Dealing With a Bully

I know a way of dealing with a bully – sock the bully a real tight one in the solar plexus. Inside, there’s only air, and that one tight punch is going to burst the balloon and reduce the bully to his real self, i.e. a meek failure.

What if this bully is the government itself?

Let’s just caste a very quick glance at the track-records of the governments of independent India till date.

Education has been a total failure. Whatever meaningful education is being imparted in India is being done so mostly by private institutions, at least till high school level, if not even after that.

Healthcare – another very big failure. The government’s hospitals, just like its schools, are a disgrace.

Left to the government, infrastructure would have been a massive failure too, which it was, till the private sector stepped in.

Let’s not even start speaking about the governmental airline carrier, Air India. Words fail me here.

You want to avoid the police lest they stick you one at a time when you have other problems.

You want to settle any disputes out of court, because the semi-dysfunctional judicial system will, in all probability, stretch the issue over decades, with much ensuing harassment.

I mean, I could go on and on. Point of the matter is, governance in independent India has been an overall and disastrous failure.

We are not a democracy – we are a joke.

Over the last few years, these and more blunders are coming to light. They are being flashed over the papers and on television, nationally and internationally. People are getting to see and know the quality of people that has been governing the country. Citizens are disgusted.

Instead of charting a course of rectification, what does the bully do?

It tries to hide its own failures by passing on the responsibility to private institutions. Governments and governments have robbed common citizens of their basic rights to education, healthcare etc. over decades. Now, when the deprivation has become too glaring, they want private institutions to accomodate the deprived, and that too quasi-free of cost. I’m talking about the current developments in the education sector. Rest assured, other sectors will be affected too, if one goes by the governmental mind-set.

The government is bullying private schools into reserving 25% (number could vary for different states) of their capacities for kids from backward classes. The government says it’s going to pay for this partly, but knowing the value of its words, this money is never going to come. Basically, it wants want private schools to lift this burden and pay for it too. Unbelievable.

The government’s massive failure in the field of education has caused downtrodden classes to finally start asking, “What have you done for us?” and “Where is our education?” and “Why is the quality of the schools built for us by you so pathetic?” and “Where does the education cess go, which you charge along with every monetary transaction in the country?” and again, “Where is our education?”

Now the government gets really cute, and says, “You see those private educational institutions over there, look at them, they are doing so well, they will make your kids rise, we will steam-roll them into admitting your kids, there is your education!”

Laws in India are basically stacked up against private institutions and in favour of the government. One false move here or there, and you could be breaking a law as a private player. Hence, as a private player, you are always in the government’s grip. To function smoothly and not show a loss, you could end up slightly bending a rule or two. The government agrees to look the other way, and lets you function, but then you have to mutually agree to get bullied by it every now and then. Sometimes, the bullying takes on ridiculous levels, like it has for the education sector. My remedy to deal with a bully (given at the top) like the government is not going to work, because I just wouldn’t know how to implement it. I wouldn’t even know what to implement.

And that’s the story, people. India Inc. is heavily burdened by its failure watchdogs. You need to incorporate this fact into any investment strategy that concerns India Inc. Right within its purchase price, any investment in India needs to discount for the governmental failure that will inevitably be patched onto the private institution that you are planning on buying into.

What does that mean for governmental institutions as investments? Frankly, looking at the mess, one can’t even think of buying into these, unless one wants to own companies with Ph.D.s in inefficiency and mismanagement.


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