02 March, 2021

Death By Debt: Indian Businesses Are Devastated, Tax Terror Adds To Woes

Debt looms as a terrifying spectre. Zombie companies or corporate underachievers have doubled and even the biggest of business empires like Reliance Industries are worried and hassled

Illustration by Rajat Baran
Death By Debt: Indian Businesses Are Devastated, Tax Terror Adds To Woes

Death and taxes. It almost goes off like a giant medieval gong, that piece of wisdom about what’s permanent in life. But they could just as well have said ‘debt’ instead of ‘death’. It’s not just that they sound alike: there often seems to be a deeper kinship between the two. Scan the Indian scenario. Debt, itself a kind of pre-death, is the new dreaded word within the Indian business community. It’s the name of the desperation that grips the minds and hearts of industry—from which flows a kind of generalised paralysis, one that appears to have stilled the economic life of the country. In thousands of cases, debt has been the harbinger of death for sprawling corporate empires, assiduously built over decades, over generations. It hangs like a sword of Damocles over the heads of people who fear they will lose all they have built. Owners and bosses hold on to their reins of control, but looking over their shoulder nervously, as if for some approaching nemesis.

Is this the necessary labour pain for a kind of rebirth? Could this...

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