February 1, 2011

loo's talk: it is lobbying, stupid!

Lobbies have been around, much before Radia and Tata spoke of costly coats to cover them up.

Worldwide, lobbies do a lot of business and get a lot of business for rich nations and powerful rulers of poor nations . There are a dozen main areas where lobbying blooms, including trade in arms, aircraft and costly equipment. So, except for an accidental World War, rich nations seldom get involved in direct wars. Real proxy wars too are rare and have been fought on poor soils. So, it is lobbies that do the war part for them.
Arms, and they cost millions and billions, cannot be sold and bought without active push and pull by lobbies. In countries with poor democratic stability, like Pakistan and many African ones, despots, dictators and other people with state power are said to have been influenced by lobbies to buy arms on behalf of their clients, taken huge bribes and stacked the money in Swiss banks. But the arms lobbies have not been less influential in India and many other stable and democratic nations, though the extent of influence and money exchange might be smaller.

Remember the middle decades of this century? Two generations grew up on milk powder from cans that had photos of plump babies. Mothers who could barely afford powder milk and those who had cows and buffaloes at home – and all with their mammary glands secreting enough human milk for a human kid – chose to feed unwilling newborns with a mixture of powdered milk prepared unhygienically. It is not only corporate interest or slick advertising, lobbies buy out governments so that they do not crack down on actions that they know will harm their society. One good packet shuts all mouths.

2G was a game of straight favouritism and taking of policy decisions as dictated by lobbyists and their clients.
The POSCO, Vedanta, Lavasa projects and their tussle with the Environment Ministry are nothing but a play of environment and corporate lobbies on one hand and between warring corporate on the other.

Environmentalism often takes the shade of bogey rather than lobby, but is as influential as corporate lobbies.
GM foods getting or not getting sanction or an Indian invented medicine not getting approval for mass production are also examples of clash of interests. You need lobbying power to influence people who take key decisions, and you need professional lobbyists. No wonder, most of lobbyists are crooks with a euphemism attached to their job.

We in journalism knew much before you listened to Radia tapes that senior journalist getting fat salaries hardly do journalism; they do lobbying in gala parties or through their columns or TV presentations. At times the entire publication or channel does lobbying, though very subtly. A few journalists have opened shops with ‘image management’ or such other jargons that mean nothing but lobbying.

In mature democracies, lobbies play a very important role in getting particular legislations approved or to influence government to take particular administrative actions and their role is taken as a legitimate activity in democracy. Then there are advocacy groups that take up social causes or causes on behalf of people or groups without influence in policy making. But beyond that, lobbying is a dirty word, doesn’t it? And I am talking here of the dirty lobbying only.

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