Vantage point

Friday, April 14, 2006

Real Winner in P/D/D - The Little Guy

The real winner in privatisation/decentralisation/deregulation in India almost always, and overwhelmingly so, is going to be the "little guy". The common man, the man on the street, who has no contacts to push him up, no money to bribe ths system with, and no army of brutes to enforce his writ.

The biggest naysayers of P/D/D have been of course, the left parties. About their motivations and rationalisation, the lesser said, the better. But the other thinkers, intellectuals and activists who oppose P/D/D do see more out of their misplaced fear of the "evil corporations" who will take over whatever is up for grabs and grind the little man into the ground.

What they don't realise is, these "evil corporations" will have much more scope to be evil and oppressive in a state-run-state-regulated set-up that has existed in India. Because establishing and sustaining an inefficient and blood-sucking monopoly is so much easier under government regulation. You just bribe the government, and the police force becomes your de-facto private army which stops anyone from competing.

P/D/D is what levels the playing field to a great extent and empowers many "little guys".

Look at the heavy regulation in primary education. The "big guys" get their way. We have so many posh, air-conditioned schools springing up to cater to the urban rich, only because the "big guys" have money to bribe their way through multiple layers of bureaucracy to start a school. Or, of course, the contacts.

But why are there very few private schools for the lower middle class or the poor? Because the "little guys" who will start the "no frills" schools do not have the money or contacts to get permission to start them.

Times, Star and India Today are the "big guys" who got the valuable licenses to run FM radio stations. But a "little guy" like Raghav Mahto was forced to shut shop because he didn't have the money or the influence to get a license.

So when you oppose P/D/D, you usually end up opposing the "little guy".