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‘Atmanirbhar’ mantra

‘Ram Rajya’ as a concept is good but the nation wants to see positive changes on the ground

One can only imagine what ‘Ram Rajya’ would be like, a term that the BJP espouses and its leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, use quite regularly in their public addresses. But it’s comparatively easier to understand Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of ‘Gram Swaraj’, which Modi touched upon in his recent speech at the Visva-Bharati convocation. During the event, just ahead of the announcement of the Assembly election dates in the politically sensitive West Bengal, Modi mentioned Rabindranath Tagore several times but it would certainly be in bad taste to read politics into it as the Nobel laureate was the university’s founder and the Prime Minister is the Chancellor. However, thankfully, unlike ‘Ram Rajya’ for which no time frame has been set, the Prime Minister seems to have a blueprint or a road map for realising the concept of ‘Atmanirbhar’ villages (self-reliant villages), somewhat akin to Gandhi’s ‘Gram Swaraj’. He called upon the students to frame a “vision document” with 25 major targets and work towards it in the next 25 years so that when the nation celebrates the centenary of its Independence in 2047, Visva-Bharati would have achieved these milestones. He suggested that the project should start by making the villages adopted by the university ‘Atmanirbhar’. Further, the students should strive to make the village youth, artisans and farmers self-dependent by helping their products reach big markets across the world. However, with big corporate houses ruling the roost in world economy, it is easier said than done.

Moreover, the reality is quite the opposite. Most of such projects launched by the IITs and other varsities see no light beyond the pilot trials which are mostly confined to few villages or pockets in adjoining areas. These are not expanded and, thus, fail to have a wider reach or impact. No doubt, engaging universities and educational institutes to empower the rural population and making it self-reliant is an excellent idea but it needs a coordinated, calibrated and comprehensive approach with knowledge and resource sharing among the institutes across India. Such institutes have the potential of becoming the torch-bearers of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ but the foundation for it has not been laid yet, nor have any sincere attempts been made in this direction. That said, these plans should not accumulate dust in Government files or fall casualty to bureaucratic red tape, else these would meet the same fate as other similar plans. However, with the Centre providing `50,000 crore in Budget-2021 for research, we should have no reason to doubt what the Prime Minister says. His approach appears to be in the right direction. However, in a country where rhetoric often overshadows the reality, we can only hope that the Gandhian philosophy of ‘Gram Swaraj’ or Modi’s ‘Atmanirbhar’ villages become a reality, not something like ‘Ram Rajya’ (which, according to Gandhiji, ensures equal rights to both, a prince and a pauper) with virtue, morality and justice at its core but nowhere in sight. Courtesy, vote bank politics!

Monday, 22 February 2021 | Pioneer

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