Pressure Groups

Pressure Groups

This article deals with ‘Pressure Groups.’ This is part of our series on ‘Governance’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

What are Pressure Groups ?

  • Pressure Groups are group of people trying to pressurise the administrative – political system to protect and promote their interests

How & why they were born in India ?

1 . Market Economy

  • In market economy there is struggle over tax/tariffs and race to get concession from the government. Different business groups emerged (eg FICCI, ASSOCHAM etc in India) to pressurise government to make such policies which serve their interests.

2 . Welfare State

  • Government started to look after welfare functions eg reservation in education & jobs
  • Different groups emerged to safeguard their interests

3. Political Angle

  • Politicians set their priorities according to vote bank because ultimately they need votes to win elections. Hence, politicians will always favour landless labourer and workers because their number is more .
  • In this case, Zamindars and Businessmen will try to protect their interests by forming pressure group because number wise they cant win .

4. Activist Angle

  • Pressure groups are also formed to protect the rights of people 
  • Narmada Bachao Andolan – To rehabilitate displaced and protect environment
  • Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan in Rajasthan pressurised government to form RTI
  • (Note -They are NGOs too)

Political Party vs Pressure Group

Political Party Pressure Group
They are Permanent  They are temporary
They  have long term vision & aim  . They are formed on ideological lines , common values and preferences. They have short term & narrow vision . Some  cases,  they  may  focus  on  a  single issue  (for  instance  opposing  a  planned  road  development).
Have cadre based organisation No cadre
Eg : BJP, INC, BSP etc Eg : FICCI, ADR etc

Lobbying vs Pressure Group

Lobbying Act of loitering in lobbies of  legislative assembly and influence decisions of law-makers .
Pressure group Pressure groups do lobby but apart from that they do many other things too to pressurise decision makers (ie lobbying is one of the weapon of Pressure Groups)
1. Funding election
2. Sponsoring candidate
3. Keeping bureaucracy satisfied
4. Exploit caste , religion , region etc

Global  Experience  with  Lobbying

  • Various democracies of west =>   see  lobbying  as   part  of  democratic  functioning  that  allows individuals  and  groups  to  legitimately  influence  decisions  that  affect  them. 
  • No  country  ,  including  India,  has  banned  lobbying.  In  fact,  a  few  countries  even  regulate  the  activity, like  USA,  Canada,  Australia,  Germany  and  Taiwan.  
  • In  USA,  lobbying  is  regulated under   Lobbying  Disclosure  Act,  1995.  

Lobbying  in  India

  • In India, there is no law to regulate lobbying . But Organisations like FICCI etc do lobbying ahead of budget to get concessions
  • In India, lobbying is controversial subject because people equate  lobbying, with corruption  in  India  as  every  dealing with    government  requires  bribes  to  be  paid  to  officials. 
  • Large number of corruption cases involving Lobbying are present. Eg :      2010 Nira Radia (lobbyist) tapes 
  • Lobbying is   against  the  right  to  equality which places those with money power at advantageous position.
  • Examples of Lobbying by Indian Corporations
    1. Ranbaxy  lobbied via  Patton  Boggs  to preserve  access  to  affordable  generics in US. 
    2. Wipro  lobbied  in  the U.S  for  favourable  visa  policies.   
    3. Not  only  private  companies  but  even  Indian  government  lobbied  for  the  Indo-US  civilian  nuclear deal. 
  • While  lobbying  is  not  a  new  phenomenon  in  India,  it  is  largely  unregulated.   Companies  are  not  mandated  to  disclose  their  activities  .   private  member’s  Bill  to  regulate  lobbying  was   introduced  in  the  Lok  Sabha  by Kalikesh  Narayan  Singh  Deo.  

It  is  not  lobbying ,  but  the  lack  of  transparency &  regulations  that  is  at  the  root  of  the  problem.  

Type of Pressure Groups

The  different  types  of  pressure  groups  found  in  India  are  business  groups,  trade  unions,  peasant groups,  student  groups,  teachers’  association,  caste  and  religious  associations,  women’s associations,  etc.

1 . Business  Groups

  • Most  important  and  organised  pressure  group  => have  enough resources  to  safeguard  their  interests. 
  • Eg :  FICCI  and Associated  Chamber  of  Commerce (ASSOCHAM). 
  • Exerts pressure via funding parties

2. Trade unions

  • Trade  Unions    are  closely  affiliated to  political  parties
  • Weapon –  strike  , demonstrations

3. Peasant  Organisations

  • Present before independence as well but post abolition  of  Zamindari  &  Green  Revolution  , they became very important
  • Eg :  All  India  Kisan  Congress,  Akhil  Bharatiya  Kisan  Sangh etc
  • but mostly  peasant  groups  have  been  organised  on  territorial  basis.
  • Their  demands  relate  to  procurement  prices ,  fertiliser  subsidy,    electricity  charges,  etc. 

4. Student  Organisations

  • Mostly  affiliated  with  political parties .
    • National  Students  Union  of  India  (NSUI)  – Congress Party
    • Students  Federation  of  India  (SFI)  – Communist  Party  of  India
    • Akhil Bharatiya  Vidyarthi  Parishad  (ABVP) – BJP  
  • They  try  to pressurise  governmental  policy  on  various  crucial  issues,  their  activities  are  not  just  confined  to educational  issues

5. Community  Associations

  • These  community  groups  are  organised  on the  basis  of  caste,  class  and  religion. 
    • Caste  organisations  :  Scheduled  Caste Federation,  Backward  Caste  Federation,  etc. 
    • Religion :  Vishwa  Hindu  Parishad,  Northern  and  Southern  India  Christian  Conference,  etc.  

Interest Groups vs Cause Groups Pressure Groups

1 . Interest  groups 

  • Represent  a  particular  interest  of  society:  workers,  employers, consumers  or  religious  group etc .
  • Membership – limited  to  people of that interest
  • Eg :
    • Trade  unions (AITUC etc)
    • Business   corporations (FICCI, ASSOCHAM etc )  
    • Professional  bodies
    • Regional groups
    • Caste Groups  like Karni Sena , Jat Mahasangh etc 

2. Cause  groups 

  • Groups  that  are based  on  certain cause 
  • Causes  range  from  charity , poverty reduction , environment, human  rights, transparency  in  governance  etc.
  • Membership is open to  all. Members are motivated by  altruistic  concerns  
  • Eg
    • Mazdoor  Kisan  Shakti  Sangathan  =  transparency  in  governance 
    • PETA = Animal Rights
    • India  against  Corruption.

Tools used by functioning in Pressure Groups

These methods and tools can be broadly divided into two groups

Direct Tools In which pressure groups directly interacts with Policy Makers
Indirect Tools In which pressure groups indirectly pressurises Policy Makers via consequences Policy makers have to face if they don’t accept their demands eg Hartals etc

1 . Meetings with Ministers  and  Civil  Servants

  • They are centre of power
  • Groups  aspire  to  get  in  touch  with  them  to  get  some  sort  of  concessions

2. Parliament

  • Changes can be brought in details of act via MPs + Parliamentary Questions

3. Funding Political Parties

  • All parties need funds to fight elections

4. By Changing Public  Opinion

  • Eg : Association  for Democratic  Reforms  by making election funding data public or using PIL route to introduce affidevits for contesting parties to show their assets , liabilities, criminal cases etc    

5. Direct  Action

  • Eg : Strikes , Blockades , boycotts  and sit-ins
  • Eg   Ramleela  Maidan  by  India  against Corruption

6. Showing Strength

  • By showing strength via rallies, pressure can be made to act or face consequences in next elections

Role & benefits of pressure groups

1 . Representation to Unrepresented

  • Pressure  groups  provide  a  mouthpiece  for  groups  and  interests  that  are  not  adequately represented  through  the  electoral  process   
  • Eg
    • Women’s  organizations  such  as  SEWA, NCW –  women-friendly  laws  such  as  Protection  of  Women  from Domestic  Violence  Act,  2005. 
    • In  the  North-Eastern  State  of  Manipur-  ‘Just  Peace’ and  Meira  Paibis  (women’s groups)  are  trying  to  influence  the  government  to  listen  to  people’s  genuine  grievances. 

2. Policy formulation

  • Business Groups like FICCI =>  consulted while forming Business Policy
  • Kisan Unions =>  consulted while forming agricultural policies
  • Students unions like ABVP, NSUI, AISF etc => consulted while forming education policies.

3. Persistent check on Government’s power

  • Elections are held just once in 5 years.
  • These Pressure groups keeps check on government all the time

4. Education

  • Pressure  groups  promote  political  debate,  discussion  and  argument. 
  • Eg : Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) helps in educating on common people on political issues and elections 

5. Other

  • Ensures pluralism in representation of interests. In policy making you will find group which demand complete ban of tobacco to group of tobacco manufacturers who is pressurising government not to implement such policies

Points against Pressure Groups

1 . Create Political  Inequality

  • Instead of  dispersing power    widely  ,  pressure  groups  tend  to  empower  the already  powerful.  

2. Tyranny  of  the  minority

  • Pressure  groups  help  to  prevent  a  ‘tyranny  of  the majority’  .  However, pressure  groups  may  create  the  opposite  problem ie Tyranny of Minority.  
  • These groups sometimes ransack the whole state eg Jat Agitation in which property worth Billions was vandalised .

3. Decreases the Legitimacy of the Government

  • When government work under pressure of Pressure groups, common public lose trust in government

4. ‘Behind  the  scenes’  influence

  • Lacks transparency and accountability.

Comparison of Indian and western pressure groups

  • The American  pressure  groups  are  regarded  as  the  fourth  organ  of  the  government  but the  Indian  pressure  groups  are  not  yet  able  to  play  such  significant  role  .
  • In India  and  Great  Britain , cabinet  and  civil  service  are  the  main  targets  of pressure  groups  .  However,  the  targets  of American  pressure  groups  are  the  Congress  and  its  committees  
  • Indian  pressure  groups  based  on  caste,  religion,  region,  etc.  are  more  powerful  than the modern groups like business organisations which are powerful in western nations
  • In  USA  pressure  groups take  interest  in  foreign  policy  issues  while  in  India  ,  pressure  groups  are  concerned  more  with domestic  policy  issues  and  problems,

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