The most prevailing form of governance among the developing and developed nations is democracy, and it is a well-known fact that Democracy is all about balancing its majority and minority groups. Therefore people too have understood the importance of collective power and this awareness is what gave rise to the concept of pressure groups. Non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations are also types of pressure groups.
Pressure groups are a collection of individuals seeking a common aim in public interest, or guided by their own motives. Going by bookish knowledge, they generally resort to three kinds of techniques to influence decision-making:
Of these three, lobbying is the most controversial. It is a grey area in the policy making mechanism. Corporate lobbyists, especially, feel the wrath of public negativity, therefore lobbying needs to be understood first. After the Niira Radia tapes made news, it became clear how businessmen and political executives are deeply entrenched in a bond of crony capitalism. So there is no denying that lobbying doesn’t exist in its full form.
But before moving on, let’s understand what lobbying is. It is the persuasion or an act of attempting to influence the actions, policies, or decisions of officials in their daily life, most often legislators, or members of regulatory agencies. In simple words, it is influencing the decision-making process by reaching out to the ones framing it.
Well, it’s not all bad, per se, but the media has over-emphasised its dark side. It’s agreed that lobbying hurts the competition process of government, and affects the delivery of services. This unholy nexus of politicians, businessmen, and bureaucrats needs to be purified. But we need to see the positives of lobbying as well, as it brings to light the voices of non-state actors. It provides them a way to connect with policy-making, which has been rendered incapable of giving citizens a platform for change. Citizens can actually voice their concerns and get represented in this so-called-democracy (which has clearly been turned into electoral dictatorship).
Therefore, the Disclosure of Lobbying Activities Bill proposed by Kalikesh Singh Deo is a healthy initiative in this regard. It can be seen as a welcome step to clean out the lacunae of corruption embedded in our system. It provides for the establishment of a Lobbyist Regulatory Authority, where any person or organisation intending to undertake any lobbying activity must register itself. The online availability of lobbying data for public review is a nice idea in itself.
The benefits of making lobbying a regulated activity are that the State can now earn revenues out of it, which is similar to the suggestion recommended by the Lodha Committee in making an argument for making betting legal. Also, the transparency of the government process will be increased as a result. People will actually understand the vested interests of various lobbying groups. It will help society know which organisations are attempting to lobby public servants, as well as which executive has been approached by lobbyists. The concept of conflict of interest in public capacity will be reduced to a great extent too.
Lobbying, which has so far had a negative connotation, will been seen in a positive light by the public. And it may well lead to a new era, ushering in the world of compassionate capitalism.