Shashank is usually a very logical, very pragmatic man. He looks at life for what it is without allowing emotions to cloud. So, it was quite baffling to see him getting aggressive with Vinod, his neighbour, asking him to stop using the mobile phone. Shashank said that it is people like Vinod who have made China what it is today and we all need to change our mobiles, use anything which is not made in China. Vinod politely nodded and said he understood the emotion and supports it and walked away.
That is indeed how it is today on the streets and many homes across India. Given the escalation of tension at Ladakh border, people are doing what they can do – boycott anything made in China. Though they think they are doing it by using, maybe a Malaysian-made mobile or probably home-made or Indian made face masks, is this even practically possible?
Right from the things we buy on the street corner from a roadside vendor priced at less than Rs.100, toys, gifts, fabrics, the LED lights bulbs used for all our festivals and much bigger items like electronic components, computer hardware, consumer goods, auto parts, chemicals pharma ingredients; almost everything we use in our day-to-day life comes from China. The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has sounded a war cry, asking traders to boycott Chinese goods. It has put out a list of some 3000 items which it says can easily be substituted with goods made in India. These are all small item goods like lights, idols and even agarbattis – did you know that 80% of the incense sticks we use come from China?
Yes, all these can and should be substituted with goods made locally and what better time than now to encourage more manufacturers and create the much needed employment opportunities.
But what about the bigger components? For us to start using locally made products for the pharma or consumer goods or even electronics will take a few years. So, what we need to understand is that we can ban a few products but many will continue to come from China as what they produce are a part of the global supply chain that simply cannot be replaced in a jiffy.
India’s imports from China for 2018-19 stood at $70 billion and it was down from $76 billion in 2017-18 only because the Govt hiked the import duty on mobiles consistently – this strong policy action helped bring down the imports. Thus apart from patriotism, we need very strong policy action from the Govt to make this happen.
The Govt should waive off GST for all that we will now make in India, which is a substitute for Made in China thus ensuring that the low price points are maintained while encouraging manufacture. At the same time, for all those components which cannot but be sourced from China, the Govt can impose a 5% import duty and the money collected, should be ploughed back to build that supply chain in India. Even for the govt, only beating the chest and burning Chinese goods will not help; we need to think through this new Swadeshi movement.
Thus on a macro level, for all of us to stop using anything made in China is currently next to impossible. But we need to vent, we need to voice our anger and frustration; all of us cannot go to the front and fight a war like the brave soldiers; so we are doing what we can do in our own small way. This banning of Chinese products represents our emotion and let’s go with the flow but for us or rather, the entire world to be ‘Chinese free’ will take at least a decade.
Just as we light candles at the site of a terrorist attack, we all are reacting by calling for a ban on Chinese goods – that’s our candle right now.