Walmart’s quarterly report to the House of Representatives and the Senate which touched upon the lobbying made to enter Indian market has unfortunately opened another controversy in the political circles and Parliament of India. The opposition parties were desperately fighting in Parliament to stall the entry of retail giants in to India and the Parliament after much debate had just approved it when this new issue cropped up.
The Wal-Mart’s quarterly report cannot opt for a worse time to present than now as far as the Indian Government and Wal-Mart are concerned.
The word ‘lobbying’ is synonym with corruption and bribe in India and enjoys no legal protection. There are no persons or institutions working as ‘lobbyists’ here. But it does not prevent people from seeing the legislators and requesting to redress their individual problems. The Members of Assembly or Parliament do help them too in deserving cases. But there are no persons working and calling themselves as lobbyists in between the Government and the general public. All the elected representatives of India are bound by the Constitution and lobbying has little room there.
When the report became an issue in India Walmart made it clear that it did not lobby in India other than in the U S. It should have made matters clear as it then becomes a matter between the U S Government and Walmart. But it did not end there.
A lawyer, Mr. M L Sharma, has filed a P I L (Public interest litigation) in the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Central Government to furnish details in the Walmart report as to who are all the lobbyists and who have benefited from the $25 Million spent by the company in the matter. The Court has accepted the petition.
In the report, Wal-Mart had stated that it spent $25 Million for lobbying. One who is not familiar with the U.S. lobbying world would think it as bribe or money for illegal operations. The U S lobbying scenario is big with large net work of lawyers, P R people, researchers and other intermediaries. The Walmart having started the lobbying from 2008 onward, the money spent by it must be at par with the U S standards for similar operations and as per rules prevailing there. Besides, bribing people in other countries is illegal in the U S and as such no illegal transaction would come in the reported account . In the circumstance the entire amount spent can be surmised as legal under U S rules. Both the U S and Walmart have said that there was nothing illegal in the business. The report also mentions its operations in several other countries and money spent for them including China.
So there is little that can be gained by the hue and cry over the Walmart report other than stalling the Parliament fruitlessly and it can only be seen as an extension of opposition parties’ efforts to stall or prolong the entry of retail giants to India. However the Government has agreed to appoint an inquiry commission in the matter in order to subdue the opposition and bring all facts to light.