Beneficiaries of businesses should not be allowed to become policy makers
Senior bureaucrats join private companies just after completing their job tenures
The issue of Conflict of Interest (COI) is a serious one in India as the Indian government is a part of several public and private projects. This is similar to most developing countries where government participates heavily in development work. In such cases, there is a need for precautions.
There are decision-makers who participate in business activities. Therefore, there is a need to separate the decision makers from the businessmen. Otherwise, beneficiaries of these businesses will become decision makers as well, which has the potential to harm the interests of the public in general.
There are a few good examples. Even in international agencies like the United Nations, the World Health Organization has a proper mechanism to restrict beneficiaries from participating in decision-making.
In India, there is no law and court which can ensure the segregation of decision makers and business interests. In the absence of such a law, it will be tough to monitor all activities of people who are trying to push their agenda in policy making.
Now, one parliamentarian has come forward and taken the lead. He is pushing a private bill on the issue. It must be supported by the whole nation. There is a need for such a law and thus, we are supporting it whole-heartedly.
When I say there is no court, it means we should at least have a notified court which will control the government until the law is implemented. But, the ideal situation would be a law.
The issue of conflict of interest is everywhere. In every policy-making subject, from policy-making on drugs to ensuring quality of food, there are players who have conflict of interest. For example, among 10 members of the Food Security and Community Capacity Index (FSCCI), a total of six members were from industry. This is a case from 2010 when noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan raised this issue, the Supreme Court dismissed the committee.
Senior bureaucrats join private companies just after completing their job tenures. The irony is that they were in a position to work and control the menace of those companies that they joined after their tenure in government services. All these issues highlight that there is no monitoring of their role and its impact on policy making.
Just after coming in power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had emphasised the need for such a law which can look into the conflict of interest issue. He made 17 recommendations for the law as well. It was widely reported in the media.
Now when one parliamentarian has come forward with the bill, I hope the prime minister will support his effort. The country is in dire need of such a law.
Chander Uday Singh is a senior advocate at Supreme Court of India