Sometimes the neta-babu brotherhood, which by imposing the ubiquitous licence-permit-quota regimen upon this unfortunate country’s populace has transformed post-independence India into a Republic of Rackets, regrets the consequences. Recently, the Congress party’s long-serving Union finance minister P.C. Chidambaram was reportedly shocked that a cup of coffee in the country’s airports under the jurisdiction of the public sector Airports Authority of India is priced at Rs.240 — a sum equivalent to the daily per capita income of over 80 percent of the population. That it took this worthy who served as finance minister of the country for a decade (2004-14) so long to discover that vendors in the country’s airports routinely rip off travellers, is an indicator of the extent to which our overpaid and cossetted politicians are cut off from the daily travails and tribulations of the common man.
Moreover under the benign watch of the Union and state governments, restrictive trade practices and monopolies are flourishing in popular entertainment and sports. For instance under the excuse of security concerns, spectators are not permitted to carry any food items, water bottles or even sitting cushions into cricket stadiums hosting the on-going Indian Premier League T-20 cricket matches. Thus they are forced to purchase exorbitantly priced snacks, soft drinks and cushions from in-stadia vendors. Ditto people who purchase expensive multiplex cinema tickets.
Under law, these are unreasonable restrictive practices which ought to be checked and prohibited by grandly titled organisations such as the Competition Commission of India and the Union ministry of consumer affairs. But quite evidently, these watchdog commissions and organisations — essentially established to create perks-laden positions for ruling party loyalists — are sleeping on the job. Meanwhile in government offices, bribes are routinely extracted from hapless citizens even as restrictive practices flourish in the entertainment sector. If unofficial taxes are taken into consideration, our Republic of Rackets is surely the most heavily taxed nations worldwide.