Atmanirbharta is about a confident nation whose people have learnt the true meaning of citizenship

The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | 17-01-2023 | 11:45 am

Atmanirbharta is about a confident nation whose people have learnt the true meaning of citizenship

The word, “Atmanirbhar” is usually thought of as related to the concepts of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. Limiting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call of “Atmanirbhar” to this understanding would, however, not do complete justice to his vision. To get a comprehensive understanding of Atmanirbhar — the thinking and the processes and programmes associated with it — one needs to appreciate the idea, not just from the current context. It is also important to look at the country from a historical and civilisational lens.India has historically been known for innovation and intellectual accomplishments — in governance, spiritual thought, education, healthcare, industry, trade and several other fields. Centuries of colonisation and invasions created a sense of inferiority amongst people in the country, led to intellectual stagnation and fostered a slavish mentality amongst Indians at the time of Independence. When the British left Indian soil, they did not just leave us with political freedom. A large section of Indians continued to think and behave like the subjects of a benign crown. For most Indians of that generation, becoming a citizen was a novelty and demanded a change in beliefs, values, and practices. While it is easy to be dependent on a benevolent state, becoming a free thinker and operating with the spirit of citizenship requires conviction, discipline, determined optimism and hard work. This is possible only when there is an ecosystem that promotes self-respect and self-belief. Unfortunately, for several decades after Independence, the ecosystem in the country did not nurture adequately the idea of engaged citizenship — people continued to look at the state as the “provider”, leaving a large section of Indians feeling unsure about their capabilities. This is no longer the dominant narrative today.Today, a generation of young people are qualified, competent and confident in deciding not just their future but that of the nation as well. This needs to be seen in the background of how India’s position in the global comity of nations has been enhanced over the last few years. This visibility and respect for India and what Indians are capable of must be seen as an outcome of the several visits PM Modi has undertaken to different parts of the world. Whether it is evacuating Indians from conflict zones, or the Vande Bharat missions, from taking over the G20 presidency to a seat at the UNSC, we can see how the ecosystem has been spreading the feeling of pride and self-sufficiency.Moving towards self-reliance from the historical dependencies of the past several decades is more than just a paradigm shift. It needs to change the mindset of not just citizens, but also of the political class and the bureaucracy. Programmes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Startup India, Standup India, Yoga Day celebrations and Ayushman Bharat not only reinforced the reasoning that Indians must look to themselves for making the country clean, healthy and economically independent, but they also boosted national pride. These programmes nurtured Atmanirbharata in their own ways.No nation can progress without engaging its citizens in the development process. Citizenship is not just about participating in the electoral process. It is also about enlightening oneself with information, engaging with the state and its agencies and operating with a sense of empowerment. This is possible only when the government and prevailing political leadership play a catalytic role and create spaces for citizens to confidently operate. The last few years have seen a growing movement towards getting people to participate in different aspects of governance. Whether it is the MyGov platform, the Prime Minister seeking inputs from the people for his annual Independence Day speech, or the finance minister asking for suggestions from the citizens for the annual budget — one can see the openness and desire to reduce information and power asymmetries. From the growing trust in the government and its several agencies to identifying persons for the Padma awards, one can see the feeling of Atmanirbharata seep through the collective consciousness of the masses.All this points to a significant political development — the evolution of Indians from being subjects to citizens. Today the world is seeking answers to myriad problems — social, political, economic, environmental, international relations, global trade, healthcare, education, skiing. The Atmanirbhar experiment and the lessons that India is learning today as a nation can help usher in a new model of sustainable development. A world where equity, fairness, justice, dignity and citizen engagement are no longer fashion statements, but a way of life.Swami Vivekananda spoke about a new India rising, where he saw her sitting on a resplendent throne as the “Jagatguru” to humankind. India’s Atmanirbhar programme is not just about India’s progress or development. It has much to do about humanity. Once a nation like India, with all its challenges, learns to unleash the potential of its citizenry and share this knowledge with the rest of the world, several other nations will emulate it and follow the path of peace and progress.The writer is the Member-HR of the Capacity Building Commission. Views expressed are personal

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Schools’ assn alleges extortion bid by education officers in Maharashtra