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Visitors to Rishikesh, from grown-ups to children, wearing colourful shirts with ‘Om’ woven into the fabric is truly a pleasant sight, worth capturing on smartphones and spreading on various social media sites. They become even more valuable when taken across continents to foreign lands to be worn on special occasions, reliving the visit to the holy city. And the vendors who are selling this attractive product in Rishikesh will obviously be making a good living. This is just one example of the numerous innovative ways that the USP of Devbhoomi’s pilgrimage sites can be used to boost the economy.

Hopefully, the shirts are made locally or, at least, in the neighbouring state of UP. The Prime Minister’s ‘Vocal for Local’ call, which includes his exhortation to reserve five percent of one’s travel budget on buying local products to boost the grassroots economy, is rooted in this spirit of innovation. So, while visitors may make the purchases, it is also the duty of the host community to ensure products are attractive, useful, hopefully rooted in local traditional handicrafts, and of good quality.

The state government’s ‘One District, Two Products’ initiative taps into this principle, focusing on giving a boost to certain identified products. This does not, of course, limit the number to just twenty-six across the thirteen districts, but is designed to establish models with government help for others to follow. At the same time, however, as can be seen with the flourishing market in Rishikesh, there already are successful models that need to be recognised, studied and intelligently replicated.

And, as always is the case, there are elements that seek to take advantage by pushing products that are fake, of poor quality, and designed only to make a fast buck. It would not be a surprise that some products are even made in China masquerading as Indian. One needs only to see how Holi and Diwali have been infiltrated to an enormous extent by the Chinese. Are local entrepreneurs so without initiative that people thousands of miles away can innovate and supply products at cheaper cost? Government policies have a lot to do with it, as the capitalist spirit has been traditionally frowned upon in India, to the extent that even the communists can make and sell better than us! This is why, the often hidebound authorities should give due respect to and learn from those already doing a good job, locally!