Lobbying per se in not illegal in India but it is not recognised or regulated by any legislation like in the US. Various interests groups such as corporate bodies like FICCI, CII, NGOs and media like Amir khan’s Satya Mev Jayate do lobby the government. There is nothing wrong with petitioning the government to take up issues but it is important that it is done in a transparent and fair manner and is not detrimental to the cause of inclusive development and the rights of the poor.

Merits of registered lobbying:
  1. Open and registered lobbying could ensure that no unethical considerations are made to influence policy making like bribe, blackmail etc. registered lobbying groups may result in ‘open lobbying’ which means greater transparency by allowing for public scrutiny of suggestions of interest groups and their own funding.
  2. More participative democracy as various sections of society and all stakeholders will have a chance to interact with legislature or members and present their views, data and information to affect policy making.
  3. It is often said that bargaining power of interest groups also define the benefits that they get from lobbying. Better organized and better funded groups with limited objectives are generally more successful. Regulation would allow yet un recognized interest groups to form, for example from civil society and participate in a more democratic and open lobbying.
  1. The regulatory body specified in the legislation thereof, if not independent, may restrict the registration of lobbying groups that do not align themselves to the mainstream ideologies while curbing their freedom of speech and expression.
  2. The regulatory checks may introduce bureaucratic hurdles that would make lobbying a job only for professional lobbyists.
  3. In India the popular perception is that every government dealing is mired with palm greasing and the rich push their agenda though their representatives. It will be difficult to establish quid pro quo and allegations of bribery may fill courts with litigation.
  4. Unrepresented groups could be left out and suffer as a consequence. The powerful corporate lobbies could hijack the policy making agenda and the less articulate citizens could be made the scapegoats.
  5. Many politicians are themselves seen as lobbyists and issues of conflict of interest is not uncommon to hear about.
In any case, the bottom-line is strengthening of civil society as NGOs are vital for a healthy democracy, not good to silence them in the garb of national development. Rather than pushing its agenda down the throat of the people, the Govt. should generate consensus among the masses regarding development projects to prevent NGOs with vested interests to take advantage. Roles and limitations of NGOs should be clearly defined within law. Foreign NGOs should be allowed to undertake apolitical and development work only. Foreign funding can’t be the only criteria for executive uneasiness as most of the political parties (which are also NGOs), too take heavy foreign funding.
It is suggested that the Indian government, like the US, should consider permitting open and registered lobbying by interest groups and NGOs. In the light of recent controversy over funding and functioning of certain NGOs and action against them by the government, critically examine the merits and demerits of the said suggestion. (200 Words)



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