Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
You know, in the earlier days, every village in India was self-sufficient, and you could get everything you needed in the village itself. For example, in Moradabad in UP you would find a lot of brass utensils. In Kashi (now called as Varanasi) you would find beautiful Banarasi Sarees. In Agra you would get the sweet Petha, and in Karnataka you find the Chennapatnam toys.
Similarly, the sugar made in Mandya is famous even today, and the sandalwood and sandal products from Mysore are also famous. Mysore is also famous for its silk. Similarly, the silk from Kanjivaram, and the traditional carpets and bed sheets from Sholapur are famous even today. If someone needed a carpet in Karnataka, they would be asked to go buy it from Sholapur in Maharashtra instead. Sholapur became famous because of its traditionally spun or woven carpets.
So in this way, different unique and indigenous industries emerged and flourished in many provinces and parts of India in the earlier days. But just look at what has happened in the last 20 years. So many of these small scale and indigenous industries have vanished or shut down. Why is this so? It is because the government’s policies for these industries were not good and supportive for their growth. If a small scale industrialist wanted to set up his own factory, he would have to face so many difficulties and challenges.
China on the other hand did very well to promote its local and small scale industries. Even today if you go to China, there are villages and small towns where everyone makes only buttons. So if you wanted buttons of any kind, you could simply go to that village and buy what you like.
Similarly, if you want to buy needles, there is a whole village engaged in making all kinds of needles for all purposes. So the Chinese people borrowed the traditions that we had set up in India and they preserved and promoted them through the years. We on the other hand ended up ruining and discouraging our local and small scale industries. Our government went on imposing different kind of taxes which ultimately slowed down and destroyed the growth of these industries instead of benefitting them. But now a very welcome change has been announced in the country. The present government has announced that there will be one single window to assist with and solve all problems and grievances of the industry, regardless of the nature of the industry.
See, suppose you wish to start a College for Architecture studies. Do you know how difficult it is? It is because you will be stuck with following the out-dated policies that the British had framed at the time of the British rule in India. One has to run to five different offices to get permissions and sanction for doing this. At every office one has to pay a sum of 20 lakhs to get the permission from the administration. It is so time consuming. By the time one gets the permissions and the necessary resources to open the college, he would die. It is so difficult for a single person to do. See, a certification is definitely important for a college. But if one has to open a college for Architecture or Engineering studies, then one has to run across five different government departments to get necessary permissions for starting the college.
At every stage where one seeks permission, they are asked to pay a hefty sum as bribe for getting their work done, apart from the original fee amount to be paid for this. All these problematic and corrupt processes need to be done away with. Our new Prime Minister has given a strong voice to the people of the country to speak their mind and issues, and this is a very good step in the direction of good governance.
There are so many skilled people in India, yet we still importing our kites from China. Just think, how difficult is it to make a kite? Yet we find that even the kites made in China are of a superior quality. Why? It is because we never gave proper encouragement and financial resources to promote the Indian kite-making industry. In fact even our idols of various gods and goddesses are being manufactured in China and imported by India. This is so surprising.
In the earlier days, idols of various deities were being exported by India to different places, but today, even the idol of Lord Ganesha is being imported from China. If you see the faces of those idols, their facial structure does not look Indian at all! They seem to resemble the Chinese people more in their appearance (laughter).
So the Make in India campaign is indeed a very good step. We must encourage our people to make Indian products, and we can invite foreign companies also to set up factories and make Indian products here itself. They can do business here also and earn revenues, and at the same time provide employment to many more people in India. This is the main idea behind the campaign. Otherwise what used to happen was that products were imported from other countries and only a handful of industrialists would benefit from this trade. For example, only a few of the shipping companies used to benefit from this trade. But when the same companies set up their establishments here and make those products, just think of how many people here will get an opportunity for employment and livelihood. Those companies will save on the cost of manufacturing and resources by producing those products here. So it will not only benefit the people of the country, it will also benefit the foreign investors who come with huge capital to invest in India. This is a good campaign, but to implement it properly and fully will be a challenging task. Currently we cannot say how fruitful this campaign has truly been or not. We will simply have to wait and see.