Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The cost of law and order

Huge swathes of our country are ungoverned. Or, to be accurate, let's say that the definition of governance standards is set so low that criminal activities are not seen as being remarkable. The fact that such norms do not disturb us should be a reason to be disturbed!

Business friends of mine recently established a factory in Mayawati's newly colonised Greater Noida. As the plant neared completion, the local village 'leaders' offered factory management their services for transport of finished goods from the plant. A couple of weeks later, they returned to remind the plant manager; he said he would talk to Head Office. The would-be transporter left behind his rate-card. Turned out that the transport charges on offer were 40% higher than prevailing rates.

Discussing this with me, the CEO felt that plant management should find a way to work with local people, and believed the transporters would come around to rates which were on par with the market. This was clearly not the intention - within a couple of days, they had parked some 70 trucks around the factory, and sent word that this was a gentle reminder of the services on offer.

Plant management inter-acted with other manufacturing facilities in the area, and were told that prices were not negotiable, and that the attempt was to create a monopoly on out-bound trucking; the only exit route that would work was to say that the plant had decided to deploy its own trucks.

This is what was done; my friends bought a fleet of trucks, and used them to ship finished goods to a sister plant in Ghaziabad, about 50 km. away. A reliable network of transporters trans-ship the goods onto onward vehicles. The cost of this exercise? Rs. 15 lakhs per month.

One medium-sized factory that won't show up as a blip on any industrial statistics for India. One bunch of local operators, whom many Indians wouldn't even classify as thugs. Jack the numbers up by several orders of magnitude to get a sense of the scale of moral depravity in our country. And then try to get a sense of the waste generated because our leaders are not concerned with law, order, and justice, but with power, lobbies and re-election.

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