Mahatma Gandhi and his followers descended upon the precincts of the Elphinstone Mill complex and burned some 150000 pieces of "English cloth" to kick-start the Swadeshi movement formally.

That was 31st July 1921.

The message MKG wanted to send was loud and clear: Use made in India goods to hurt the British Empire where it hurt the most. Money supply line is what you choke first while trying to tame a rogue institute. The US tamed ISIS and Al Qaeda using the technique.

We gullible Indians took Swadeshi to be yet another religious diktat. So we got all the right ingredients - ethnics, belief, morality - in place.

As we went about "manufacturing" cotton thread from raw cotton, soap, hair oil and other sundry items of daily use, we somehow got the confidence that the whole thing was not a big deal. Once the British colonialists were packed off, we could have full spectrum Swadeshi, so to say.

If we visit the same Elphinstone Mill compound today, we will see this:
The old textile mill had long ceased to be a viable concern. Edifice is all about America.

So, down the line, something seriously went wrong. So much so that the much cherished and celebrated Swadeshi ideals were largely abandoned.

What do you do when you discover that the foreign exchange reserve of a nation has just a two weeks' buffer? Beyond that, the country would start defaulting on international payments?

It took such an extreme event to exorcise the ghost of Swadeshi.

For 45 long years - 1947-92 - our manufacturers operated within a protected environment. In those days, one required a proper license from the government to manufacture anything. Despite the protection, they failed to thrive.

The initial entrants had a gala time. They just decimated the Indian competition with ease. Suzuki Motor Corporation single-handedly took out HM and PAL. Parle did not even bother to fight. It sold itself to Coke.

I am writing this blog on my American (HP) laptop. The room I am in is getting cooled by a Japanese (Panasonic) air-conditioner and is lit by a Dutch (Philips) LED bulb. The chair and table that I am using is Swedish (Ikea).

RIP Indian Manufacturing.

Why did we fail?

Manufacturing is not rocket science. A manufacturing process is just a series of irreversible state-changing steps performed on matter. As long as one performs each such step properly, you have no reasons to worry.

But then humans have this additional organ called mind, which wanders on its own, making focussing a hard task.

How do the manufacturing superstars like Germany, Japan, China manage it? They spend a lot on training. The training they take to the level of indoctrination. Instructions are embedded in the unconscious mind and executed by it.

One may notice that in India, industrial clusters are largely restricted to three states: Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Maharashtra. It is no surprise that the people of those states are known for their conservativeness, which makes them susceptible to indoctrination. States known for their liberal culture - Punjab and West Bengal - hardly have any manufacturing activities.

The Western nations - North America and West Europe - have failed to convince their workforce that factory jobs are good. That is the source of their current obsession with automation. Technologies that enable automation like AI, ML etc. are getting huge research grants. Google's self-driving car is just the tip of the iceberg.