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Opinion

Protectionism

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by Ujwal Medithi (ujwal10101@gmail.com)

One day, while casually checking my Facebook news feed, I saw a post encouraging protectionist measures to save the Indian economy and the Indian Rupee. It called for the boycott of foreign goods and companies like Vodafone and Gilette. It asked us Indians to do our duty and instead buy only wholly Indian goods. This at once irked me but I did not dwell on it for long. Viewing it as an isolated incident, I moved on. Some time later, I saw the post again. It was being circulated among my friends. Clearly, the post reflected the mindset of the current generation and was becoming popular. But one only has to study the history of contemporary India to recognize how disastrous such measures would be for our economy. As an concerned citizen, I felt I should do my bit in dispelling myths, which lead me to write the following open letter to the original poster and all those who agree with him/her.

To whoever wrote it (and whoever agrees with him/her),Do you even understand the words you wrote? What is a wholly Indian product? Look closely and you’ll see that things are not in black or white. Every product has components made in different countries. A product is and can NEVER be made in just one country.

Should we boycott Vodafone because it’s British? The post says we should use Airtel instead. Why? Because it’s Indian? Please, then explain how its base stations are Swedish (Ericsson) and Finnish-German (Nokia Siemens Network)? And its microwave links Chinese (Huwei)? Or how about 4.4% of Airtel being owned by the very company you want to boycott?

You want to boycott non-Indian goods? Please tell me the interesting story of how you posted your feelings on an American website, using an American/Taiwanese/Chinese computer or phone, the fiber optic cabling for which is French. A non-American PC operating system doesn’t even exist. Please invent one, I implore you; for the sake of market competition.

Could have done the same with pen and paper? Throw out all your Reynolds pens please. They’re French. Take your time to find a wholly Indian pen. What about a pencil? The rubber on the rubber tip probably comes from Malaysia. The rubber plant is not even native to that country. It was introduced there from South America by a British businessman. Are you willing to bet your life that the wood comes from India? And the graphite? The paint coating? The glue holding it all together? The machine tools which assembled the components?

Do you also dislike Bata shoes because it’s a foreign company? Tomas Bata, the Czech shoe tycoon, established their Indian operations

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in Konnagar, West Bengal in 1931. Thanks to them we have the town of Batanagar.

Please tell the average middle class Indian he shouldn’t have bought a Maruti 800 because it’s Japanese (Suzuki owns 54.2% of Maruti Suzuki).

How about you don’t ever use Indian Airlines. The Govt of India bought Tata Airlines from J.R.D. Tata in 1946 and made it the National Carrier. And by your logic, since J.R.D. Tata was half French, with French citizenship (which he renounced later in his life), Tata Airlines becomes French, right? (BTW I’m not questioning J.R.D. Tata’s Indian-ness. We all know the Tatas have been very patriotic.)

Also never buy anything with zippers. More than 90% of the world’s zippers are made by YKK. Japanese.

By your logic, we would never be able to buy anything. For 40 years India suffered at the hands of people like you, who forbade the Indian people and its companies to use foreign companies’ tools and products. Don’t take us back to the dark ages.

What is the way forward then? We should seek to find our strengths and offer it to the whole world. And encash it while we’re at it. If there were no foreign computers and fiber optic cabling, we would have never become one of the largest BPO destinations of the world. If Jamsetji Tata had not used American cotton spinning technology, Empress Mills would never have turned a profit and the Tata Group would never have been founded.

Don’t assume things. Read. Learn. Analyse. And then speak.

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