"The time for Swadeshi has come," asserts the man who runs the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Singh's economic wing - Swadeshi Jagran Manch. Ashwani Mahajan, the face of the organisation says those opposing the 'Swadeshi' app -- Aarogya Setu should start by speaking up against the popular Chinese TikTok app.
Mahajan declares that the government, however belatedly, has realised the importance of ‘Swadeshi’ with the COVID-19 pandemic infecting more than 40,000 Indians.
Mahajan also called for an audit of the World Health Organization whose tilt towards China post-COVID-19 has brought disrepute to the world body.
Here is the full interview:
Q: You seem to be backing the government’s Aarogya Setu app being made compulsory even when you raised concern over TikTok. Why?
A: First of all, I want to know, where were these critics who seem to have huge knowledge about privacy laws when TikTok was expanding its market share and Facebook was selling user data? I want to ask Rahul Gandhi, why did he maintain an almost criminal silence all this while the apps like that were ruling the market. As far as Aarogya Setu app is concerned, it has been brought with a clear intent for contact tracing which otherwise would incur huge cost to the government. The intent is to save lives. Many of the critics seem to have no problem with this foreign app but their concern arises when it is an indigenous app brought to contain a pandemic.
Q: PM Modi has been stressing on self sustenance post COVID-19 outbreak. Do you think, finally, the government and SJM are on the same page when it comes to ‘Swadeshi’?
A: It has not been a sudden change of heart. The government for the last three years have started to realize the importance of self sustenance and have been working towards it. But today, it makes all the more sense amid a growing anti-China feeling internationally. China killed our manufacturing business which creates jobs. So how else will you create jobs? Service sector can’t do that. The anti-dumping duty and raising import tariffs were moved in that direction. Today, the importance of Swadeshi has become apparent to all.
There were many who had asked to forget agriculture and instead focus on importing vegetables. Had that been the situation, we would not be able to feed our population during this lockdown. Even the US, Britain are also talking about protectionism. Here onwards, Swadeshi will be the new reality.
Q: You spoke about jobs in manufacturing. There have been innumerable job losses and the economy is in bad shape. What’s the way forward?
A: Yes, the economy has taken a hit due to the lockdown, but so have the economies of all countries across the globe. But let me give you the silver lining. We are self sufficient with agricultural produce that addresses the main concern of food. Secondly, Indian by virtue of being empathetic, wherever there is news of people going hungry, help is reaching out.
But it’s a fact that joblessness is there but it has brought the much needed attention of the government to certain areas like the MSME. Moreover, now increasingly FDIs are coming that are not brown field investment but green field investment which will eventually create jobs. Taking over pharma companies in India doesn’t create jobs. When FDI coming to India starts to export from here without disturbing its domestic market, India benefits. In the current scenario, many companies have approached the government of India and state governments.
Q: You have always been against market monopoly. But as and when a vaccine for COVID-19 comes into the market, it is tipped to be priced at a premium.
A: Going by the current infection rate in India, I don’t think India can be much exploited. Anyway Indian Patent Act allows any drug to be given compulsory licence in public interest. India has the power to do that after giving reasonable profit. This is to safeguard our interests. Interestingly, the US cannot do the same.
Q: But the role of the World Health Organization itself has come under scrutiny. Do you see the organization taking a pro-people stand on pricing of the COVID vaccine, once it comes out?
A: I have once said that WHO should be shut. Today its role is being publicly debated and even the US has brazenly criticised it. Many pharmaceutical companies have been financing the WHO. That’s why they should be audited. Then people will come to know how WHO has been misleading the world about vaccines, eating habits and so on. (IANS)