It’s a significant departure from the past. For the first time in the last few decades, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has talked about bread and butter issues, jobs and livelihoods of millions.
At the recently held Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha, equivalent to its national council, RSS adopted a full resolution on carving out new work opportunities for the vast population of Indians post-COVID-19 given the rampant pink slips and layoffs that marked two years of the pandemic.
In a way, the Hindutva-centric Sangh Parivar recognises the enormity of challenge posed by COVID-19, especially in the context of huge economic restructuring happening in the country.
Reducing dependence on imports in goods and services coupled with concrete plans to push up exports has been recommended by RSS as a way to provide external trade linked manufacturing jobs across the value chain. This also means that Sangh underscores the need for India to pick up more than five per cent global trade in goods and services
The resolution adopted by RSS with its chief Mohan Bhagawat and Sarkaryavah Dattatreya Hosabale in chair at Karnavati in Gujarat is timely and a reminder of the herculean task at hand.
Self-Reliance Across Sectors
Through the comprehensive document, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has made two significant points. Finding homegrown sustainable solutions to absorb the ever expanding human resource base with aspirational youth forming its largest chunk has been recommended. The second big point made by the Sangh was to evolve an alternative Bharatiya – India-centric economic model – that pushes for self-reliance across sectors including agriculture, exports, industry and services.
RSS articulation has come in the backdrop of data put out by the Narendra Modi Government that points to uptick in double digit unemployment rate during COVID-19 years and the aftermath.
National Statistical Office (NSO) figures released recently pointed out 12.6 per cent growth in unemployment rate during April –June 2021 across urban areas among individuals above 15-years age. This unemployment rate is much higher than 9.3 per cent registered for the previous quarter.
Though April – June 2021 figures on unemployment are much lower than 20.6 per cent in the same months of the previous year, policymakers cannot afford to ignore the enormity of job’s issue or growing unemployment rates.
These figures are only for urban areas and the rural joblessness may present a different set of challenges from meagre to delayed or deferred daily wages apart from rampant corruption in several States.
Boost to Rural Bharat
Sangh’s recommendation on the Indian economic model centres around rural India, agriculture, micro, small and medium enterprises, handicrafts, food processing and family enterprises that essentially are labour intensive.
On the parallel, RSS has thrown its weight behind the start-up ecosystem, innovations and new age technologies that define a vibrant modern Indian economy.
Well, Parivar organisations like Swadeshi Jagaran Manch may have been pushing for re-orienting the economic policy paradigm to reflect Indian realities with emphasis on ‘swadeshi’ and ‘self-reliance’. These time-tested socio-economic strategies have been mainstreamed by RSS through its resolution during its conclave on March 11-13.
Reducing dependence on imports in goods and services coupled with concrete plans to push up exports has been recommended by RSS as a way to provide external trade linked manufacturing jobs across the value chain. This also means that Sangh underscores the need for India to pick up more than five per cent global trade in goods and services.
In the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, self-reliance and minimal dependence on imports makes sense given the kind of economic isolation Moscow is being put through by the US and European powers.
One big example in Russia’s context amplifies the aggressive self-reliance campaign that India will have to embark upon. When the Master Card and Visa services were withdrawn by the US-based financial giants, Russians were left to fend for themselves as payment gateways were shut by the NATO allies. ‘Mir’ payment gateway put together by Russia could hardly cater to all its citizens' services needs within and outside the country. In fact, this experience during conflict situations must propel innovation and domestic e-financial services solutions that many banking experts have recommended. In the Indian context though, the UPI (United Payments Interface) is an evolved platform vis-à-vis Mir that had to ride piggyback on Chinese payment platforms to restore services to distraught Russians.
A radical shift in economic and development policy will have to be attempted moving away from urbanised and New Delhi-centric approach. It’s bound to result in more inclusiveness and expanding coverage of India's growth story. This development model, outlined by Sangh, revolves around judicious and sustainable utilisation of abundant natural resources, vast human power
RSS thrust on Bharatiya economic model that’s human-centric, labour intensive that’s eco-friendly would open space for alternative policy making strategies in the medium to long term. Another Sangh recommendation on decentralisation and equitable distribution of benefits that augments village economy, micro, small and agro based industries would translate to strengthening the Indian federal character. Given that states run by different political parties have been seeking more policy space and freedom, the RSS recommendation goes a step further to realise economic and development freedom at grassroots in partnership with local communities.
Shifting from New Delhi-Centric Approach
This means a radical shift in economic and development policy will have to be attempted moving away from urbanised and New Delhi-centric approach. It’s bound to result in more inclusiveness and expanding coverage of India's growth story.
This development model, outlined by Sangh, revolves around judicious and sustainable utilisation of abundant natural resources, vast human power – both skilled and unskilled– apart from harnessing inherent entrepreneurial skills to transform agriculture, manufacturing and service sectors. This approach has the potential to create ample productive work opportunities and transform basic economic character.
Recognising different societal stakeholders’ ‘protective role’ during situations like pandemic in particular to generate work opportunities takes the focus off the Government that’s usually seen as the lone warrior.
Successful rural models reported from hinterlands following migration of daily wage workers in the midst of Covid’s first wave seems to have fuelled RSS to look at localised employment generation models more seriously.
Adoption of new technologies and appropriation of new skills have been linked to rural employability, unorganised sector jobs, women and their overall participation in the economy that has been pointed to by RSS.
Bringing entrepreneurs, businessmen, micro finance institutions, self-help groups, voluntary organisations as key stakeholders to produce and market high value added products, involving cooperatives as fourth pillar, direct marketing of local products and skill development seem to be central to RSS prescription. Sangh’s thinking on economic and development issues breaths fresh air into jaded Western model that has lost its its relevance and Communist oligarchs dictated the State-run policy experimented by China.