New Delhi: In the wake of a major crackdown on ‘corporate espionage' involving private sector companies allegedly procuring secret official documents illegally, Assocham has pitched for legalising lobbying to improve transparency in government-industry dealings.
“Each of the Indian and multinational companies should be within its rights to operate with full freedom. They also should have a right to engage in lobbying groups to advance their line of arguments and convince the decision making authorities that they have merit. Lobbying should no more be considered as a dirty word,” Assocham Secretary-General DS Rawat said in a statement.
It is worth mentioning here that during the previous UPA regime the then Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot had favoured putting in place a proper framework for lobbying while defining what is legal and what is not.
“We need to be clear as to what lobbying means. We have to first define what the act of lobbying means.... Lobbying could mean different things in different context,” he had said.
“I think that time has come to define what is acceptable and what is not. What is legal and what is not legal.
“I think, in most countries we have that definition, but in India, it is pretty vague. It is wrong to assume that lobbying means bribery, but some people allege that it is bribery.”
His comments had come in the backdrop of heated debate within Parliament and outside on lobbying after it came to light that various global companies, including retail giant Wal-Mart, lobbied with the US lawmakers to push for their entry and other business interests in the Indian markets.
“But we must be very clear about what lobbying means and what the law is. ... Once there is clarity of law, you would know whether you are inside or outside of it. So we must have very open-hearted discussion and time has come for that....since it is not defined in India, it can mean anything,” he had said.
Last week, senior executives from top energy firms and consultants were among several people arrested in the corporate espionage scandal emanating from the Petroleum Ministry in which classified documents, including an input for upcoming Finance Minister's Budget speech were allegedly leaked.
Calling for transparency in the decision-making process, industry body Assocham wondered why policies which have a bearing on corporates should be “shrouded in secrecy”.
Demanding that the Narendra Modi-government implement in “letter and spirit” its slogan of minimum government and maximum governance, Assocham said the only way to get rid of 'corporate espionage' in the labyrinth of state machinery is introducing complete transparency and demolishing the four walls of secrecy around the process of “decision-making”.
“In any case why should the government decision-making concerning policies which have a bearing on the corporates be shrouded in secrecy,” Rawat said.