Thursday, December 9, 2021

India Heads Towards Self-Reliance In Agriculture & Defence

India’s strength in core sectors, including agriculture and defence lies in self-reliance, an initiative whose objective is to catapult the country to the top of the global stage. This was implicit when Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the financing facility of Rs 1 lakh crore under Agriculture Infrastructure Fund.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced a list of 101 defence items, whose import would be embargoed beyond the given timeline. These two developments mark a new phase in India’s goal to become self-reliant without losing much time and weakening its tag of being a fast developing economic power of the world.

As regards the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund, the aim is to enable the country’s farming community to get a greater value for their produce by storing and then selling agricultural produce at higher prices, while reducing wastage. This fund also envisages benefits for ‘Start-ups’ in the agriculture sector as they will get an opportunity to create an ecosystem by scaling up operations in post-harvest management.

As a sizable percentage of the country’s population is still dependent on agriculture as means of their survival, the sector offers huge opportunity for investment in the areas of warehousing, cold chain and food processing.

In this regard, medium and long term debt financing facilities offered by the agriculture infrastructure fund could prove to be highly useful in the development of post-harvest management infrastructure. Besides farmers, Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS), Farmer Producer Organisation and agri-entrepreneurs will get benefit from the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund.

The overall aim is to make farm sector a shining example of India’s drive to become a major exporter of food grains. When the world was grappling with the Covid-19 triggered challenges, India’s farm sector, like pharmaceuticals, sustained the world’s food supply chain with exports.

Agricultural export during the March-June 2020 increased by 23.24 percent compared to last year. Certainly, farmers and the agriculture sector have a major role in India’s push to become self-reliant in the next couple of years.

Similarly India’s resolve to become self-dependent in critical technology, including defence received a fillip when the Ministry of Defence decided to embargo the import of 101 defence items in a phased manner between 2020 and 2024. For the first time in the history of India, such steps have been taken to better prepare armed forces by availing them with indigenously designed and developed equipment.

With this embargo on import of 101 items, it is estimated that contracts worth almost Rs. four lakh crore will be placed upon the domestic industry within the next five to seven years. Of these, items worth almost Rs. 1,30,000 crore each are anticipated for the Army and the Air Force while items worth almost Rs. 1,40,000 crore are anticipated by the Navy over the same period.

The embargoed items consist of not just simple parts but also some high technology weapon systems like artillery guns, assault rifles, corvettes, sonar systems, transport aircrafts, light combat helicopters, radars and others.

Viewed as a big step towards ‘Atmanirbhar’ (self-reliance) in defence, the move offers a great opportunity to the Indian defence industry to rise to the occasion for manufacturing the embargoed items indigenously. They can do this by using their own design and development capabilities or adopting the technologies designed and developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to meet the requirements of the Armed Forces in the coming years.

To ensure that armed forces don’t face problems in acquiring defence technologies, necessary steps have been taken to see that timelines for production of equipment are met. Nonetheless, as a result of the move, not only the domestic sector will grow but also push India closer to achieving the target of becoming a $ 5 trillion economy.

With this, it must be clarified that self-reliant India doesn’t mean cutting off the country from the rest of the world. The government has already made it clear that self-reliant translates to being a bigger and more important part of the global economy.

Script:  Shankar Kumar, Journalist

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