farmers, which will cover around 2.5 crore farmers with two lakh crore rupees worth of credit.
A fund of 1 lakh crore rupees will be separated for the development of agriculture infrastructure projects. Moreover, an additional Rs 30,000 crore fund will be released as emergency working for farmers, which is expected to benefit more than three crore small and marginal farmers.
Keeping the development of marine and inland fisheries in mind, Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) will be launched for integrated, sustainable, and inclusive growth of the sectors. Around Rs 11,000 crore will be spent on activities in Marine, Inland fisheries and Aquaculture and on top of that Rs 9,000 crore will be spent on developing the infrastructure.
Migrant Workers: By March 2021 under the scheme of One Nation One Card, migrant workers will be able to access the Public Distribution System (Ration) from any Fair Price Shop in India. This scheme is estimated to cover around 67 crore beneficiaries in 23 states (83% of PDS population), by August 2020.
Rs 3,500 crore will be spent for the migrant workers who do not fall under the National Food Security Act ration card or state card. They will be provided 5 kg of grains per person and 1 kg of chana per family per month for two months; an estimated eight crore workers are to expected to be benefited from this.
Civil Aviation: The government will ease the restriction placed on the utilisation of the Indian Air Space to make civilian flying more efficient. This is estimated to enable savings of about Rs 1,000 crore per year for the aviation sector.
Social Sector: Public health is a significant concern of the scheme as well, the investment in public health will be increased, including investment in grass root level health institution of rural and urban areas. Moreover, to create an ecosystem to support universal health coverage in an efficient, safe and timely manner using digital technology, the National Digital Health Blueprint will be implemented.
Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan: Shortcomings and Criticism
However, the package failed to boost the spirit and bring confidence among the corporate. Primarily because the focus of the package is more indirect than direct; as the government should have provided direct financial support rather than relying on loan schemes.
Some have claimed that the movement is nothing but a re-packaged version of the Make in India movement with new taglines like ‘Vocal for Local’. Also, the calls for boycotting Chinese products are practically challenging to put into practice in such a short time period, as nearly $75 billion worth of goods is imported from China every year; some parts of the Indian industry are even dependent on China in some cases.
As the total government expenditure that will be incurred through the scheme is only about 1% of the GDP. In these times of severe crisis, such measures may not be adequate to satisfy the need in the economy.
The ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ seems like an appropriate move by the government of India, as the package itself may not have satisfied all the needs immediately, but it does look promising. It provided millions of citizens of India with hope and some confidence that the government is actively working in tackling these situations rather than sitting idle. Though the implementation of the mission may not be able to fulfil all its agendas, it will surely benefit thousands of poor, migrant workers and farmers along with small and medium business owners with its funding during, especially during these times of crisis.
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