Canteen Stores Department (CSD), a Government of India owned enterprise under the Ministry of Defence, has decided to stop the sale of foreign finished goods at its 5,000 stores across the country under Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.
The ban on the sale of foreign finished goods would result in the unavailability of foreign-made liquor- Scotch, which is popular among officer rank armed forces officials, and high-end smartphones. These products were being sold at Army canteens at very low cost at CSDs compared to market prices because no duty or taxes are imposed on goods sold to armed forces personnel.
A lot of these products tended to fall in the hands of the extended friends and family of officers and this led to a loss to the Government of India in revenues. The foreign companies which were supplying duty-free alcohol to CSD would be hardest hit because the consumption is expected to come down significantly. As per an industry official, out of 10 bottles of wine sold at army canteens, only four are for armed forces personnel and the rest for family and friends.
The Defence Canteens have annual revenue of around 20,000 crore rupees from their 5,000 stores across the country and out of 5,500 goods sold at these canteens, 420 are foreign imports. The revenue of CSD is more than many of the country’s FMCG companies and a ban on imports would either reduce the import bill or increase the revenue- in both ways the Government and the country would benefit.
Not just the Indian government, but the Indian companies would also benefit in a big way given the scale of purchases by defense canteens. Most of the foreign imported products can be easily supplied by Indian companies but foreign products were more popular due to brand value and exemption from import duty which made them cheaper.
Now, these supplies would be met by the Indian companies; the profit British and European companies were earning would go to the coffers of Indian companies.
The Modi government is promoting Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan through ending the reliance of the government on foreign companies. Previously, the Union Home Ministry which manages Central Armed Police Forces also banned the sale of foreign goods at its stores but the list of banned products is up for review as of now.
Many products sold at CSD such as ladies’ handbags, toilet brushes, sandwich toasters, electric kettles are imported from China. At a time when soldiers are fighting against PLA, strengthening China through purchase of their products makes no sense.
Purchasing from Indian companies would make our economy stronger while the purchase of Chinese products would make the enemy stronger. Therefore, the government is substantially cutting down its expenditure on Chinese products and replacing them with Indian ones.
Government consumption and Government Capital expenditure account for around one-third of India’s Gross Domestic Product and if the government stops the consumption of foreign goods and does not give contracts to foreign companies, this itself would be a big boost for Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan. The Modi government is moving in this direction with a ban on foreign goods consumption at the government level and the participation of Chinese companies in bidding for the projects.
To weaken China, the first step should be to weaken its economy and at the same time strengthen ours. And both of these could be accomplished through Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan. Therefore, along with the government and its employees, the common people of the country should also boycott Chinese products and purchase from indigenous producers to strengthen our economy.