Namaskar!! I hope you all are in your best spirits!! Serving the country continuously for 95 years is indeed a big thing for any organization. ICC, Indian Chamber of Commerce has contributed to the development of East India and North East, especially to the manufacturing units there. It is indeed historic. I congratulate every dignitary here who has contributed for the ICC.
Friends, ICC has witnessed India's fight for independence since its formation in 1925. It has witnessed the severe famine and food crises and has also been a part of India's Growth Trajectory.
Now this time the AGM is happening at a time when our country is fighting against multiple challenges. The whole world is fighting against the coronavirus; India too is fighting, but other types of challenges are also constantly cropping up.
Somewhere there is a challenge of flood; somewhere we are facing the problem of locusts; somewhere hailstorms are creating havoc while somewhere there is a fire in the oil-fields or a series of minor earthquakes. And on the top of it back to back two cyclones hitting the coastal states of the eastern and the western regions posed a real challenge.
We are all fighting together on all such fronts. More often than not time also tests us. Sometimes many difficulties and challenges arise together.
But we have also seen that in such situations, our attitude guarantees a bright future. How we are dealing with a challenge and how strongly we are fighting against the difficulties determines the opportunities to come.
Friends, there is a saying here - मन के हारे हार, मन के जीते जीत, that is, our willpower and determination charts our path forward. The one who already accepts defeat gets fewer opportunities before him. But he who strives for victory and moves ahead, supporting each other, more opportunity comes in front of him.
Friends, our solidarity, the spirit of facing the biggest disasters together, our determination and our willpower are the greatest strength as a nation.
The panacea for any difficulty is staying strong. Tough times have strengthened the determination of India every time and have energized and boosted the resolution of the countrymen as a nation. I can see the same feelings on your face today and in the efforts of crores of countrymen. The crisis of Corona remains all over the world. The whole world is fighting it. Our country is fighting it with the help of Corona Warriors.
But amidst all this, every countryman is now also filled with the resolve to convert this disaster into an opportunity; we have to make it a big turning point for the country.
What is this turning point? Atmanirbhar Bharat, Self Reliant India!! This spirit of self-reliance has been lived by every Indian like an aspiration for years.
But still there has been a major wish in the mind of every Indian - I wish we were self-sufficient in the field of medical equipment! I wish we were self-sufficient in defence manufacturing! I wish we were self-reliant in the coal and minerals sector!
I wish we were self-reliant in the fields of edible oil and fertilizers! I wish we were self-reliant in electronic manufacturing! I wish we were self-sufficient in Solar Panels, Batteries and Chip Manufacturing. I wish we were self-reliant in the aviation sector. These countless wishes and desires have always shaken every Indian.
Friends, this has been a major reason why in the last 5-6 years, India's goal of self-reliance has been paramount in the policy and practice of the country. Now the Corona Crisis has taught us a lesson on how to speed it up. It is from this lesson that the 'Atma Nirbhar Bharat campaign has been born.
Friends, we see that in the family too, when a child, son or daughter, turns 18-20 years old, then we say learn to be independent and self-reliant. In a way, the first lesson of self-sufficient India begins with family. India will also have to be self-reliant.
Friends, the 'Atma Nirbhar Bharat' campaign simply means that India should minimize its dependence on other countries. We should learn to manufacture within India everything that the country is forced to import. How can India become an exporter of those products in the future, we have to work fast in this direction.
In addition, we also have to regulate the import of those things or products that are made by India's small entrepreneurs, our artisans, handicrafts artisans, and millions of poor associated with our Self-Help Groups, which are being manufactured and sold here for decades. We have to control the trend of getting the same goods from abroad.
With this practice, we will not only buy things from these small entrepreneurs, we will not only give them the money, but will also be, in a way, rewarding their hard work and will be showing them respect. We do not even know how much this gesture impacts their heart and how proud they feel!
Therefore, now is the time to be ‘vocal for your local’. It is time to make every village, every town, every district, every state and the whole country self-sufficient.
Friends, Swami Vivekananda once wrote in a letter- The simplest method to be worked upon at present is to induce Indians to use their own produce and get markets for Indian art ware in other countries. The path shown by Swami Vivekananda ji is an inspiration for India in the post Covid world. Now the country has pledged and the country is also taking steps.
The major reforms announced under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Campaign are being fast implemented.
Whether expanding the scope of definition of MSMEs or arranging thousands of crores of special funds to support MSMEs, these are all becoming a reality today. Be it the decision related to IBC, the decision to decriminalize minor mistakes or the formation of Project Development Cells for Fast Tracking of Investment, many such works have already been done.
Now to make various sectors more competitive, especially Coal and Mining, the industry must come forward to take full advantage of the reforms that have been announced. The young friends should also come forward.
Friends, the decisions made recently for the farmers and rural economy have freed the agricultural economy from years of slavery. Now the farmers of India have got the freedom to sell their produce anywhere in the country.
The amendments that have been made in the APMC Act, Essential Commodities Act, have opened the path of partnership between farmers and industry. It is sure to revive the farmer and the rural economy. These decisions have identified the farmer as a producer and his produce as a product.
Friends, whether it is the decision to transfer money directly to the bank accounts of the farmers, whether it is the decision of MSP or their pension scheme, our effort has been to empower the farmers. Now farmers are being helped to grow into a big market force.
Friends, the cluster based approach for Local Products which is now being promoted in India is also an opportunity for everyone. Whatever is produced in the districts and blocks, related clusters will be developed nearby. For example, jute based industries will be strengthened nearby for the jute farmers of West Bengal.
Modern processing units will be made available close to the tribal companions who are collecting vast wealth of forest produce. Besides this, clusters will also be made for Bamboo and Organic Products. The entire North East, like Sikkim, can become a major hub for organic farming. An organic capital can be developed.
Organic farming can become a huge movement in the North East if all the traders associated with ICC are determined. You can make a global identity and can dominate the global market.
Friends, all of you have been working in North East and East India for so many decades. All the steps the government has taken will be of great benefit to the people of East and North East.
I think Kolkata itself can become a very big leader again. Seeking inspiration from its old glory, Kolkata may in the future lead the development of the entire region.
Who knows better than you about the pace with which this region can grow with the help of labour, property and resources of the east!
Friends, after 5 years, i.e. in the year 2025, your organization is going to complete its 100 years. On the other hand, in the year 2022, India will complete 75 years of independence. This is the best time for your organization, for each of your members to make a big resolution. I urge you the ICC to also set 50-100 new targets at its level for the 'Atma Nirbhar Bharat campaign.
These goals should also be of the institution, of every industry and business unit associated with it and also of every person. The more you move towards your goal, the more this campaign will progress in East India and the North East.
Friends, we have to revive Bengal's historic superiority in manufacturing. We have always been listening to "What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow", we have to seek inspiration from this and we have to move forward. This is the time to move the Indian Economy from Command and Control to Plug and Play. This is not the time for Conservative Approach, but it is time for Bold Decisions and Bold Investments.
It is time to set up a Globally Competitive Domestic Supply Chain in India.
For this, the industry has to help all the stakeholders of its existing supply chain to come out of the crisis and also their hand-holding in value addition.
Moving forward with the Atma Nirbhar Bharat campaign and struggling with the Corona period, the topic of People, Planet and Profit that you have raised in this AGM today also holds immense importance. Some people think that these three are opposite to each other, and are contradictory, but it is not so. People, Planet and Profit are interlinked to each other. All three can simultaneously flourish and co-exist.
Let me give you some examples such as that of LED bulbs. 5-6 years ago, an LED bulb was available for more than Rs 350. Today the same bulb is available for up to 50 rupees. Just Imagine! Lowering the price of LED bulbs has helped it to reach crores of houses all over the country and these are now being installed as street lights. This quantity is so large that it has reduced the cost of production and also increased the profit. Who has benefited from this?
People have benefitted. The common man has benefitted with a lower electricity bill. Today, about Rs 19 thousand crores are being saved every year by the people due to lower electricity bills, thanks to LEDs. These savings have benefited the poor and the middle class of the country.
The Planet has also benefited from this. The LED bulbs sold by government agencies at a lower price alone have reduced the emission of about 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.
That is, both have profited; there is a win-win situation for both. If you look at other schemes and decisions of the government too, then this concept of People, Planet and Profit has been more strongly implemented on ground in the last 5-6 years.
Now you too have seen how much the government has been emphasising upon Inland Waterways. Waterway from Haldia to Banaras has been commissioned. Now waterways are being extended to the North East as well.
People benefit from these waterways, because it reduces the cost of Logistics.
Planet also benefits from these waterways, because it burns less fuel. And we should not forget that it will reduce the import of petrol and diesel and reduce traffic on the road.
Goods will be cheaper and will reach the destination via the shortest route quickly. Both the buyer and the seller have profit in it.
Friends, there is another campaign going on in India - to free the country from single use plastic. All the three subjects i.e. People, Planet and Profit are being addressed here.
It is very beneficial, especially for West Bengal. This increases your chances of growing Jute's business here. Have you taken advantage of it? Have you started making packaging material with jute? In a way, you are at the greatest advantageous position.
You should take advantage of this opportunity further. If you leave this opportunity, then who will help you? Just imagine! When the Jute bag made in West Bengal will be in the hands of everyone, then how big the profit will be for the people of Bengal!
Friends, Approaches of People Centric, People Driven and Planet Friendly Development have now become a part of Governance in the country. Our technological interventions are also compatible with the idea of People, Planet and Profit.
Through UPI, our banking has been Touchless, Contactless, Cashless and 24 into 7. Transactions through BHIM APP are now creating new records. RuPay card is now becoming the favourite card of the poor, farmers, middle class and every section of the country. When we talk of a self-reliant India, why not use the RuPay Card with pride?
Friends, now the scope of banking service in the country has also reached those people, who were kept in the category of Have-nots for a long time. Through DBT, JAM i.e. Jandhan Aadhaar Mobile, it has been possible to deliver the necessary support to crores of beneficiaries without leakage.
Similarly, Government e-marketplace, ie GeM, has given people an opportunity to earn profit by connecting with the government. You are aware that small self help groups, MSMEs, can provide their Goods and their services directly to the Government of India on the GeM platform. Otherwise, an entrepreneur with a turnover of few lakhs could not think of selling any goods he had produced directly to the central government.
Therefore, I also urge the ICC to motivate your members and the associated manufacturers to join GeM in maximum numbers. If every manufacturer connected to you will join GeM, then small businessmen will also be able to sell their products directly to the government.
Friends, when we talk about Planet, you are also observing that today ISA, I.e. International Solar Alliance is becoming a big global movement. Efforts are being made to share the benefits that India sees for itself in the field of Solar Energy with the whole world. I request all the members of the Indian Chamber of Commerce to extend their Contribution and Investment towards the Targets set for Renewable Energy, Solar Power Generation in the country.
Invest in R&D and manufacturing of better Batteries to increase the power storage capacity of the Solar Panel in the country. You can do Handholding of MSMEs, and other such institutions, that are engaged in this work. In the changing world, Solar Rechargeable Batteries is going to be a huge market. Can Indian industry lead it? India can become a huge hub in this area.
The ICC and its members can set targets on these subjects by linking them to the years 2022 when India will complete 75 years of its independence and 2025 when the ICC will complete its hundred years.
Friends, this is the time to recognize the opportunity, try your mettle and move towards new heights. If this is the biggest crisis, then we should take full advantage of it, while taking the biggest lessons from it.
I assure you that the government is fully committed to this objective and is with you. Feel free to move forward, with new resolutions. Move forward with a new confidence!! At the root of self-reliant India is self-confident India.
Gurudev Tagore has said in his poem 'Nooton Juger Bhor' - "Cholai Cholai Bajbe Joyer Bheri, Paer Begei Poth Kete Jaay Korish Na Ar Deri", i.e. "Every moving step will be declared. The feet running forward will create a new path. Don't delay now".
Just imagine how big this mantra is - moving feet will create a new path. When such a big inspiration is in front of us, there is no question of stopping.
I am confident that when you celebrate 100 years of your establishment, when the country celebrates 75 years of its independence, our country would have moved forward on the path of self-reliant India.
Once again, my best wishes to you!
Stay healthy stay safe!
Thanks a lot!