Is AtmaNirbhar Yojana culturally disconnected from India?

PM Modi Shocked the Nation again with his announcement of the 20 lakh AtmaNirbhar Bharat Yojana last night. It was a shock because the economists and the analysts were least expecting it. If the finer details are friendly to the vast millions across the country, it would be a huge relief to most Indians.

However, the bigger shock was how did the PM choose a name that appears to be culturally disconnected with India? The PM never goes wrong on names. He chooses names that imply our aspirations – Swacch Bharat, Jan Dhan, Beti Padao etc. His understanding of India’s cultural ethos is simple superior to any politician in India at the moment. That is because of his years of Travel around the country and connecting with ordinary people.

But did he choose a wrong name?

PM Modi has been independent and self reliant at a very young age. Most Indians at that period were like that. Working through their way with little money and very few opportunities. Indian movies during the 50s and 60s reflected that tough attitude. Self reliance was not a sexy word, it was absolute necessary. Politicians like Indira Gandhi, George Fernandes and later on Rajiv Gandhi made a big hue and cry about it. Of course the political emphasis was on National Self reliance (which the PM also implies) but the fact is there was also a culture of individual self reliance.

Household Sizes haven’t changed much

In the 1950s and 1960s, the average Indian Household Size was 5.2 when the Fertility rate was 5.9. The average Indian Household Size in the 2011 Census was 4.85 while the Fertility rate had crashed 2.5. So if you do the Math, in the 1950s and 1960s, many Children had to leave the home early to fend for themselves (Remember, India was an extremely poor country). Today it appears that while the fertility rates have collapsed, the household size hasn’t changed by much which means lot more children are dependent on their parents (in some way or the other) and vice versa.

In fact, a CBRE survey found something stunning – 82% of Urban young Indians in the age band 22-29 were living with their parents, compared to 61% in case of China and just 35% in case of Australia. About 25% never plan to leave their parents. Let us reiterate that this is not a one way thing. Parents too want their Children to stay with them.

Self Reliance vs Independence vs Interdependence

So far from self reliance, we are a very interdependent country. Our interdependence unit is our Family. Whether it is our Parents or our Children, we are very interdependent. In fact, even in the 1960s and 1970s when the PM and his generation were blazing away on self-reliance, they were all taking care of their siblings and even parents. How many people in the age band 65+ do you know who have not taken care of their siblings?

Today, the emphasis is on independence and not self reliance. Everyone wants to be independent minded but everyone also understands interdependence and we are all comfortable with both existing at the same time (with some discomfort of course). So our children can make their career and marriage choices independently but they are also most welcome to live with us even when they get older. Let us face it, we are dependent on them too and not just financially.

As we wait the details of this Yojana, one hopes that our kind of atmanirbhartha does not take us into isolation mode from rest of the world. The world is one big family and while we have to be pragmatic, self reliance should also co-exist with interdependence. We have to be independent but also accept the reality of independence.

In sum, Yes, the naming of the Yojana Sounds very 1960s-70s, hopefully the finer details are not…

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