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
- Ranbaxy lobbied via Patton Boggs to preserve access to affordable generics in US.
- Wipro lobbied in the U.S for favourable visa policies.
- 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 . A 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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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,