A pressure group is defined as a special interest group that seeks to influence government policy in a particular direction; Working groups are loosely organized pressure groups. Such groups do not seek government control or accountability for policy, and their political work is not officially recognized.
Pressure groups can be criticized for not taking into account interests commensurate with the general welfare, using unacceptable pressure techniques, lacking internal and external controls, and having a corrupting influence on government. Techniques used by the groups include influencing public opinion, developing direct contacts with policymakers, infiltrating policy-making bodies, pressuring public officials for relevant information, threatening the government with direct action, and passive resistance or involves demonstrating the techniques of violent acts.
Pressure groups act as a responsible source of criticism for the government, for the political system as a medium of communication between citizens and the government, and as a democratic means for group members to express their opinions. Groups can be either rationally oriented with good communication and clear goals or emotionally oriented with poorly defined goals.
Until the 1960s, the Dutch police remained neutral with respect to the laws traditionally applied to control social problems and disturbances of public order. Action groups of the 1960s often forced the police to take positions on important issues. At the same time, police resources and the desire for central control have also increased, making it possible to deal with such groups.
The police have come to view action groups as indicative of social problems that the government must deal with and accept the task of intervening when conflicts arise in the expression of particular interests. In such interventions, the police should remain neutral and avoid giving the impression of being in the strong arm of the law. A 9-item bibliography and figures are given.
What are pressure groups?
A pressure group is an organization that seeks to influence elected officials to take action or make changes on a specific issue. These groups include trade unions, ethnic associations, and churches. Pressure groups date back to medieval Europe when merchants and artisans came together and formed trade unions based on their function to advocate for and support members.
At the time of the Industrial Revolution, the first trade unions appeared advocating for the improvement of working conditions. Today, there are pressure groups from many different backgrounds with the aim of influencing the outcome of policies in favor of their group.
Pressure groups are associated with terms such as lobbying groups and interest groups because many members prefer not to call them pressure groups, given the negative connotations of the word. Since the number of political parties in the United States has been limited, pressure groups have increased in number and power. Some pressure groups are very large organizations and represent thousands of people across the country, while others focus on more specific causes. Thus, these organizations fall across the political spectrum.
How are pressure groups related to public affairs?
Pressure groups act as liaisons between stakeholders and elected officials, making them an essential part of the public affairs sector. Pressure groups can effectively advocate for a specific issue on behalf of stakeholders, ultimately bringing about a change that the stakeholder wishes to see. The experience of working with the officers of pressure groups helps them to make more progress within the policy.
Role of pressure group in a democracy
David Truman defined pressure groups as “those who, on the basis of one or more shared attitudes, make certain claims on other groups in society for the establishment, maintenance, enhancement of forms of behavior that are rooted in the shared attitudes.”
Pressure groups and movements are the essences of modern democracy; They are able to influence government decisions through their powerful representation. They can range from very small groups to alliances of up to a million people. Pressure groups are not political in nature and they do not oppose political authority. Individuals with common interests come together to change the attitudes of the government and change the decisions of the government.
There are two types of pressure groups:
- Sectional: This type of pressure group consists of self-interest organizations such as trade unions, and business and farmer groups.
- Promotional: Promotional interest groups focus on a particular cause and direct their activities to further that cause, for example, women’s rights and moral rights.
Representation in pressure groups is sometimes from influential sections of the population, which may include doctors, lawyers, and prominent businessmen; As a result, the government has to take into account the views of this section of the population, whose support they cannot afford to lose.
For example, in the UK The July 2007 ban on smoking in public places was partly the result of lobbying by the British Medical Association. Sometimes pressure groups also include outside groups that have no connection with ministers; As a result, large interest groups with inside links are likely to be more successful in influencing government decisions than smaller ones.
In India, popular pressure groups are business groups such as the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), trade unions such as the All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), professional groups such as the Indian Medical Association (IMA), the Agrarian All India Kisan Sabha groups and student organizations like Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), Bharatiya Kisan Union, etc.
Pressure groups play a major role in modifying the entire community by creating political awareness and making the voters politically aware. They act as a bridge between the voters and the government by making the government aware of the needs of the governed. Pressure groups give representation to minorities and make their voices heard. They also act as advisors to the government when needed. The presence of pressure groups makes democracy prosperous and viable.
Furthermore, to enhance the quality of democracy, pressure groups are sometimes autocratic in nature; They represent a powerful minority who are economically well off, thereby overburdening the needs of the vast majority. The methods of resistance (strikes, demonstrations, rallies) used by these groups disrupt the movement of the entire community. They periodically exert pressure on the government to implement policies that benefit their own self-interest, disregarding the interests of the vast majority, this is usually seen in relation to trade unions and business groups.
Some of the techniques commonly used by pressure groups to influence government decisions are:
- Campaigning: In this method, they place representatives in key public offices in favor of their issues.
- Lobbying: This method persuades public officials to adopt and implement policies that benefit their interests.
- Propaganda: It involves influencing public opinion in their favor and pressuring the government to accept their interests, as public opinion is considered sovereign in a democracy.
- To resort to legal action by appealing to the judiciary.
- To campaign in favor of a particular candidate or to oppose a candidate.
- Organizing protests: Interest groups also organize protests, rallies, and campaigns which indirectly put pressure on the government and force them to consider the demands of the people.
- Demonstrations usually take place outside government offices, Parliament House, Jantar Mantar, etc., or marches on the streets.
- Mass Media: In recent years, pressure groups have taken the help of mass media to present their case to the people and gather public opinion in their favor as public opinion is always an asset in a democracy.
All these methods are used by the protestors to influence the decision of the government in their favor. For example, in 2011 social activist Anna Hazare went on a 12-day hunger strike and wanted a joint committee of government and civil society members to draft an anti-corruption law. He was supported by retired IPS officer Kiran Bedi and social reformer Swami Agnivesh. However, after the strike, the Congress government passed the Lokpal Bill and in January 2014 the then President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to the law.
In the year 2019, there was a massive protest by doctors in West Bengal over the violence against them. Doctors refused to see patients and boycotted their duties. The Indian Medical Association also organized a nationwide protest on June 18, 2019.
This movement was supported by doctors from all over the world. The protest was finally called off when West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee guaranteed the doctors’ safety and asked the police to appoint nodal officers in all government hospitals in the state to protect the doctors. In the presence of the media, all their demands were agreed upon. She agreed to punish the attackers and also decided to set up a grievance redressal unit in all government hospitals. The state government had also taken adequate measures and arrested the attackers.
In a recent instance, we have been witness to the ongoing farmer protests against the farm bills passed by the legislature, which are considered by the farmers as Kala Kanoon (black law). The protest has received widespread support from major agricultural pressure groups. Apart from this, the movement is also supported by the political power of the Shiv Sena and the Congress party. The movement was also widely supported by student organizations of major Indian universities, who resorted to demonstrations and rallies, putting pressure on the government to withdraw the passed law.
Pressure groups and movements are essential tools in a democracy to preserve public opinion by ensuring adequate public representation and by acting as an effective check against arbitrary government decision-making.