Navneet Kalra did nothing wrong

Navneet Kalra did nothing wrong

Navneet Kalra is probably one of India’s most hated men at the moment. A businessman and restaurateur, who owns multiple restaurants like the famous Khan Chacha in Delhi, he is currently the target of a manhunt by the Delhi Police. A few days ago, his restaurants were raided by the police, who found a large stockpile of Oxygen Concentrators.
 The police charged him with black marketing and hoarding of essential goods. His alleged crime was importing concentrators from China that cost him between 20,000-25,000 rupees and selling them in the market at an "exorbitant" price of  70,000 rupees. Citizens and news media erupted in outrage. Navneet Kalra was a vulture in their eyes. A lowlife who was taking advantage of a massive humanitarian crisis to line up his pockets. A person who was trying to profit from the pain and misery of people.

This reaction is not unexpected but definitely is unjustified. Navneet Kalra is doing a great service, one that is invisible to the general public. There is a shortage of oxygen concentrators within the country. And Kalra was doing his part in helping people get access to oxygen concentrators by importing them and selling them. Sure he did this to make a profit. But would it have benefited society, if Kalra had decided not to import a few hundred oxygen concentrators and instead did nothing? The people who bought the concentrators from him, potentially saving their life would surely disagree.

This obsession with people making a profit is misguided and will lead to more suffering in the long term. What would happen if the government banned any profit from the sale of oxygen concentrators? People like Kalra would just not get involved and mind their own business. The result being fewer concentrators available in the market, or a longer wait.  

On the legal front, the case is most likely going to result in his acquittal. There are no regulations that mandate a price cap on oxygen concentrators, nor a limit on the number of units that can be stockpiled. All these units were imported in full compliance of the law and they have been doing this since November last year. Judging from the audio clip of a phone call made by Kalra, they were in high demand and he promised those in his area preferential access to the concentrators. The stockpile would have been sold out instantly. The Delhi Court's decision to not grant him anticipatory bail also seems pretty vindictive.

Had the Indian government as much foresight as people like Kalra who foresaw an increased demand for oxygen concentrators and decided to import them, perhaps we would not be in the situation we are.

Here is a trolley problem meme that better illustrates the situation


Trolley problem : if you pull the lever, Navneet Kalra makes a profit...