Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Incoherent Ramblings of a Retired Mind


A few months ago I met a close friend, an ex shipmate and old navy buddy.

“You seem to be writing a lot after retirement,” he said.

“I like to write. In fact, a blog quite a bit now, I said.

“Yes, I know. I read your Blogs. You write fiction stories, food blogs, teaching stories, academic articles, technology, management, self help, education – you write about so many things – but I think you must do some Socially Relevant Blogging,” he said.

“Socially Relevant Blogging – what do you mean by that?” I asked, as I was quite clueless by what he meant.

“Write about some socially relevant issues,” he said.

“But I am hardly qualified to do that,” I said, “I am no social activist. I don’t have much knowledge about politics. In fact, I have spent most of my time in the Navy. And now I am just a simple ex-serviceman.”

“Why don’t you write a blog post about something socially relevant pertaining to ex-servicemen,” he said.

So, Dear Reader, here is my first “socially relevant” blog post.

I am an ex-serviceman.

So let me write something (a constructive suggestion) which I feel may be socially relevant to the large veteran community as well as those in uniform still serving the nation.

(By the way, I am still confused about the meaning of the expression “socially relevant blogging” – so, Dear Reader, please tell me whether you feel that this is a socially relevant blog post)


The Government is implementing its “game changer” Direct Cash Transfer (DCT) or Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) Scheme for beneficiaries of subsidies in food, fuel and fertilizers.

This new scheme will send money straight into the bank accounts of beneficiaries instead of them getting subsidized food grains, kerosene, LPG Cooking Gas and Fertilizer.

In addition to subsidies, Direct Cash Transfers will also be extended to other direct benefits like pension, scholarships, health-care etc

In the prevailing circumstances this concept of direct cash transfer is most laudable, and, if implemented properly, direct cash transfer will eliminate delays, plug leakages, reduce wastage and also eradicate corruption.

It will help alleviate the problems the beneficiaries now face due to red tape, bureaucratic bungling and various operational difficulties and inefficiencies involved in the physical distribution of subsidized items to remote locations all over the country.

Direct Cash Transfer will also eliminate exploitation of the common man who is now made to run from pillar to post to get his due and give great convenience to intended beneficiaries.


I feel that this concept of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) can be extended to military ex servicemen of the army, navy and air force (retired soldiers, sailors and airmen).

Let me give you one example where Direct Cash Transfer in lieu of Subsidy can be easily implemented and will benefit all ex-servicemen.


At present, after retirement, all ex-servicemen are entitled to CSD Canteen Facility (CSD stands for Canteen Stores Department) where you get consumer goods at concessional rates.

CSD Canteens were set up with the objective to provide consumer goods of high quality to the troops wherever they are, at a price cheaper than the prevailing market rates, as far as possible.

CSD canteens sell items ranging from matchboxes to cars to armed forces personnel at concessional rates.

Yes, CSD sells a wide variety of products like household provisions, kitchen appliances, alcoholic drinks, cars, and sports equipment, almost anything and everything.

As per their stated objective, CSD is meant for TROOPS serving and retired.

The word “Troops” means uniformed personnel of the army, navy and air force.

However, if you go to a CSD Canteen today, especially in a big city, you will find more civilians than troops availing facilities of CSD Canteens.

This is because, over the years, CSD Canteen facilities have been extended to all sorts of civilians.

Both for the CSD and for the civilians this is a win-win situation.

The CSD encourages this due to their greed for profit.

Civilian customers benefit by getting goods at subsidized rates meant for troops.

The only losers due to allowing subsidized CSD facilities to civilians are:

1. The government which loses revenue

2. The troops who feel demoralized and wonder why they are enduring the tough risky life of a soldier when the same facilities are available to civilians who enjoy a safe and comfortable existence.

For most ex-servicemen, this CSD facility remains only on paper.

I live in Pune, a modern city, but, after retirement, I hardly visit the CSD Canteen.

From my home in Wakad, the CSD canteen is 25 Km away in Pune Camp, and considering the terrible traffic in Pune and the high price of petrol, I feel it is not worth the trouble driving 50 kms to the CSD Canteen.

If that is my state as a retired officer with reasonable resources, you can imagine the situation of a retired soldier.

The worst affected are ex-servicemen, particularly those aged retired soldiers who live in remote villages in rural areas, and widows of soldiers.

With departmental stores, marts and malls offering groceries and consumer goods at competitive rates, as far as these items are concerned, the attraction of CSD Canteens has diminished.

The only reason why most ex-servicemen take the trouble of visiting the CSD Canteen is to collect their monthly liquor quota.

Therefore, as an illustrative example, let me suggest how Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) can be used in lieu of monthly liquor quota for ex-servicemen.


There are many policies which are “Relics of the Raj”.

One such policy is to provide subsidized liquor at concessional rates to defence personnel, serving and retired.

Liquor is heavily subsidized in CSD Canteens.

You get this benefit only if you drink alcohol.

You do not get this benefit if you are a non-drinker.

Also, the more you drink, the more is the amount of monetary benefit.

Can someone tell me what is the logic of subsidizing liquor?

One the one hand, you subsidize drinking and encourage alcoholism.

And on the other hand, you penalize temperance and sobriety.

After you retire, this liquor subsidy is available only to those ex-servicemen who drink alcohol.

Is there any rationale in this policy of depriving non-drinkers of this subsidy?

Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) will enable even non-drinkers to get the benefit of this subsidy, since all ex-servicemen who are entitled subsidized liquor quota will be beneficiaries for Direct Cast Transfer under this DBT scheme.

This will wean away many ex-servicemen from alcohol and save them from falling into the abyss of alcoholism in their old age.

Implementation is simple.

The subsidy component of the monthly limit can be credited by direct cash transfer to the bank account of the ex serviceman on the last day of the month (this Subsidy is provided by exemptions or concessions in Sales Tax, Value Added Tax (VAT) etc)

The precise modalities can be worked out, but, in outline, the implementation of DBT can be done as explained below.

Each ex-serviceman is entitled a certain monthly “liquor quota”.

I think it is 12 bottles a month (6 bottles of Rum and 6 Bottles of Whisky).

The “subsidy element” of this monthly liquor quota can be transferred by Direct Cash Transfer to the bank account of the beneficiary ex-serviceman at the end of the month.

Calculation of this subsidy can be standardized.

The MRP cost of a “standard” brand of liquor in the civil market is well known.

Suppose 30% liquor subsidy is being provided by the government by way of tax concessions.

The total amount of subsidy for the monthly liquor quota can be worked out and credited to the beneficiary ex-serviceman’s bank account every month by Direct Cash Transfer.

Then it is the choice of the ex-serviceman to decide what to do with the money.

If he wants, he can spend it on milk and food and other essentials.

Or if he wants, he can spend it on buying liquor from the neighbourhood liquor store or village liquor vend.

Thus, even if he wants to drink, the ex-serviceman will be spared the agony of trudging down to the distant CSD Canteen every month to collect his liquor, which is a big waste of time, money and effort.

In addition to providing relief by obviating the cumbersome need of commuting to the canteen every month, DBT will curb the illegal practice of ex-servicemen selling their liquor quota in the civil market

(Why should a non-drinker ex-serviceman be tempted to do such unethical acts and take the trouble of collecting and then selling his subsidized liquor quota to civilians when he is starts getting direct benefit by cash transfer into his bank account?)

DBT in lieu of Liquor Quota will benefit widows of ex-servicemen who lose out despite being entitled a monthly liquor quota which lapses and they lose the benefit. 

There is one more point – liquor quota must be delinked from rank so that all ex-servicemen get the same benefit by Direct Cash Transfer.

I have discussed this aspect of the topsy-turvy logic of military CSD liquor quota in a recent article (Please click the link alongside to open in a new window and read afterwards:  http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2013/10/does-drinking-alcohol-improve-your-olq.html  )


The common perception is that CSD is purely a welfare organization and that CSD is not a profit-making organization. 

This is not true.

In actual fact, the CSD is not a “no-profit no-loss” organization.  

Like any other consumer retail chain, the CSD is a profit making organization.

Many CSD Unit Run Canteens (URCs) charge a sizeable profit on the goods they sell to ex-servicemen.

These canteens get their supplies at wholesale price from CSD depots and sell them at retail rates, earning for themselves on an average about 5% profit, 

Though the CSD gets items at concessional rates, many CSD Canteens charge profit at 5% or sometimes even 10%.

This extra cost is borne by the ex serviceman and, in effect, this profiteering by CSD Canteens eats into the subsidy and dilutes the benefit given to the ex-servicemen by the government by way of tax exemption.

Yes, this “profiteering” by CSD Canteens eats into the subsidy and reduces the benefit given by the government to ex-servicemen.

CSD Canteens are akin to “middlemen” between the government and the beneficiaries (ex-servicemen).

Why should the CSD Canteens act as “middlemen” and profit at the expense of ex-servicemen?

Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) will eliminate this middleman and the full benefit of tax exemption can be passed on to the beneficiary ex-serviceman.

Direct Cash Transfer (DCT) will ensure that the beneficiary ex-servicemen get their full due subsidy without any “deductions” of profits etc.

Whatever “profits” the CSD now makes will be passed on to the beneficiary ex-serviceman once DBT is implemented and CSD is kept out of the loop.


Once the implementation of DBT in lieu of Liquor Quota Subsidy succeeds for ex-servicemen, the same can be extended to serving personnel and later this DBT concept can be enlarged to cover all CSD goods – DBT in lieu of CSD.

The government provides CSD Tax Concession Subsidy to Uniformed Armed Forces Personnel during Active Service and after Retirement in recognition for their unique contribution in guarding the nation’s security.

This Subsidy is deservingly given because it is the uniformed servicemen of the army, navy and air force who actually fight wars, take part in combat, and who lay down their lives in battle and serve in inhospitable terrains and on the high seas on warships or guard the skies.

Soldiers risk their lives and live a tough life of hardship.

Civilians do not fight wars or suffer similar hardships or risks.

Hence, CSD Canteens were meant exclusively for active and retired members of the Armed Forces personnel.

However, if you visit a CSD canteen, especially in a big city, you will see a large number of civilians shopping there and availing of the subsidy which is meant for servicemen and ex-servicemen.

Thus the government loses revenue.

Direct Cash Transfer will ensure that only entitled persons (uniformed soldiers and ex-servicemen) get the subsidy and prevent loss of revenue due to misuse of Sales Tax and VAT Subsidy by Civilians.

Unlike in the days of the British “Raj” when cantonments were located at remote locations, nowadays most cantonments are situated near cities and towns where all consumer goods are available.

Once DBT is introduced, there will be no need for CSD Canteens in cities and these can be wound up.

Only Unit Run CSD Canteens will be required in remote field areas.

Thus, CSD can be downsized - this will increase government revenues by curtailing misuse of subsidized CSD facilities by civilians and also result in organizational savings.

But all this can come later.

For now, let us start with Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) in lieu of Liquor Subsidy for Ex-Servicemen as a pilot case.

Once the concept is successful here, DBT can be extended to various ex-servicemen’s entitlements, facilities and welfare measures like ECHS, Grants, Scholarships etc to eliminate cumbersome paperwork and red tape.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this book review. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013 all rights reserved

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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