Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday addressed the nation and revelead that a new-look Lockdown 4.0 beyond May 17 was in store. Apart from this he also announced an economic stimulus package for ₹20-lakh-crore (estimated at 10% of the GDP), with a clearly defined leap towards economic reforms that will, in his words, lead to Atmanirbhar Bharat, or a self-reliant, resilient India.
Mr. Modi said that India was presented with the opportunity to have a look at the systems around world and see how they crumbled during this pandemic. This opportunity can act as a bedrock to build a New India.
“We have been hearing for many years that the 21st century will be India’s century, and this crisis is, I believe one that carries a message, that we have to move forward not just to combat the crisis but to prevail,” the Prime Minister said. “That can happen when we are self-reliant.”
He took the example of India’s ramped-up capacity in producing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) kits and N-95 masks required by medical personnel and frontline health workers to illustrate his point that India could achieve this.
“When the first case hit us, we didn’t produce either of these things. Now, within weeks we have the capacity to produce 2 lakh of PPE and 2 lakh of N95 masks everyday,” Mr. Modi said.
He quickly clarified the fact that by self-reliance he did not mean insularity and suspicion of the world as in the past, but embracing the world in the spirit of Vasudheva Kutumbakam (the world is one family).
“Self-reliance in this sense is neither exclusionary nor isolationist, it is for helping the world, with our actions. In the past whenever we have acted it has impacted the world in a positive way — be it solving the Y2K riddle in 1999, or our campaigns against open defecation, tuberculosis and polio,” Mr. Modi said.
He said that this new chapter of self-reliant India would be based on the five pillars of the economy, infrastructure, demography, technologically driven systems and to strengthen demand and supply chains, with the supply chains being based on local sourcing.
“In the past few days we have seen how local supply chains and shops are the only things that have helped,” he said.
The Prime Minister said the economic package would not be based on incremental changes, but a quantum leap in bold reforms with regard to land, labour, law and liquidity.
“In the last few days we have seen the suffering of our workers, migrant labour, street vendors and daily wagers and farmers. This package will be aimed at them. It will be aimed at the honest tax payer, at our industry that makes its capital work,” he said.
Sources said the reforms will keep away from “trickle down” effects and will be bold in scope. “The emphasis will be as much on governance systems as on liberalising the economy. Self reliance in this case will not mean isolation. There is no talk of only a financial stimulus but of a reform stimulus and a mindset overhaul,” said a senior government source.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is expected to give details of the package starting on Wednesday, Mr. Modi said. “Therefore, the lockdown that will be in place after May 17, or Lockdown 4.0 will be of a different kind than what went on before. Based on the suggestions given by State governments, we will be finalising its shape before May 17,” he said.
Mr. Modi signed off on a strong note to buy local, and to be vocal about it. “Local production helped us in this crisis, and when you look at several global brands, they began as local but were marketed and raised to a global level. We have to do the same with our produce. We need to be vocal about local,” he said. “We must and will make India self-reliant,” he said.