Pressure Groups: They are groups of people organised in
order to actively promote and defend their common interests. They do not
themselves form the government but play a crucial role in influencing the
decisions of the government.

 

Many of us may get confused between
pressure groups and political parties and may feel that both are the same.
Therefore, it is important to make a basic distinction between them. It is
important for us to be aware of the fact that they function separately and are
not the same as pressure groups. Pressure groups are different from political
parties. Political parties are permanent entities established around some
ideologies. They have a well trained cadre or in simple words,
group of qualified or trained personnel’s capable or having the authority such
as appointing and training candidates for public office etc. (Ramswamy; Politics and organized labour in India; Asian Survey; 13
October 1973; p. 920).  They play an
important role in mobilising the masses.

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 They use every political means to
capture power and consolidate their position one such way is by doing campaigns
but of course, there are many other ways under taken by the political parties
to influence the masses. They also have a social base; for example, the voter
base of a particular political party. Pressure groups are more temporary than
political parties. They come together for some common interests and may
disappear after that common interest is met or served. (Ankita Sinha, “Pressure
Group: role and function of pressure groups in India”, India Study
Channel;  Posted Date:17 Jun 2012,
Points: 80). Here, are few examples explaining the functioning of pressure
groups in a democracy.

 

Example: Recently there was an
example of Awards -Wapasi: Some groups of citizens felt that there is
intolerance in India by BJP government on the freedom of press and diverse
views of journalists. This group of literary specialists felt that if they
return their awards it would put pressure on the current government and they
would restore freedom of expression to the press. So, after their goal was met,
this pressure group dissolved by itself. Such pressure groups are very
important for democratic principles. (Ankita Sinha, “Pressure Group: role and
function of pressure groups in India”, India Study Channel;  Posted Date:17 Jun 2012, Points: 80). Here,
are few examples explaining the functioning of pressure groups in a democracy).

 

Example:  Some JNU students felt that, their freedom of
expression or freedom of free speech which is a constitutional right; was being
threatened by the Modi government. As they felt, this is a basic constitutional
right and needs to be respected. So, mainly due to this reason they decide to
have a protest in order to ensure that they are demands are fulfilled by the
government. On 9th February 2016, students of Jawaharlal Nehru University
(JNU) held a protest in their university. This protest was led by Kanhaiya
Kumar who is a former president of this university. He is also the leader of
the All India Students Federation which is the student wing of the communist
party of India.  They were in protest
against the execution of Afzal Guru, Maqbool Bhat and in support of democratic
rights of Kashmiri people to self determination. Both, Afzal Guru and Maqbool
Bhat were Kashmiri separatist.  Both were
hanged in the year 1984 and 2001 respectively. Maqbool Bhat was the co founder
of the Kashmiri liberation front.

 

The student organising the event were all former
members of the Democratic Student Union (DSU). There were posters advertising
this event which had invited people to protest against the ‘killing or
execution of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat’. The posters had various art forms
and pictures depicting the history of the occupation of Kashmir and struggles
faced by its inhabitants. In order, to ensure that their demands were met the
student union also went on hunger strikes. Though, this was not a completely
successful protest it can be credited for creating nation -wide awareness
amongst the youth on this issue and as a result, there were youths who also
actively supported this protest. Lastly, it also helped in spreading awareness
amongst certain intellectual personalities of India.

 

Elements of
pressure groups:

·        
Organized group of people or work
collectively in accomplishing a particular task or work.

·        
Common interest or people having similar
view points, ideas in a pressure group: e.g. BMS (Bhartiya Majdoor Sangh) is a
pressure group representing the concerns of labor force. The Kisan Shakha
represents the demands of farmers. As a result, they have common but not
conflicting interests.

·        
Exercise influence on decisions of
government and also try to challenge decisions of the government/ decisions
undertaken by them.

Pressure groups have two ways of influencing the government:

1.Legitimate methods:  A few of them include Lobbying; correspondence; publicity and propaganda; public debating etc.
Lobbying is a process of persuading the decision making parties in the
government, by a few members of pressure group. This is very common in US
politics, usually by big corporations. (Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan; Lok Satta;
Foundation for democratic reforms; Pressure groups and democratic governance:
An Indian Perspective.)

2.Illegitimate methods: Strikes; violence;
corruption; e.g. burning buses, shops etc.

Example of pressure
groups:

·        
FICCI (Federation of Indian Chamber of
Commerce & Industries.)

·        
ASSOCHAM (Associated Chambers of
Commerce & Industry of India)

·        
Trade unions

·        
Agricultural Kisan Sabhas

·        
Student organizations (ABVP, NSUI, RSS,
AISF)

·        
Religious organizations (RSS, VHP,
Jamait  Islam)

Characteristics of
Pressure Groups:

·        
Pressure groups represent various
demands and interests in a society and, also give a voice to the public
opinions which may not be heard or which are being suppressed and therefore are
a vital element of a pluralistic society.

·        
These groups being big or small in
number appear as well as disappear based on the situations and prevailing
conditions. For example: they come to accomplish their task and disperse once
their goal is met or fulfilled.

·        
Pressure groups encourage and enable
people to participate in the political process.

·        
Pressure groups can also educate and
inform the electorate and thus enhance political education.

·        
Pressure groups can help to achieve
change and reforms within a society that strengthens democracy such as the
civil rights campaign in the US during 1960’s.

·        
Decision makers are made aware of how
the public feel about certain issues. Like for example, whether they feel the
decisions implemented are beneficial or not, good or bad and so on.

·        
True unions act in such a manner that
they balance the power of employers and ensure that workers get fair treatment
or are treated with equal respect and dignity. In the intoxination of  power, the government may ignore or hurt the
real interest of certain groups of society, so this pressure groups can make
the government to correct a wrong policy into a right one.

 

Limitations of Pressure Groups:

·        
Pressure -groups are not elected by the
people and are therefore are unaccountable to the public.

·        
Some pressure groups do not even elect
their own leaders.

·        
Insider pressure groups can hold too
much influence over the government.

·        
The most powerful pressure groups trend
to represent the interest of big business.

·        
Whilst most demonstrations are
peaceful, some demonstrations can turn violent in the form of  strikes, agitations etc.  

·        
Some pressure groups could be accused
of holding the country to ransom.

·        
Some pressure groups lack trained and
competent functionaries required in order to function efficiently and are
ineffective in voicing their interests.

·        
Pressure groups in India try to
influence the government mostly through various unconstitutional and illegal methods
such as strikes, agitations, demonstrations lock-outs etc.

·        
Tendency of pressure groups to resort
to coercion, e.g. hunger strikes, could be regarded as a serious threat to
democracy.

·        
Pressure groups are sometimes driven by
their local interests more than a common interest. Like for, example they may
think of protesting against rights not being granted to a group of people
living in a particular locality and may not at the same time think of other
people living in the society. In other words, this can in one way prove to be
an injustice on the part of the people who leave in the society. As a result
sometimes, the common interests of people may not get served or may not be
taken into consideration.

·        
Most pressure groups, except business
groups, do not have an independent existence of their own. Most of them are
dominated by political parties.

·        
In India, we have loose and disorganized
multi-party system hence even pressure groups appear and disappear.

·        
Pressure groups lack stability and
commitment which results in their loyalties shifting according to changing
political situations.

Role of press in policy decisions in democracy

Ours is a democratic country. Democracy is defined by Abraham Lincoln as
“a government for the people, by the people, and of the people”. Press has got
a vital link between the government and the civil society.

Objectives of press in shaping the public opinion:

Press is the oldest form of mass communication. The people wish to be governed
by their own wishes and participation. They do not want to be governed by
autocrats or elite rulers as per their whims & fancies. They want to be
ruled as per the aspirations of the people; the civil society. They want their
opinions, point of views to be respected by others in the society.

 

In British times, the rulers oppressed
and censored the press and the real truth never came in front of citizens. We
have seen how the East India Company had oppressed the press but they also
realized that it links the rulers with the people. So with strong and stringent
restrictions, they allowed this link. The history of press is full of incidents
of massacre, imprisonment and torture of journalists and writers by the rulers.
These individuals fought for the independence of our country. (Soumya Dutta;
Global Media Journal; Indian Edition; Summer Issue; June 2011).

 

In democracy, press plays a vital role as a fourth estate. Legislature:
(the first estate) makes the laws for the land. It represents the people’s
interests; Executive: implements those laws and the Judiciary: reviews those
laws. Any law which is anti-people is not accepted. All these three estates are
the institutions or the basis on which stands the fourth estate i.e. Press.
Press also derives its power from the civil society. It analyses a particular
problem, reform or decision taken by the government and then it is debated and
discussed in greater depth.

 

Unless, we discuss and debate the affairs happening around us, the civil
society cannot get enlightened. Press should be constructive. If press is
biased and unconstructive it can cause great harm to democracy. When a single
party obtains absolute majority and comes with a heavy mandate and the
opposition is weak, this makes democracy vulnerable and there is no one to
criticize the policies of the government. Thus, it is the press which does the
work of the opposition because press is watching everything and is aware of
what is happening around us and keeps a close eye on it. (Shringarpure Salil,
“Role of Media in Indian democracy”,International Education & Research
Journal; 2454-9916; Volume 2; Issue 6; June 2016). So, everything is
debated in press, analyzed in press and in this way it plays the role of
opposition. Press forms the foundation of democracy or it lays a strong
foundation in a democracy.

 

Vigilant press prevents wrongdoings by the government. A few years ago,
it was the press which came out in a very outspoken manner against corruption
at high places in government. For example, it had brought before the public the
scams and scandals which were happening at high offices such as 2G spectrum
scam, coal block scam, Commonwealth games scam. Another example would be how it
managed to bring in front the fact that there was huge amount of black money
lying in the Swiss bank. Awareness amongst, this issue was spread amongst the
youth by publishing news paper articles, through news reports etc. These are all
examples to explain how press behaves as a watchdog in a democracy. So, these
are the watch dog functions of the press to strengthen our democracy.

 

 Like all institutions, the press
derives all its power from the people and this is very important. If press
works in the interest of the people, it will always derive power from the
people. The day it stops working in the interest of the people, it will not
have that assurance, support, backing and guidance from the people. It will
lose support of the people and people will stop trusting it.

Press Enlightens or helps in the process of
enlightenment: The success of any democracy depends on the
enlightenment of its civil society. In turn press gains the faith of the
masses. In turn it becomes very fruitful for survival and growth of that press
itself. So, it is a two way traffic or in simple words it can be called as a
two way process. If the press is doing anything good for the civil society and
provides them with the factual happenings, day to day happenings the masses are
enlightened. This enlightenment is necessary for the survival of our democracy.
Otherwise there is every possibility of failure of the democracy.