'We are against Alibaba investing in Paytm.'
'We are against the concessions given to Paytm.'
'In fact, we want Paytm to close down because of its alliance with Alibaba.'
The Swadeshi Jagran Manch had earlier declared 2017 as the anti-China year.
With the India-China standoff in the Doklam Plateau, the Manch has intensified its anti-China rhetoric.
SJM members are aggressively campaigning and collecting signatures from Indians to boycott Chinese products.
Ashwani Mahajan, bottom, left, co-convenor, Swadeshi Jagran Manch, tells Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier why it is important for Indians to boycott Chinese products.
The Swadeshi Jagran Manch has been talking about boycotting Chinese products for some time. Now you are pursuing it quite aggressively.
Has it got anything to do with the India-China standoff?
For the last 3, 4 years, we have been asking people to boycott Chinese and other foreign goods including products from multinational companies.
Yes, the recent skirmishes in our border areas have added more fire to our movement.
However, this is not the only reason behind our campaign against Chinese goods.
Last year, during Diwali, we campaigned against Chinese firecrackers quite aggressively and it had the desired results.
We found that people on their own were boycotting Chinese goods and the sale of Chinese goods declined by 30 to 50 per cent.
We had also requested traders not to import Chinese products.
People have been with us and now the general mood is against Chinese goods.
Why are you against Chinese goods?
In 2015-2016, we imported goods worth $51.7 billion or Rs 420,000 crore from China.
This is equivalent to 34 per cent of our total manufacturing output.
This is happening through official channels.
Unfortunately, Chinese goods enter Indian markets not only through legal channels, but also through illegal channels and hawala.
Besides, lot of under-invoicing also happens.
For example, someone may be importing goods worth $100, but officially it is shown as just $20.
That's why we say that imports from China is much more than what is officially known.
In effect, it can also be 50 per cent of our manufacturing output and not 34 per cent as is officially said.
Is it worth killing our small scale industry and keep our youth unemployed by giving the most favoured nation tag under the WTO (World Trade Organisation) to China?
Seventy per cent of mobile phones sold in India are made in China.
Can anyone stop a consumer from buying something that is cost effective?
At the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, we are of the opinion that we are not just consumers, we are also producers.
It's okay if we do not produce anything and only consume, but that is not the case.
Indian phones may be compared to those made in China, but you can't ignore the fact that Indian phones are after all made in India.
There is a cycle in the whole thing -- you set up a factory with Indian labour, buy machinery, and produce goods also with Indian labour. These labourers are also consumers.
That is why we say there are producers and consumers in this cycle.
But when you import, say, phones you are only trading and not providing employment to local people.
You are importing equivalent to 50 per cent of your manufacturing output from China.
If you can reduce it by half, you can increase your industrial production by 25 per cent, and also employment by 25 per cent.
Is it not like going back to the old days when India had trade walls that did not allow any imports and in that protected Indian market, only Indian products were available?
You must understand that we are not asking to stop imports completely.
We want unequal, dishonest and illogical trade to end.
It is not that the Chinese are able to produce cheaper goods; they are actually not cost effective.
It's only because the Chinese government is supporting industry and subsidising exports, they are able to sell at a lower price.
They are doing this deliberately to kill all industries.
The whole world is their market now...
And the whole world is suffering because of this.
Look at this data. The Chinese economy is half that of the US, but the Chinese money supply is double that of the US.
They have four times more money supply than the US.
That is because they give undue subsidies to their industry to make their goods cheaper in the international market, thereby killing the US, European and the Indian industries -- in fact, every industry in the world.
This is how China became the manufacturing hub of the world, not by fair means.
Other countries have also started talking about stopping Chinese products.
There is no other way you can protect your manufacturing industry except by stopping Chinese imports.
Because of the decline in demand from the US and European countries, the Chinese economy and the Chinese manufacturing industry is already under recession.
With India also calling for a boycott, they are a worried lot now.
If China is the manufacturing capital of the world, India is known as the service capital of the world. Now, if other countries stop using India's services in IT, will it not affect us?
We have to have balanced development. You can't say that we will import all manufactured goods from China while we will provide all the services.
What we are saying is, trade with China has become lopsided and unequal. This has resulted in a huge trade deficit with China.
Yes, you cannot have a balanced trade with countries from where we purchase oil as we do not have oil fields.
On the other hand, imports from China have been increasing steadily over the years.
It is not that we are not producing say, electronic or electrical appliances.
What is unacceptable is China is dumping cheap products into our market.
We were importing these goods for less than $1 billion in 1996-1997.
By 2015-2016, it has gone up to $51.7 billion.
Just imagine the jump in the volume of Chinese goods in our market.
It is not that we have not been producing goods which we are importing now. This has killed our industry.
This is not the case in India alone, it is happening all over the world, and they have realised this and are rising to the occasion.
Earlier, China was growing at 15 to 20 per cent and they could absorb all the currencies they were printing.
Now, GDP growth has fallen to less than 5 per cent and the Chinese economy is not in a position to absorb this much currency.
The Chinese bubble has already started bursting.
You mean, you are not against import of Chinese products per se but there should be a balance in the trade?
Yes. At the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, we are not against equal or fair trade. But when you are dumping goods, how can it be fair trade?
We are bound by WTO rules, but China was not interested in free trade earlier. It was not a member of WTO in the initial years.
When they were confident that they could capture the international market, they joined the WTO.
The fact is, they are not interested in free and fair trade.
Chinese firms are today investing in Indian companies. Alibaba has invested in Paytm, Tencent in Flipkart...
We are against that as well.
It shows they are not only interested in our commodity market, they want to capture our service sector too through such investments.
That is because they have plenty of surplus cash with them.
The big question is, should we go for it?
We are against Alibaba investing in Paytm.
We are against the concessions given to Paytm.
In fact, we want Paytm to close down because of its alliance with Alibaba.
We even wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation established a factory in Nagpur.
They have bagged the contract to manufacture 69 coaches for the Nagpur Metro and 100 coaches for Kolkata Metro.
We do not want them to enter our manufacturing sector, it is dangerous.
The government is wooing foreign companies to invest in India and when somebody is interested in investing money in India and start a factory, will it not provide employment?
I don't agree with this argument, as wherever the Chinese have invested, whether it is in agriculture or industries, they do bring in their own people as labour.
Also, anything that affects the security of the country, should not be allowed.
China wants to invest in the border areas and the north-eastern part of India.
We have requested the prime minister to cancel the MoUs with the Chinese companies.
Allowing them to have factories in India is more dangerous than Chinese imports.
On the other hand, if you sign an MoU with Indian companies, they are not going to bring in Chinese labour to work here. So, Indian investment is better than Chinese investment.
Through our campaign, we have already collected 1 crore signatures from people supporting the boycott of Chinese goods.
Last time when we spoke, you said you would be happy if there are walls between countries. But no country can manufacture everything its people need; they have to import things they do not have and export the things they make.
Don't you think there has to be a movement of goods so that all countries get whatever they want?
I am of the opinion that the world was happier before globalisation.
I say this because the wealth of just 58 individuals is equal to the 50 per cent of the world's population after globalisation.
The world is not a happy place today.
The slogan, globalisation with a human face, is old and the fact is it doesn't have a human face.
Regarding movement of goods, Mahatma Gandhi had said, swadeshi is using goods produced in my village.
It has to be like this. If I don't get what I want in my village, I go to the next village. If I don't get them there, I go to the national market. If I don't get them in India, I will get from some other country.
But if some country is using unfair trade practices like China, we are against it. We are not against fair trade that does not kill local industries.
Why is it that we are not able to revive our manufacturing sector? It's only because of the import of cheap Chinese products.
Unless we stop the dumping of Chinese goods completely, our manufacturing sector will continue to suffer.
IMAGE: Paytm chief Vijay Shekhar Sharma with Alibaba's Jack Ma. Photograph: Kind courtesy, Vijay Shekhar Sharma/Facebook.