How PM Modi’s Promotion of the Indian Toy Market is Correcting a Historical Wrong.

Sthiti Nai R – In the recent episode of Mann Ki Baat on 30th August 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a number of deeply relevant issues. Among them, an important issue that he raised was the promotion of the Indian toy market. The promotion of the Indian toy market not only has the ability to boost the Indian economy but also has the potential to have a positive effect on Indian society as a whole.

As renowned economist Jagdish Bhagwati notes, the focus on propagation of the public sector in the Nehruvian era eventually led to gargantuan losses[i]. Bhagwati also notes that a focus on heavy industries, which was the hallmark of the Nehruvian era, detached the economic development of the nation from interests of the poor.

On the other hand, he shows how a focus on export-oriented, labour-oriented industries, and light manufacturers such as toys or garments, would have led to a far more inclusive development: it would have developed the conditions of labourers as well.

Thus, over the decades, the systematic marginalising of light manufacturers (such as the toy industry) in favour of heavy industries has stopped us from realising our holistic economic potential.

Today, Prime Minister Modi’s attempt to revive the Indian toy market is thus correcting a long-standing historical wrong. Promoting the Indian toy market will lead to a boost in Indian entrepreneurship, and a more inclusive economic development.

Dasavatara wooden toys from Andhra Pradesh. Images: Google

Thus, compulsive critics who are quick to ridicule Modi’s attempt to revive the toy market, might intellectually benefit from reading the works of renowned economists such as Bhagwati, who have shown how light manufacturers, such as the Indian toy industry, are brimming with untapped economic potential. To ridicule Modi’s promotion of the Indian toy industry thus reeks of a lack of basic understanding of the Indian economic scenario.

Indian entrepreneurs, traders, craftspeople, and several other professionals would benefit deeply from this promotion of the toy market – to ridicule such a step is to belittle their development. Most importantly, such development of entrepreneurship leads to true individual liberation, instead of dependence on the state for employment.

There exists a sense of dependence in the thought that economic development can only be measured through the number of jobs provided by the state.

While jobs are certainly important and essential, if salaried employment is seen as the sole, or even the determining yardstick of economic development, it discounts the tremendous economic potential of businesses and entrepreneurship. The creation of a culture of indifference or opposition towards businesses and entrepreneurship is the recipe for economic downfall.

Moreover, the belittling of the craftspeople and traders (which is inherent in the act of ridiculing Modi’s attempt to revive the toy market) is also deeply insensitive towards hard working people who are trying to earn a living through an honest trade instead of  complaining about the lack of jobs in the market.

Instead of showing a sense of entitlement, such craftspeople and traders choose to embrace a sense of responsibility. Any attempt to create an environment conducive to the development of such indigenous craftspeople and traders should thus be welcomed and not be met with ridicule and hostility.

Lastly, the promotion of Indian toys also has the potential to reconnect us with our roots. While generations of Indian children have grown up with such Indian toys, the recent rise in the use of gadgets for entertainment has led to a very toxic gadget-addiction and has caused relative social detachment among children. This has led to various behavioural problems among children as well.

Wooden toys from Chennapatna. Images: Google

The promotion of Indian toys has the potential to reconnect children with the people around them as such toys don’t require their isolated attention and instead require human interaction. Thus, the promotion of Indian toys not only has the potential to boost the economy, but also has the potential to reconnect human beings and bring about a deeper, more thoughtful development of children. The ability to appreciate such a step thus reflects a deeper understanding of both Indian economics and Indian society, while the tendency to ridicule such a step reflects a deep seated ignorance of and disdain for the same.

[i] Bhagwati, J. (2004). In Defense of Globalization. New York: Oxford University Press.