Manufactured Shortages and Corruption

A couple of telling anecdotes about the state of the educational system in India. A few weeks ago I was in Nagpur at my sister’s place. One evening, a friend of hers showed up. She (the friend) was struggling with her daughter’s admission to a medical college. She would have a fairly decent shot at getting admitted into this particular medical school if she got 180 marks or above. However if she did not get that, but got 160 or better, the school was demanding Rs 600,000; and, if she only got 140 marks or better, the price for admission was Rs 1,200,000. For Rs 3,000,000 (Rs 30 lakhs), she would have a seat even if she fails the qualifying exam.

People cope, somehow. When faced with severe shortage, they are willing to pay seemingly impossibly high prices. The monumental struggle to somehow gain access to the limited seats in educational institutions that middle-class Indians have to face is stunning to behold. The pity is that this shortage is entirely man made, a manufactured shortage. The persistence of this shortage can only be explained by understanding that those who have engineered it gain immensely from it. It is a bureaucratic and political racket that has its own logic and compulsions. All sorts of shady businesses have evolved to cater to its needs. Academic corruption is one such business, as illustrated by the next anecdote.
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