mercoledì, Settembre 22

Lobbying in Defence While legalising lobbying, the Modi-government should also do other things

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And once these activities are transparent, we will know who are the elected officials and the administrative bureaucrats the representatives of the industry, including the lobbyists, have met. That way, we will be able to know better the rationale behind a particular policy-decision and be in a better position to evaluate it. Thus, making lobbying legal and transparent will lessen the scope of corruption, not otherwise.

It may be noted that in the US, lobbying is a huge and established industry. The activities of individuals, consultants, lawyers, associations, groups, NGOs, and corporations to lobby the government are protected by the right to petition in the First Amendment to the US Constitution and according to a recent estimate, the lobbying market in the US is worth $ 4 billion. Every year the US government allows about 2000 lobbyists based on their expertise. Interestingly, many of these lobbyists are former Congressmen, Senators and retired senior officials.

Ironically, while lobbying in India continues to be illegal, Indian companies desirous of doing business in the US do employ the American lobbyists extensively to promote their interests in the US market. The Indian government, too, has indulged in this practice from time to time. It is an open secret that there was a time when there was a stiff competition between India and Pakistan over hiring the better, hence costlier, lobbying firm in Washington DC to pursue their respective interests.

Of course, there cannot be a thing called unrestricted lobbying. In the US, for instance, attempts have been made in recent years to reduce conflicts of interest. The lobbyists there are now not supposed to provide anything of material benefit to the people they are trying to lobby and if anything is given, then those things are disclosed so that people can judge whether the interest groups have tried to gain undue influence. Besides, the Obama Administration has an executive order which prohibits those who had left the Administration to service lobbyists for two years.

While legalising lobbying, the Modi-government should also have a set of do and don’t. But those should be reasonable enough. It may be noted that the Vajpayee-government in 2002 had toyed with the idea of registering lobbyists. But its suggested process of registration required middlemen to provide bank details, particulars of financial transactions and tax returns going back several years, something the potential lobbyists found not only too cumbersome but highly intrusive. The result was that no one came forward. One hopes this lesson of 2002 should be kept in mind when Parrikar implements his 2014-promise.


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