Even as India’s privatisation programme gathers steam, there is a perception, reflected in the pronouncements of ministers as well as in writings in the popular press, that the benefits of privatisation can be taken as axiomatic. There is little in the literature on privatisation that lends support to such dogma. The theoretical literature, while pointing to the benefits or private ownership, also underlines the conditions under which such benefits an be realised. These conditions cannot be presumed to operate everywhere. The empirical evidence is also shrouded in ambiguities, whether we look at the experience in the developed world or in developing countries. This paper surveys the literature on privatisation and highlights the conceptual issues underlying privatisation as well as the evidence from privatisation experiments in different parts of the world.