India needs to emulate the Buy American Act-1933, which gives preference to US-made products in government procurement, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) has said.
The economic wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which has been commandeering the campaign for indigenous production, wants India to cut down its dependence on exports from other countries – particularly China.
It cites the American Act as a template for India to follow, to encourage domestic manufacturing and create more jobs. “The Buy American Act applies to all US federal government agency purchases and lists that all goods for public use must be produced in the US, manufactured items must be made from indigenous materials in the US. India must have a similar law,” Ashwani Mahajan, national convenor of the SJM, told HT.
The SJM has initiated a year-long campaign to create awareness on how Chinese goods adversely impact domestic production, and push the government to relook at its trade policy. “A committee of secretaries has made a recommendation to the Centre to give preference to indigenous products in government procurement. Hopefully, the government will soon announce such a policy,” he said.
He pointed out that flagship programmes such as Make in India, Start up India and the promise of ease of doing business will thrive only when imports from China — from plastic toys to rail coaches — are restricted. “The government talks about Make in India and promises more jobs and skilling, but we are heavily dependent on imports from China. Not only is this drying up jobs and domestic manufacturing, it is also allowing inferior quality products into our markets,” he said.
The SJM has in the past campaigned against the use of Chinese goods, particularly firecrackers. Ahead of Diwali, when the use of crackers goes up exponentially, the SJM ran campaigns asking people to buy Indian products.
The group cited the poor condition of workers at cracker manufacturing units in Sivakasi and West Bengal, who face the brunt of a liberal import policy, to make its point.
It has also taken on the government for throwing open sectors such as civil aviation, defence, food processing and pharmaceuticals to foreign direct investment.
Mahajan clarified that India will not be violating WTO agreements by giving preference to indigenous production. “According to WTO rules, if a government gives preference to products made in its own country for its own consumption, it is not a violation. However, if commercial entities are forced to give preference to indigenously produced goods for commercial use or sale, it is considered a violation of WTO rules,” he said.