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Robber barons everywhere

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley described India as a non-tax-compliant society. I go one step forward to say it is also as a non-shameable society.

Even after strictures passed by Justice Michael D’Cunha of the Special Court and confirmed by the two-judge bench of the Supreme Court on the shenanigans of J Jayalalithaa and her cohorts, her followers believe that Amma and Chinnamma are demi-gods falsely implicated by the DMK leadership. 

Such nonchalance permeates society. Look at the near impossibility of the government or even the courts to discipline auto rickshaw drivers of Chennai to charge as per metre. Times of India has been running a  spirited campaign demanding this.  Consumers outnumber the auto owners in the Chennai metro at 100:1 but the former is unable to stop this hefty fleecing.

IE has been pointing to, corruption institutionalised in Tamil Nadu. The entire range of activities from getting a building permit to power and water connection to the registration of plots to school and  college admissions, all seethe in corruption.

Recently I had an experience of unlimited avarice: my fridge was tired of cooling and one day fell sick. I googled for an authorised service centre and soon enough its mechanic turned up. This expert, who came along with a set of spares, said he had replaced three parts. When I insisted on getting the old ones, he reluctantly pulled out three from his bag. He produced a bill for Rs.3550 including Rs.3200 for the three new parts and Rs 350 towards service. When I questioned why those simple parts such as a relay and a condenser should cost so much, he said companies make money not on the sale of fridge but on the spares. I handed a cheque for the amount demanded.

The following day I sent my driver to a couple of reputed shops in George Town that deal with refrigerator spares along with the three parts replaced. I got two quotes, the first one for Rs 680 and the second for Rs 480!  I brought this to the notice of the service firm. The manager initially tried to explain the matter away, but then relented. He finally returned the cheque and took a fresh one for Rs 850 (Rs 500 for parts and Rs 350 for labour).

Most customers are not aware of the prices of spares. Large internationally reputed companies like LG Electronics have a duty to ensure the protection of the consumer.

This is no aberration or exception. The auto rickshaw syndrome permeates our society.  There are robber barons everywhere.  Their stock defence: do not our netas do this all the time?  Justice Cunha is right: ‘Yatha Raja thata Praja.’

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