Thursday, May 31, 2007

Licence raj

The licence raj era is an era that we all went through when we were in India. Everything was controlled and regulated, for the hoi polloi, while the biggies got their way. Production was controlled, Imports were controlled, Supply was controlled - for reasons unclear they never thought of coming to our houses and controlling the water we drank or the food we ate. They did that by a funny method - cooking gas shortage sometimes ensured that we went without cooking gas for 30 to 60 days. Of course, everything was mysteriously, available, in black - no prizes for guessing how!

If you wanted to own a TV, you had to have - a TV licence. A radio, you guessed it, a radio licence. And mind you, this was a household level.

At an industrial level, you needed a licence for just about everything. It was a great time to be, if you knew which licence was going to be issued and when. So, the game was just about cornering a licence - and you know how that can be done (As the character of the same name in the movie Guru says - I have a gold slipper and a silver slipper and I give them to whosoever desires them) . Licences were in short supply, so if you had a licence, lo, you had a monopoly - never mind the quality. So, pressure cookers exploded, cars stopped mid way, phones could go dead, tyres burst - but people had to buy from you, no choice.

So, today, if we had the same situaion, we would have a licence for a broadband connection, licence to blog (only 5 licences available), licence for a website, computers, modems what not (I can write a ton here, perhaps later).

And, here, someone (aha) wants us to go back there. To think these dinosaurs still get votes, in one Jurassic Park in the west and one in the south - both of whom are enjoying "industrial alienation" even today.


Anonymous said...

You may hate it, but traders whose livelihood is threatened would gladly welcome it. That's how the communists have been surviving this long...

Anonymous said...

Of course, it is no surprise that this news has to appear in the hindu - china's national newspaper.

gg said...

LOL at the previous commenter's post.

Anonymous said...

This is not unusual in the case of retailers. Even in the US many places do not allow big box retailers, because they are a threat to local businesses. Also there are restrictions on the square footage, number of shelves in the grocery department, etc. based on the population of the town. But these decisions are made by the local government in the cities.

Also licensing may be good in some cases – but it entirely depends on the efficiency of the government. In the US you need a license to own a dog or a cat and also you need to renew that every year. You need a license to fish and hunt. Even if you want to add a small addition (sometimes even color change) to your house you have to get permission/approval from your local government. These kinds of things bring some order to the city.

Licensing for blogs, broadband connections??? How does that even work? I am curious to know.

Abhilash said...

having said that, you should realize that United States and European Union have strong Anti-monopoly laws.

Either we emulate them fully or we don't emulate them. Government of India cannot, by law, fight monopoly. If the government were to introduce licensing, it will be surely be the starting of another monpoly(low quality most probably).

Guess no one will want to see only an Ambassador in the car market or only a bajaj in a scooter market. More choices for the consumer forces the companies to increase the quality of the products. Remember the wonders that happened in the cell phone industry when government allowed more than 2 providers in a city. And that actually helped the companies grow in the long run.