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The Many Lives of a 'Lobbyist'

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  1 Aug 2016 12:00 AM GMT

Pransu Raj Kaushik

Recently, there was news about Pakistan deciding to reactivate a lobby group in the US to protect and lobby for its interests in Capitol Hill. The English language is a pretty ‘political’ one; political in the sense that one can interpret different meanings for a word or there are synonyms for a specific word that make it sound pompous or cheap based on the necessity. Lobbyist is nothing but similar to being a broker or an agent or to simply put, a ‘dalal’ in the Indian sense. During the course of my professiol acquaintances and also prior to that, I have had the (mis)fortune of having crossed lines with many such ‘dalals’ to get things done. I still remember my late father approaching one such individual in the deputy commissioner’s office to help him in the processing of some documents relating to my education. The way the ‘brokers’ roam about the offices it seems that they are the real public servants and not the ones who are supposedly paid by the government to serve.

The term ‘dalal’ earned a bit of respect from my end when I came across the same in the context of late Harshad Mehta and the stock exchanges during my early student life. It was another matter that I was too young then, to understand the nuances of the term or the underlying events associated with that individual. My direct interaction with that mystic word-‘dalal’ came about when I visited the district transport office to apply for a driving license a few years back. Most of my friends who already possessed the same, advised me on the prevalent rates for obtaining a license. Rates, which seemed far inflated from the ones mentioned in the official notifications. When I asked them about the reason, they said that the inflated amount was for the ‘processing fee’, unofficial in this case. So, the ‘dalal’ was to act as my lobbyist and a processing agent in front of the officials and help me obtain a driving license!

Like most, I loathe visits to a hospital, and if that happens to be a government one, I simply abhor the idea. The lobbyist nonetheless, finds way and survival space in the hospitals as well. It is really ‘appreciable’ that like the cockroach or the crocodile (any pun is purely for the readers to interpret), this class has been able to dodge extinction and find survival space in the most unlikeliest and unexpected of places. The ‘broker’ in the medical are could be anyone and comes across from different classes, from being a person who is a rickshaw puller to one in suits. Though I have somewhat of an agreeable and grudging soft corner for this class and ‘appreciation’ for their negotiating skills in different fields, it is simply not acceptable to see them displaying their ‘skills’ with equal and unsympathetic glee in a place where the only thing that one can lobby for is ‘life’. Like the cells of a cancerous tumour, the ‘broker’ class has been able to unfortutely spread its grip and bring under its influence some doctors as well!

It is very shameful when a doctor is offered commission on the basis of patients that he or she recommends to the various laboratories or prescribes medicines of a particular brand. The introduction of the ‘broker’ in the rather sensitive and fragile relationship between a doctor and a patient has further negatively catalyzed this. Generic medicines are rarely prescribed, most prescribed medicines are of a particular brand, altertive brands which are of a lower cost are hardly discussed, most laboratories are recommended under the flimsy lieu of getting quality diagnosis etc., are only a fragment of the huge malaise affecting the health sector. I pity the ignorant sufferers and also those who knowingly fall into the trap due to the non-availability of choice, mostly aggravated by ignorance and situatiol emergencies.

Judiciary is still regarded by the common citizens as a somewhat incorruptible field. Regarded to be one of the most important pillars of our base of democracy, this venerated class has unfortutely, not been able to ward of the influence of the ‘broker’ class. How often do we see the precincts of the bar crowded by unscrupulous elements in civvies? There is a very apt classification in Assamese for these elements- ‘Baam Wukil’, meaning not an in-depth lawyer, or a ‘half lawyer’. These are individuals who have been able to gather some idea about the workings of the judiciary and use this ‘tit-bit’ knowledge in taking the humble litigants for a ride by projecting themselves as persons who are knowledgeable in the field and in offering them help to find suitable lawyers for taking up their cases.

Now, what more do I have to say about the class that I myself passively belong to, yes readers, you have guessed it right, I am talking about the media. A few years back, the country was shocked when the me of a few prominent print and television jourlists cropped up in relation to the leaked infamous ‘Radia tapes’. Until then, this other pillar of democracy was beyond the doubts of corruption and the ‘brokers’. Since these revelations, and after close scrutiny of the media, many supposed ‘secrets’, has gradually cropped out of the Pandora’s Box. It is more lamentable when a respected media-person plays the role of a middleman in various ‘deals’, or publishes news based on persol fincial suitability. It is nothing but betraying the trust of the common man who unquestioningly falls back on the media in these times of untrustworthy chaos.

Readers, many an article has been written on the lobby element prevalent in the political class. I am not going to exhaust my space repeating about the oft discussed issues relating to this class. But it is unfathomable to even think about how the middleman has penetrated each and every sphere of our lives, no individual or group in society can say it with conviction that it is free from the tentacle of the ‘broker class’. So much so that it has become somewhat of an accepted norm now. But, acceptance can be regarded as such when it is done willingly, not when it is thrust down upon. Now, what is happening is thrusting down of a norm. It is high time that this mece is checked and eradicated from places where it is not acceptable. Now, where or what constitutes ‘not acceptable’, society has to decide, until it is too late.

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