December 11, 2007EconomyPublic Policy

When selling your TV set is a crime

It’s illegal to sell what the government gave you

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

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]

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