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Cover Story
“…Lobbying has become very tainted”

Issue Date - 24/11/2011
In an exclusive interaction Gurpal Singh, Deputy Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), talks abut how lobbying can play an important role in bringing transparency and accountability

B&E: What according to you, is the ideal definition of ‘lobbying’?

Gurpal Singh (GS): India’s economy is a mirror image of our pluralistic, democratic polity and is marked by heterogeneity of both character and scale. Policy related to one industry is more than likely to have an impact on several others in a domino like effect. The clear strategy here is to manage complementary and conflicting interests to the benefit of all concerned sectors and stakeholders – that is actually the ideal ‘emerging’ definition of ‘lobbying’.

B&E: There is always a sense of negativity attached to the word ‘Lobbying.’ How do you view the issue of lobbying across the world and in India?

GS: If we downplay with the word ‘lobbying’ for the moment, then we might actually get to the substance better because lobbying has become very tainted. This leads us to two basic observations – one is that in a democratic set-up like India, we need people from across the spectrum to be able to get their views to policy makers who are going to affect their lives in different ways. So what we need to do is find good and efficient and transparent ways of doing that. The second is if there is money involved in this process of influencing what the policy maker does, that process should be made much more transparent than it is currently.

B&E: How are CII and other industrial bodies different from the traditional lobbyists?

GS: In an e-enabled world, economic well-being of nations and their people is determined by the degree of their integration with the global fraternity. The common factor in all its activities is partnership across a cross-section of organizations, including government, non-governmental organizations and international bodies. Working with and learning from diverse institutions, CII has strengthened the services it provides to its members as well as society at large.

As businesses have transcended frontiers, marked by the freer movement of people, goods, capital and information, international work processes have become more cohesive. Economic realignments and geo-political developments have brought in their wake opportunities as well as uncertainties. CII strongly believes that partnership and cooperation between industry, government and civil society is the key to economic and social development of India. Business paradigms are changing at an astonishing pace. At CII, all our efforts are directed towards harnessing and leveraging the power of technology to change communication, business and business procedures, connect knowledge to procedures and hence, impact profits and the lives of common citizens for the better.

Essential prerequisites for this to happen are wider, more holistic perspectives and greater participation in policy formulation by all concerned groups. Our policy advisory and consultative services cover intra and inter-industry discussions, industry-community parleys and industry-government meetings, all aimed at giving the whole policy making process a better business focus and more representative hue.

B&E: Do you personally feel that India should legalise lobbying and it should have lobbying disclosure norms in place for transparency?

GS: It is time for India to look at different global models on the question of lobbying, more so if we can think of legalising gambling. Lobbying is a legitimate business in countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Germany for enhanced transparency and accountability. Personally i feel that in our country, where industry lobbying is endemic but exists in a gray area of the law, we needs to follow these countries as role models since lobbying there is a big, established and well-defined industry, just as any other.

B&E: How can the society benefit from lobbying and what can be the areas of concerns when it comes to lobbying?

GS: We need to remember the limitation of the law. If we consider lobbying vis-a-vis what the legislature must know or get the information about all the stakeholders and their interest, yes there should be a system, there should be a channel so that their voice should be hard before they take up policy decision but if lobbying means to influence existing mechanism to get an undue advantage over other competitors, that definitely has to be regulated and I believe the amount of legislation which we have in this country, if we can effectively implement that, it can be considerably regulated but all of a sudden if you come to a legislation in the terms of legislation which is available in the US or other states, I doubt whether it will work because we are very efficient in making a law non-functional.

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