In a single swoop to promote the use and purchase of locally-made and manufactured goods and produce, the Indian government has banned the sale of all direct imported items to Canteen Stores Department, or the CSD. The move to ban videshi (or foreign) products in a bid to increase the utilization of swadeshi (or local) manufactured goods is now a mandate for all army canteens across the country.
Direct imported goods are a classification of imported items, in which said items consist only finished goods and products. In a government order dated October 19, 2020, the Ministry of Defense had stated that meetings had been held with key officials from the three Services and with those from the CSD in lieu and support of the currently aggressive push towards an Atmanirbhar Bharat, popularly known around the globe as the Made in India movement. Quoting from the order, the Ministry of Defense had stated that “based on the agreed decisions, it has been decided that procurement of direct imported items shall not be undertaken by CSD.”
Out of the 5500 items that are currently being sold in CSD canteens, around 420 of them have been categorized as direct imports. This is partly good news, as the ban of such products only constitutes approximately eight percent of the entire inventory of CSD, and can be recovered within a few months of time, ideally. It is also important to note that in the light of China’s aggression towards India, economically and politically, that a majority of products that have been banned from CSD are those manufactured and imported directly from China; this correlation is a shining bright orb regarding the country’s stance against the use of Made in China and Chinese products – a move fully supported by various countries.
This “bold-faced move”, as termed by various articles and spokespersons, is a swoop that is bound to accomplish a minimum of two objectives for the nation – one, it increases how independent India is from relying on foreign imports from an economic standpoint; two, it is a subtle way of slowly gaining economic independence from China, thereby reducing the amount of influence the trades have on India’s decisions that may involve China and its actions. While other objectives and sub-objectives may be accomplished simultaneously as well, the above listed are what can be prioritized with the data we currently have.
Months prior to this order being passed, the Minister of State for Defense, Shripad Naik, had stated that “no decision has been taken in this regard” when asked whether the Ministry of Defense would consider the utilization and sale of Made in India products in its stores and CSD, when Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (the Make in India campaign) was in full swing. During the first week of October 2020, the minister had asserted in the Rajya Sabha that the ministry had yet to take a decision regarding the exclusivity of Indian products in its canteens, the results of which have been stated in this article among various others. “To implement government’s vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat and as per the directions of the Ministry of Defense, no purchase order will be placed for the directly imported items with immediate effect,” the notice dated October 29 stated.
It is also noteworthy that the notice, which has been forwarded to all depot managers since, applied no restrictions in the supply items that are pending delivery, whose purchase orders had already been placed before the notice had come into effect. This is a clever move, as cancellation of pre-purchased orders would have led to an increased number of complications under such trying times that feel restrictive already. The Ministry of Defense had requested the depot managers to confirm and acknowledge the delivery of the government order by October 31. There are zero restrictions on Unit Run Canteens (or URCs) on receiving and selling direct imported goods until such a time when the imported stock goods have been liquidated completely. “You are therefore requested not to place any local purchase orders on the imported items”, it had stated.
Various sources have reported that high-end foreign liquor has not been made available in URCs as well.
The CSD runs one of the largest (if not the largest) retail store chains in India, with approximately three thousand to four thousand canteens spread across the country from extremity to extremity. The Army prides itself on the distribution of such Unit Run Canteens that are operating from the Siachen glacier, all the way to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands – the northern and southern extremities of the country, respectively.
The list of four hundred items (422, to be exact) that have been banned from the CSD include some leading high-end brands preferred by those that value quality over value-for-money in their products, and are still found to date in the Indian consumer market. “The volumes for such demanding items are so high that it provides a great incentive for such companies to localize within the nation”, quoted an Army official.