Self-reliance, jobs focus of PM meet
New Delhi: Focus on the real estate sector to create jobs, strengthen electronics manufacturing to cut dependence on other countries, particularly China, and offer rebates to the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) were some of the suggestions made at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting last week with his ministers, said people aware of the matter. The meeting was called to address the twin concerns of job creation and strengthening of the economy.
Modi was suggested to focus on strengthening the government’s ambitious project, the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, which proposes housing for all urban poor and has a target of building 20 million affordable houses by March 2022.
“As part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan announced by Union finance minister Nirmala Sithraraman, Rs 3 lakh crore collateral-free loans for MSMEs were announced. However, there is a need to address concerns that both the banks and the borrowers have. A minister made a suggestion that there is a need to build confidence for both sides so that banks can give loans without security and the MSMEs are encouraged to avail of the lower rate of interests,” said one of the persons on condition of anonymity.
Modi announced the ₹20 lakh crore Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (Self-Reliant India Movement) in May that combined policy reforms with fiscal and monetary measures.
Another minister suggested India should be positioned as a manufacturing hub of electronics and said Chinese smartphone makers control India’s over 70% market.
“There was a discussion on how India can also look at starting production in areas where we traditionally depend on other countries like aircraft... Going forward there is going to be a great demand for more air travel and India could explore tie-ups with manufacturers to set up plants here,” said a second person on condition of anonymity.
Specific jobs and skill training for migrant workers, who want to stay back in their native states after losing their jobs because of the Covid-19 pandemic, was also discussed.
The issue of collaborating with countries keen to move businesses out of China was also part of the discussions.
The second person cited above said a suggestion was made for India and Australia to join forces to become the leaders in steel production. “Currently iron ores go from India and Australia and China is the largest manufacturer,” the second person said on condition of anonymity.
In his radio broadcast Mann KI Baat on Sunday, Modi reiterated the need for self-reliance and encouraging local production. He said being “vocal for local” is also a way to strengthen the country and to serve it.
“A self-reliant India would be a tribute to our martyrs in the truest, deepest sense,” Modi said while referring to 20 soldiers killed in a clash with Chinese troops in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley on June 15.
The first person cited above said a similar meeting was held in January when Modi chaired a two-day review of the five-year vision documents of various ministries and departments. “The PM had referred to the growth rate [that had fallen to 4.5% in the September quarter] and urged ministers to come up with suggestions to revive the economy. Now with the coronavirus pandemic, the situation has worsened and the PM is keen that all ministers suggest turnaround models,” said the first person.