When selling your TV set is a crime

In Tamil Nadu, if the poor can’t buy food. Let them (be forced to) watch TV instead. Chennai police arrested nine persons for selling TV sets that were distributed free to the poor under a government programme.

It’s illegal to sell what the government gave you

Another example of what The Rational Fool calls Government AIDS. Police in Chennai arrested nine persons “for allegedly selling colour television sets distributed to poor families under a government scheme. They were arrested on charges of extortion and threatening the beneficiaries. The police seized 18 TV sets and impounded an autorickshaw and a four-wheeler that were allegedly used for selling the TV sets.”

The arrests were made following media reports that free TVs were being bought and sold in the market by middlemen.

Speaking to reporters, Police Commissioner G. Nanchil Kumaran said the police raided a few locations and seized the TV sets from a shop on Ritchie Street and from two houses in Cherian Nagar and Ashok Nagar in New Washermenpet.

He said the police would closely watch people who indulged in threatening or wooing the beneficiaries to part with the television sets. [The Hindu]

Yes, that’s right. If the poor can’t afford bread, let them watch TV!

And should they have the temerity to sell it and use the money for something else, then get policemen to arrest them. Distributing free TV sets line pockets of TV manufacturers, distributors and the cable company. It might even have enriched the poor (by an amount equivalent to the resale price of the TV set) if their freedom to sell it was not taken away. Criminalising the resale takes away even the tiniest redeeming feature the policy might have had. And shouldn’t the police commissioner of Chennai have better things to do?

Update: Another report:

Police Commissioner Nanchil Kumaran on Tuesday warned that those who buy CTVs from the beneficiaries of the free scheme for reselling them at higher price and the brokers involved in this racket would be booked under the Goondas Act.

Most of the city residents have TV in their households, including the poor segments of the society. Those having CTVs in their homes were selling off the free television donated by the government at whatever rates they fetched them in the open market.

Moreover, the poor families readily dispose off the free CTVs for which there were groups of buyers willing to cough up the price. These groups have set up an elaborate market to purchase CTVs from the poor and marginalised families and sell them at higher cost in neighbouring States. [News Today]

4 thoughts on “When selling your TV set is a crime”

  1. “Criminalising the resale takes away even the tiniest redeeming feature the policy might have had. And shouldn’t the police commissioner of Chennai have better things to do?”

    @Acorn:
    Indeed the whole idea of distributing tv sets (for votes) is a paradox. But for the fact that it is being implemented, it is indeed the police’s role to ensure support. As the P.C. puts it – “the police would closely watch people who indulged in threatening or wooing the beneficiaries to part with the television sets”. If at all they ‘closely watch’ and also act in public interest, they’re doing their job :D.

  2. Jayan,

    Indeed they are doing their job. The fault is with the government, that wastes not only wastes tax payers money on enriching television suppliers, but compounds it by getting policement to waste their time chasing innocent citizens. One cop on the TV watching beat is one cop less from the dangerous criminal catching beat.

  3. Nitin
    It could be an illegal sale if the person signed a declaration stating that he/she will not sell it. I am sure the government is insisting on such a declaration. So the “innocent citizen” argument is likely to be false. Ofcourse, it could be argued that the recipient of the TV knows the value that it brings to him/her. If some one offers a price greater than this value, it makes more sense to sell it. Decriminalising the sale of TVs ( say after 3 months of receiving it ) will probably be a good idea. The mother of all debates stil remains i.e. Would it not be more efficient to transfer cash to the recipient, instead of giving a TV and letting him/her sell it.

  4. I think you guys have grossly missed the point. The question of why the government should be distributing TV sets is obviously there. But just like the PDS, mid-day meal scheme and cycles for school children, the TV set distribution is also prone to racketeering. If people are selling free TVs because they already have one, should not we be asking how they got it in the first place? There were not the targets of this scheme. There are reports of DMK middlemen diverting free TVs to namesake recipients and then selling them in bulk. This action by the police is the only way to handle this.

    Even as ludicrous as it sounds, free TVs may have indeed brought happiness to lot of poor families in the state. Imagine living in a state touted to have more than 70% CTV households, where every political party has a TV channel and yet the kids have to go see the TV in the house where their mother works as a maid. Why grudge these families, such simple pleasures of life?

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