The uncalled aggression shown by China at the Indian border near eastern Ladakh at the time of Covid-19 pandemic has created widespread anguish among the concerned citizens of our country. To express the resentment towards China, many celebrities and also renowned education reformist Sonam Wangchuk called for a boycott of Chinese products. This appeal resonated with the opinion of our citizens and motivated a Jaipur based start-up to make an app named “Remove Chinese app” which detects and deletes the Chinese app from a smartphone.
This app crossed 1 million download mark within few days of its launch. But very soon this app is delisted from Google play store and made Indian citizens, who are protesting against China in their own way of boycott, feel powerless. When AMUL which is the most shining example of the success of Indian cooperative societies, posted an advertisement to support new policy of “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” in its typical pun-filled style, its Twitter account was blocked briefly. We have such crippling dependency on foreign companies in every sphere including social media that even we are unable to express our solidarity towards National cause and in case if we try, we are arm twisted and rendered option less. In such situations, we wish to have our own Indian companies to fall back upon.
Also in 2017 during Doklam face-off between Indian and Chinese troops, there were incidences of boycotting Chinese products by Indian citizens. But such a phenomenon of calls for a boycott is short-lived and easily fades away because of two reasons. First, it is based on pessimistic and reactionary sentiments of our citizens towards a hostile country like China in the current situation and not on the foundation of a structured plan to promote Indian products and companies. Second, in many cases, Indian companies do not offer a comparable option like in the case of Mobiles, Internet Search Engine, and Social Media Platforms. For example, the Indian mobile phone market is totally dominated by Chinese companies to the extent that messages of boycotting Chinese products are shared on Chinese mobiles.
Our efforts should be established on the constructive sense and long term plan of promoting Swadeshi products and Swadeshi companies, may it be anything, salt or software, printing paper or planes, tissue paper or tractor, household appliances or mobile apps. The need to support Swadeshi is imperative not only for an economic reason but also for National security and stability as foreign companies keep sensitive data in servers located abroad which may be compromised on the request of their respective govt. Turning towards Swadeshi will be the only and correct way in the direction of Aatmanirbhar Bharat and Vocal for Local.
For most of the youngsters, the first picture which comes to mind after hearing the word Swadeshi is Gandhi, Charka and Khadi. These three symbols, in today’s times, do not fully represent the spirit of Swadeshi.
Firstly, Though Mahatma Gandhi led the second phase of Swadeshi movement, the first phase of Swadeshi mass movement which boycotted British goods as a sign of protest was started in 1905 when Lord Curzon announced the partition of Bengal. Second, the symbol of Charka now no longer does full justice to the representation of gamut of Indian Industries, small or big, cottage or corporation, which need to be promoted. During the struggle of independence, Charka as a tool of manufacturing represented the need for self-sufficiency instead of depending on imported clothes manufactured in the mills of Britain.
But now in the 21st-century imports which undermine our economic self-reliance and decimate local industries includes Mobiles, Networking devices, medical equipment, Computer/Mobile processor Chips, toys etc. Thirdly, at that time Khadi was an iconic product which was selected to ameliorate the plight of weavers who were losing their livelihood because of imports. Khadi was a representative product of the Swadeshi movement and definitely not the only product of the movement. Swadeshi Movement played an important role in the National struggle of freedom but after independence, it was reduced to spiritless perfunctory govt. the scheme which limited itself to merely selling of Khadi Clothes by govt. owned stores where few citizen shops on 15th Aug and 26th Jan. Today we need to rejuvenate the Swadeshi movement in its truest spirit.
In the current challenging time of COVID–19, there is pressing need of creating Aatmanirbhar Bharat and of being Vocal for Local as appropriately appealed by PM Modi. Promoting Swadeshi products and Swadeshi companies will pave the way to achieve it.
To impart a fitting identity, iconic status and distinguished reputation to Swadeshi products and companies, we need a unique official symbol for Swadeshi to which all Indians can connect and feel proud about and most importantly through which we can promote and patronize Swadeshi. The way Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labeling) Regulations, 2011 mandatorily labels the vegetarian food with a green dot inside a green square and help the customer to easily select vegetarian food; similarly, Swadeshi symbol/mark will allow easy distinction and selection of Swadeshi products.
The symbol of International Day of Yoga launched in 2015 helped in popularizing Yoga across the world. The manner in which unique graphic symbol of Rupee introduced in the year 2010 highlighted the growing importance and clout of Indian economy at global level, the same way, a symbol for Swadeshi will enhance the brand value and influence of Indian products not only in the domestic market but also for exports. The benefits of Swadeshi symbol will be double-pronged, one – it will provide an identity point behind which Indians can rally to support the national cause and second – buying product bearing Swadeshi symbol will instil the feeling of belongingness among Indian Diaspora.
It would not be unnatural to ask that when we have a symbol for “Make in India” then why there is a requirement of a symbol for Swadeshi. The answer lies in the fact “Make in India” is to promote manufacturing in India irrespective of it by Indian or foreign company for the purpose of employment generation and reducing costly imports whereas promoting Swadeshi is one level ahead and more holistic which develops the Indian companies and eliminate the dependency on foreign enterprises. “Make in India” scheme is open to all foreign companies including China-based which pump back lion’s share of profit to their countries and oblige to their respective govt. in various matters.
The selection of official Swadeshi symbol can be done by the means of open competition inviting entries from the citizens of India. Once symbol finalized, Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade can be made nodal agency giving permission for using Swadeshi symbol. All MSMEs owned by Indian citizens may be allowed to use the Swadeshi symbol by default; it will support the revival plan of MSME. For large corporations, permission to use Swadeshi symbol may be granted by SEBI in cases where promoters and the majority of shareholders are Indian citizens or Institutions. Creating separate incentivized category on GeM portal for Swadeshi mark bearing items can be deliberated upon. Access to subsidized loan can be provided to Swadeshi mark bearing companies. Tax benefits can be extended to NRIs investing in Swadeshi companies.
Each Indian heart which takes pride in seeing the Indian Flag furling high will definitely feel proud in owning a good quality product bearing Swadeshi symbol, may it be car or mobile. And it will be a proud moment for the whole nation when we will see rockets made by ISRO and IAF fighter planes made by HAL soaring high in the sky with shining Swadeshi symbol on it.