Calling for a need to define lobbying through a legal framework to differentiate between advocacy and bribery, Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot has favoured disclosures by companies and industry bodies about their representations to government on specific policy issues.
"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," Pilot told PTI in an interview here.
There has been a heated debate within Parliament and outside in the recent past 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.
While lobbying is legal in the US, the companies as well as their lobbyists are required to make quarterly disclosures with the US Congress about such activities and the money spent on the same. However, there are no specific regulations about lobbying and disclosure of these activities in India.
Asked whether the companies and industry bodies in India should also make such disclosures on a quarterly or yearly basis, Pilot said: "I think, they should."
"There is no harm in making the disclosures if you are professionally and officially calling upon certain official or a minister, MLAs, MPs or even a Sarpanch to say that there is something of their interest and request for facilitating the same," Pilot said.
"If I as a politician am required to make disclosures on the floor of the house whether I am against or for a particular policy, so must do the industry, industrialists and the industry associations," he added.
"We need to be clear as to what lobbying means. We have to first define what the act of lobbying means. When I am lobbying, whether I am doing it for advocacy, am I changing minds of people about certain ideas by holding conferences, seminars, writing about issues, those are advocacies. Lobbying could mean different things in different context," the minister said.
Concerned over the country's low ranking in ease of doing business, Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot today said urgent steps are needed to make India a "safer, better and quicker" place to invest, but states need to be taken on board to achieve the goal.
Advocating a clear and long-term policy framework, Pilot said that regulations should act as enablers for investments and not appear as draconian or impediment for investors.
"What is my primary concern is that India's ranking in the doing business index is so low, it does not befit a country of the size and scale it has," Pilot told PTI.
"We have set up a committee under former Sebi chairman M Damodaran and the panel is going to submit its recommendations soon in this regard.
"But internally, we have already started discussions at the Ministry to work towards making India a better, safer and quicker place to invest in," said the 35-year old Minister, who took charge of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs about six weeks back in late October.
In the World Bank's 'Ease of Doing Business' index, India is ranked at 132nd place, among a total of 185 countries. The ranking remains the same from the previous year.
India's ranking is even worse at 184th place in terms of "enforcing contracts" and at 182nd position for "dealing with construction permits".
"There is no reason for India's ranking to be so low despite lot of manpower, cheap labour, raw material and stable political environment, our rankings are so low," he said.
Admitting that there are some inherent problems in our system, Pilot said, "We must really make it not only easy to say but also easy to do business".
For this, "we must take state governments on board. There is no way in a federal structure that you can decide for the state government.
"Also, we need to go to village and panchayat levels, as these are the places where factories or plants come up and they have to be taken on board," the Minister said.