Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lobbying is Key for Success In India

In India Lobbying is nothing but a civilized and accepted form of bribery and corruption. In fact it is the lobbying which takes place before all cases of bribery and gifting to big bosses , high profile ministers and administrative officers, professionals ,brokers and consultant.

Lobbying in India starts from  inviting big bosses and high profile political leaders on birth day occasions, wedding anniversaries,marriage functions , inaugural functions, laying foundation stone functions, inaugaration of a new business, presiding organisational meetings etc through available low level connections, friends and relatives who may influence big bosses and high porfile politicians.Then some gifts are sent to keep these high profile persons happy and to enroll his name in his good book. Next , some costly gifts are offered in honour of these dignitaries  And finally as per comfort level and as per desire of the middlemen termed as lobbyist ,some cash bribe is offered in lieu of favour he or she will get through big bosses via lobbyist.

In none of the cases in India , bribe is directly offered for any work, it may be getting a supply order or getting a job in an organisation ,or getting promotion or getting posting at place of choice, tax rebate to corporate, acquittal from charges of corruption , motivating judicial order etc.Lobbying does not includes only offer of cash as bribe, it may includes many other ways to win the heart of powerful persons such as  giving privileged admission of his wards, it may be cheap allotment of a house, extending free luxirious cars, it may be arranging free foreign trip etc .

If a General Manager in state run bank has to get higher posting as Executive director or Managing Director of a bank he will approach all influential person in the office of Minister of finance or any other ministry ,he will develop relationship with persons who are close to ministers and high profile influential middlemen in the corridor of Ministry , he will then send message through such influential persons acting as lobbyist upto ministers about his intention to spend a few lac or a few crore of rupees if he is elevated to higher post.These are several ways and tools  in the hands of lobbyists or middlemen or brokers to influence high profile bosses and politicians to get the work done either for self for for others.

  • He may oblige ministers by sanctioning big value loans to all persons and companies recommended by such influential ministers even if sanctioning of loan need deviation from existing rules and practices.
  • He may recruit youth in bank or promote exiting officers to higher scale and position as per whims and fancies of such ministers even if such recruitment and promotion needs violation of existing recruitment and promotion policies..
  • He may write off loans of defaulters recommended by such ministers on phone even if there are enough securities in the custody of bank to realise the dues from defaulters..
  • He may close files of an officer related to corruption and irregularities committed by guilty officers even if bank incurred huge loss due to misconduct of his ill-motivated decisions.
  • He may give favour to any supply firm or any contractor recommended by such minister even if the goods supplied by such supplier are of inferior quality and at higher rate and even if the work done by a contractor is worst and detrimental to the interest of the bank .  
  • And so on .....there are hundreds of ways and means by which a higher boss or a minister may be motivated to act out of way 
Similar type of lobbying takes place at all levels in all offices ,in all departments and in all ministries in India.There is no control mechanism to contain such unhealthy practices prevalent in the system.

If a loan seeker has to get the sanction of loan he will apply his connections, friends and relatives or active broker and middlemen to influence Branch Manager or Regional Head or Zonal Head or Central Office officials and offer bribe in due course .It will not be an exaggeration to say that there are five to ten such persons in the office of Managing Director or Regional Office or Zonal Office of all banks who are sincere sycophants or flatterers or middlemen  or commission agents , or consultants whatsoever you may term them , who manages big value loans and contractual work through The Head applying his connection, bribe or costly gifts.

If a constable has to get good posting and early promotion ,he use to influence his big bosses like inspectors, DSP and SP through various influential persons in his or upper cadre. He extends all undesirable services and is ready to offer all types of gifts to lobbyist and through lobbyist to big bosses in lieu of what he wants in his career. Similarly, all other persons from  a low level peon to high level IAS and IPS officer uses lobbyist to get desired posting and promotions.In fact these unhealthy practices prevalent in recruitment  posting and promotions lead to large scale corruption, crime and fraud.

If a political worker in a political party  has to get the ticket for contesting an election for state assembly or for Parliament  , he also uses lobbyist and offers  gifts either in cash or in kinds  in various manners and finally gets success. Persons who do not have Godfathers, who do not know or who do not apply modern tactics for rise in career or for rise in business, remains cut off from the society and treated as failure by team of flatterers moving around in corrupt system .Even society does not recognize such honest stalwarts.

Obviously phenomenon of lobbying is not new in India and it is the oldest version of corruption. And bitter truth is that there is none to take any step to stop such illegal and unhealthy practices.Birds of same feather are sitting at powerful posts in all offices and all political parties. 

This is India.

Dispense with the misgiving that lobbying is a 'bad' thing

By Satvik Varma 

Why does the term lobbying always evoke such strong reactions? Why do we scorn lobbyists and rush to term them as 'fixers'? Why are we in denial about their existence in India? Why does their purported influence on government machinery shock everyone and why do we always peremptorily dismiss the role of lobbyists in the Indian decision-making process?

Contrary to what some may lead us into believing, lobbying is not an illegal activity. In fact, lobbying is a legitimate part of the democratic process, is more widespread than presumed to be and helps ensure that the views of certain interest groups are heard before policies that affect them are drafted. Admittedly, we all criticise interest groups, but each of us belongs to one based on our ethnicity, gender, age or profession. The reality is that some groups are better funded, better organised or just better represented than others. Our parliamentarians attempt to represent all of the interests within their constituencies, but they must establish priorities. Lobbyists are professional intermediaries who help define the priorities by reminding the parliamentarians of the needs of specific groups.

It's important to dispense with the misgiving that lobbying is a 'bad' thing. Lobbying is not just about wining-and-dining our legislators or bureaucracy. It is serious business and requires skill and hard work. The reality is that our elected representatives and administrative functionaries just don't have the capabilities to cope with socioeconomic changes and aren't equipped to address the demands of our pluralistic society. They are compelled to call for the assistance of industry chambers, think tanks, NGOs, trade associations, professional associations and trade unions. Each one of these is a lobbyist in their area of business. In fact, governments also carry out lobbying activity through foreign emissaries and a case in point is the Indian governmentengaging the services of a lobbying firm to garner support on Capitol Hill during the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Let us accept that the business and political landscape in India has changed and Washington-style advocacy methods based on rigorous research, accompanied by PowerPoint presentations and seeking assistance of industry experts for building public opinion is the new order of the day. Then why do we in India still squirm at the talk of lobbying?
Simple as it may sound, the problem is not lobbying but the secrecy attached to it and the inability to monitor the functioning of these powerful individuals. A start needs to be made by requiring that all those who have a significant impact on policy development register themselves. The registration process needs to be mandatory and enforced by statute and this should help in not only organising the lobbying industry in India but can also be an incentive to those registered to be consulted in policymaking. The registration can mirror some of what is prescribed internationally to include details of the organisations hiring their services and details of the public office, if any, previously held by the individual.

Lobbying in the United States describes paid activity in which special interests hire well-connected professional advocates, often lawyers, to argue for specific legislation in decision-making bodies such as the United States Congress. 

It is a highly controversial phenomenon, often seen in a negative light by journalists and the American public, and frequently misunderstood.While lobbying is subject to extensive and often complex rules which, if not followed, can lead to penalties including jail, the activity of lobbying has been interpreted by court rulings as free speech and protected by the Constitution. 

Since the 1970s, lobbying activity has grown immensely in terms of the numbers of lobbyists and the size of lobbying budgets, and has become the focus of much criticism of American governance. Since lobbying rules require extensive disclosure, there is a wealth of data in the public sphere about which entities lobby, how, at whom, and for how much. 

The current pattern suggests much lobbying is done by corporations although a wide variety of coalitions representing diverse groups is possible. Lobbying happens at every level of government, including federal, state, county, municipal, and even local governments. In Washington, lobbying usually targets congresspersons, although there have been efforts to influence executive agency officials as well as Supreme Court appointments. 

It has been the subject of academic inquiry in various fields, including law, public policy, and economics. While the number of lobbyists in Washington is over twelve thousand, those with real clout number in the dozens, and a small group of firms handles much of lobbying in terms of expenditures.[citation needed] As an activity, lobbying takes time to learn, and requires skill and sensitivity, and depends on deft persuasion, and has much in common with generally non-political activities such as management consulting and public relations.

Walmart to apply US laws to Indian operations; wants anti-bribery undertaking from store owners

NEW DELHI: Walmart is demanding anti-bribery undertakings from landlords of its Indian stores along with rights to inspect their books, the latest blowback from its global anti-bribery campaign that has put an unflattering spotlight on its fledgling India operations.
The US supermarket group's India venture, Bhart Walmart, now at the centre of a raucous political debate on the entry of foreign firms into the supermarkets sector, wants landlords of all its stores in India, including Easyday stores operated by partnerBharti Enterprises, to give undertakings saying they are not party to and will not indulge in corrupt practices, effectively bringing them under the ambit of US anti-bribery laws.

Landlords are not only expected to certify that they have not paid any bribes while building the premises, but also give undertakings that give Bharti Walmartpowers to periodically check their books and other documents, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told ET.

A second source confirmed such an exercise was underway, and noted that KPMG had been tasked with securing undertakings from landlords. A landlord of an Easyday store in the NCR said a Bharti Walmart executive had called him earlier this week to inform him about an anti-bribery agreement that landlords must sign as part of the Foreign Corruption Practices Act, or FCPA, a 1977 US law that bars American firms and individuals from bribing government officials in any foreign country wherever they are operating or working in.
Bharti Walmart has engaged KPMG to spearhead its anti-corruption campaign in India, and the consulting firm has undertaken programmes to sensitise employees about FCPA. It is also tasked with certifying vendors that are fit to do business with the retailer.
Walmart to apply US laws to Indian operations; wants anti-bribery undertaking from store owners
Asked about the undertakings from landlords, Bharti Walmart said it was implementing a "number of specific, concrete actions to strengthen our compliance programme in India".

"We take compliance with FCPA very seriously," a Bharti Walmart spokesperson said in an emailed reply to a list of questions from ET.


We are committed to having a strong and effective global compliance programme in every country in which we operate. We are working diligently to strengthen our compliance programmes and dedicating considerable resources to this effort," the spokesperson said.

While such action could help limit Walmart's liability in case misdemeanors come to light in the future, the US firm's latest demands are unlikely to go down too well with its property partners, most of whom could find it hard to give such undertakings because of the nature of doing business in India.
Developers have to obtain more than a dozen approvals from assorted government offices before building and operating malls in India.
These range from design and usage of the property to fire and safety clearances to environmental approvals, many of which are provided by agencies and departments that many view as hotbeds of corruption.

US defends Walmart lobbying

Amid controversy over reports that Walmart spent nearly Rs. 125 crore for lobbying with legislators to get access to the Indian market, the U.S. has said the global retail giant did not violate any American law as far as the matter is concerned.
“On the U.S. side, I don’t have any reason to believe that we have a violation of U.S. law here. With regard to the Indian side, I’ll refer you to them,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said on Monday, categorically dismissing allegations by Indian opposition parties in this regard.
Ms. Nuland was responding to questions on charges by opposition parties in India that Walmart spent huge sums in four years in lobbying before the U.S. Congress, including on those related to enhanced market access for investment in India.
“We’ve seen these press reports. With regard to lobbying in the U.S., I think you know that the Lobby Disclosure Act of 1995 and the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 requires lobbyists for any company or organisation to disclose its activities in a periodic report to the Congress,” she said.
“So the report which some of these allegations have cited is a regularly required report for the U.S. government as part of our open government transparency in governance requirements,” Ms. Nuland said.
Meanwhile, Walmart has also denied of being involved in any wrongdoing.
“These allegations are entirely false. In accordance with U.S. law, American companies are required to disclose issues and expenditures associated with lobbying on a quarterly basis. The expenditures are a compilation of expenses associated with U.S. federal lobbying contacts and include staffing cost, association dues and payments made to consultants, all in the U.S.,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.
The spokesperson said the company had “held discussions” with U.S officials about a range of “trade and investment issues” that impact its businesses in the U.S. and worldwide, and disclosed this in accordance with the law.

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