Many more made-in-India Covid vaccines soon: Modi

  • PM also asserted that India’s campaign for self-reliance would strengthen globalism.
By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 29, 2021 06:47 AM IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday hailed India’s progress in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, said that India’s success in saving lives has been a global good, and pledged a commitment to help other countries with more “made-in-India” vaccines.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda, the PM also asserted that India’s campaign for self-reliance — the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan — would strengthen globalism, and spoke of India’s “reliability” as a part of global supply chains in a climate where China’s reliability as a global supplier has come under question. The PM outlined access, inclusion, empowerment and user privacy as key pillars of India’s digitisation drive; highlighted the importance of new technologies but with human-centric vision; and called global investors to participate in India’s story, in the backdrop of structural reforms across economic sectors.

The PM was speaking at what has become a mega event of global political and economic leaders — held virtually this year — with a focus on the post-pandemic world and harnessing the technologies of the fourth industrial revolution.

Tracing back India’s journey against the pandemic, Modi said: “I remember how in February, March and April, many global experts and institutions had made many predictions. It was said that India would be the most affected by Covid-19; that there would be a tsunami. Someone said 700-800 millions Indians would get infected while others said 2 million Indians would die.”

But, the PM said, India did not get demoralised and instead adopted a “proactive approach” with public participation, boosted its Covid-19 infrastructure, ramped up testing, trained human resources, adopted appropriate behaviour as a mass movement, and in the process saved innumerable lives.

Underlining the scale of India’s challenge, Modi pointed out that India is home to 18% of the world’s population. “By managing Covid-19, India has saved the world from a disaster.”

The PM then highlighted India’s vaccination plans, and said that while taking care of its domestic needs, India has — through this period — fulfilled its global responsibilities, from helping citizens reach their countries of residence when air space was closed, to distributing medicines to showing the world how India’s alternative medicine system, Ayurveda, boosted immunity, to now supplying vaccines. “Right now, there are two made-in-India vaccines — but in the coming days, many more vaccines will come. This will help us support other countries at scale and speed.”

The other key focus of the PM’s prepared remarks as well as responses during an interactive session with chief executives of global companies was the economy and the opportunities India has to offer.

On new technologies, Modi said that experts point to four key changes — connectivity, automation, artificial intelligence or machine learning, and realtime data. “India is one of those countries where there is maximum data available, where there is mobile connectivity and smartphones in the remote areas. India also has a large pool of expert talent on design and automation and engineering centres of many global companies are located here. For years, Indian engineers have displayed their capabilities on AI and automation to the world.”

But, in a note of caution, Modi said that fourth industrial revolution technologies must be centred of human values, and the need to ensure that technology becomes a tool for the ease of living, and not a “trap”.

He also spoke of the digital infrastructure India had built in the last six years — through bank accounts, mobiles, Aadhaar and digital payment systems. “You will be surprised to know that in this period, more than 1.8 trillion was transferred to the bank accounts of over 750 million people. This is a symbol of the power of our digital infrastructure.”

When asked what would be the policy and regulatory approach towards digital ecosystem, Modi said, “Access, inclusion and empowerment while safeguarding user privacy. There will be access of digital services in remotest areas... We also believe in promoting competition... investing in research on frontier technologies... and data privacy. The country is working towards a strong law for data protection.”

At a time when the global investor community is carefully looking at signs about how India’s self-reliance slogan would translate into policies, the PM emphasised that an Atmanirbhar Bharat was committed to global good and global supply chain. “India has the capacity, capability and reliability to meet global supply chains. India has a vast consumer base and its expansion will help the world.”

Portraying India as an attractive, stable and democratic investment destination, the PM also charted out “structural reforms” and India’s focus on improving the ease of doing business — including the production-linked incentives scheme, predictable taxation and foreign direct investment norms, reduction of corporate taxes and Goods and Services Tax rates, labour codes which have given flexibility to industries, decriminalisation of offences under the Companies Act, and alignment of growth with climate related goals. In terms of sectors, he focused on infrastructure — and while outlining the government’s initiatives, sought more engagement from the private sector — and urbanisation, pointing out that two-thirds of India’s economic output comes from urban areas.

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