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Pressure Groups – Types, Roles, and Functions

Last Updated : 26 Mar, 2024
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Learn about Pressure Groups, including their Types of Pressure Groups, Roles of Pressure Groups, and Functions of Pressure Groups, to understand their impact on society and politics.

Pressure Groups is defined by David Truman as “that on the basis of one or more shared attitudes, makes certain claims upon other groups in the society for the establishment, maintenance, enhancement of forms of behavior that are implied by shared attitude.” Pressure groups and movements are the very essence of modern democracy; they are capable of influencing government decisions through their powerful representation. They can range from very small groups to a nexus of a million people. The pressure groups are not political by nature and they do not contest for political power. Individuals with shared interests come together to change the government’s outlook and alter government decisions.

Pressure Group Definition

Organized groups aiming to influence public policy and decision-making without seeking electoral office.

Types of Pressure Groups

  1. Sectional Pressure Groups: This type of pressure group includes self-interest organisations such as trade unions, and business, and farming groups.
  2. Promotional Pressure Groups: The promotional interest groups focus on a particular cause and direct their activities towards fulfilling that cause, for instance, women’s rights, and moral rights.

History of Pressure Groups

Representation in the pressure groups is at times from the influential section of the population, which may include doctors, lawyers, and prominent businessmen; as a result, the government has to take into consideration the views of this section of the population, whose support they cannot afford to lose. For instance, in the U.K. the ban imposed on smoking in public places in July 2007 was partially the result of lobbying by the British Medical Association.

Sometimes pressure groups also consist of the outsider groups who mostly do not have any links with the ministers; as a result, the bigger interest groups with insider links are probable to be more successful in influencing the decisions of the government than the smaller ones. In India, the popular pressure groups are Business groups like the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Trade Unions like the All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Professional Groups like the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Agrarian Groups like the All India Kisan Sabha, and Student Organisations like the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

Check: Pressure Groups and Movements

Roles of Pressure Groups

The pressure groups perform a major role in modifying the community as a whole by generating political awareness and making the electorate politically aware. They act as a bridge between the electorate and the government by making the government aware of the needs of the governed. The pressure groups give representation to the minority and make their voices heard. They even act as an advisor to the government as and when needed. The presence of the pressure groups makes a democracy rich and viable.

Besides, enhancing the quality of democracy, pressure groups at times are autocratic in nature; they represent the powerful minority who are financially affluent, thereby overshadowing the needs of the vast majority. The methods of resistance used by these groups (strikes, demonstrations, rallies) hinder the movement of the community as a whole. They also pressurize the government at times to implement policies benefitting their own interest, disregarding the interests of the vast majority, this is most commonly observed with regard to the trade unions and the business groups.

Functions of Pressure Groups

Function Description
Influence Public Policy Pressure groups aim to influence government policies and decisions in favor of their interests without directly engaging in the political process.
Advocacy and Lobbying They engage in advocacy and lobbying efforts to persuade policymakers and legislators to consider their viewpoints.
Raise Public Awareness By organizing campaigns and events, they raise awareness about specific issues among the general public.
Represent Interests These groups represent the interests of specific segments of society, ensuring that their voices are heard in the political arena.
Facilitate Dialogue They act as intermediaries, facilitating dialogue between the government and the public on various issues.
Monitor Government Action Pressure groups monitor government actions and policies to ensure they align with the interests of their members or cause.
Promote Civic Engagement They encourage citizen participation in the democratic process, promoting a more engaged and informed society.

Pressure Group Techniques

  1. Electioneering: In this method, they place representatives favoring their issues in prominent public offices.
  2. Lobbying: This method employs convincing public officers to adopt and implement policies that will benefit their Interests.
  3. Propagandizing: This involves influencing public opinion in their favour and pressurising the government to accept their interests, as, in a democracy, public opinion is regarded as the sovereign.
  4. Resorting to legal actions by making appeals to the judiciary.
  5. Campaigning in favour of a particular candidate or opposing any candidate.
  6. Organising protests: The interest groups also organise protests, rallies, campaigns that indirectly exercise pressure on the government and oblige them to consider the demands of the people.
  7. Demonstrating generally occurs outside government offices, Parliament House, Jantar-Mantar, etc. or marching on the streets.
  8. Mass media: In recent years, pressure groups have also taken the help of mass media to present their case before the people and gather public opinion in their favour as public opinion is always an asset in a democracy.

Importance of Pressure Groups

All these methods are employed by protesters to influence the decision of the government in their favor. For instance, in 2011 social activist Anna Hazare sat on a 12-day hunger strike and he wanted a joint committee composed of members of the government and of civil society to make a draft tougher anti-corruption legislation. He was supported by retired IPS officer Kiran Bedi and social reformist Swami Agnivesh. Then the Congress government, however, post the strike passed the Lokpal Bill, and in January 2014, then the President Pranab Mukherjee granted assent to the law.

In the year 2019, a mass protest was observed by the doctors in West Bengal over violence meted out towards the doctors. The doctors refused to attend to patients and boycotted their duties. The Indian Medical Association had also held a country-wide protest on June 18th, 2019. The movement received the support of doctors from all over the world. The protests were finally called off when the security of the doctors was guaranteed by Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, who asked the police to appoint nodal officers at all the government hospitals in the state for the security of the doctors. All their demands were agreed to in the presence of the media. She agreed on punishing the assaulters and also decided on the formation of a grievance redressal unit in all the state-run hospitals. The state government had also taken adequate measures and arrested the assailants.

In a recent instance, we have been witness to the ongoing farmer’s protests against the Farm Bills passed by the legislature which is regarded as the Kala Kanoon (Black Law) by the farmers. This protest has received widespread support from prominent agrarian pressure groups. Besides that, the movement has also been backed by the political power of the Shiv Sena and the Congress party. The movement has also been widely acclaimed by the student organizations of prominent Indian Universities who have resorted to demonstrations and rallies, thereby pressurizing the government to withdraw the law passed.

Check: Difference between Pressure Groups and Political Parties

Pressure Group Representation

  • Acting as a voice for specific interests or societal sectors.
  • Bridging the gap between the government and the governed.

Citizen Participation in Pressure Groups

  • Encouraging individuals to actively engage in political processes.
  • Facilitating volunteer opportunities and activism.

Public Education by Pressure Groups

  • Informing the public on critical issues through workshops, seminars, and online platforms.
  • Distributing research and findings to raise awareness.

Agenda Building by Pressure Groups

  • Highlighting important issues that require government attention.
  • Shaping public and political agendas through strategic campaigns.

Programme Monitoring by Pressure Groups

  • Keeping a watchful eye on government policies and their implementation.
  • Reporting on progress and holding officials accountable.

Political Participation of Pressure Groups

  • Mobilizing members to vote or express opinions on policy matters.
  • Encouraging dialogue between the public and elected officials.

Policy Formation and Implementation

  • Providing expert advice and recommendations to policymakers.
  • Working to ensure policies are effectively implemented and beneficial.

Trade Unions as Pressure Groups

  • Representing workers’ rights and interests in various industries.
  • Negotiating with employers and governments for better conditions.

Environmental Groups as Pressure Groups

  • Advocating for environmental protection and sustainable policies.
  • Organizing conservation efforts and campaigns against pollution.

Grassroots Organizations

  • Mobilizing community action on local and national issues.
  • Empowering citizens at the grassroots level to initiate change.

Human Rights Pressure Groups

  • Fighting for the protection and promotion of universal human rights.
  • Campaigning against human rights abuses and discrimination.

Conclusion

The pressure groups and the movements are essential tools in preserving public opinion in a democracy by ensuring adequate public representation, by acting as an effective check against the arbitrary decision-making of the government.

Pressure Groups – FAQs

What are pressure groups?

Pressure groups are organized collectives of individuals or organizations that work together to influence governmental policies or actions without seeking to become part of the government.

How do pressure groups differ from political parties?

Unlike political parties, which aim to gain power through elections, pressure groups seek to influence government policy and decisions from the outside, without directly seeking governmental positions.

What are the main types of pressure groups?

The main types include interest groups (focused on specific issues or interests), promotional groups (seeking broader societal changes), and sectional groups (representing specific sections of society).

What roles do pressure groups play in democracy?

They act as a bridge between the electorate and the government, advocate for public interests, promote political participation, and ensure that diverse voices are heard in the policymaking process.

How do pressure groups function?

Functions include lobbying government officials, organizing public campaigns, providing expert information and advice to policymakers, and mobilizing public opinion to support their causes.

Can you give examples of successful pressure group campaigns?

While specific examples vary, successful campaigns often involve environmental protection, consumer rights, health policy changes, and social justice issues, demonstrating the ability of pressure groups to effect significant policy changes.

What techniques do pressure groups use to achieve their goals?

Techniques include lobbying, public demonstrations, social media campaigns, legal challenges, and forming alliances with other groups to strengthen their influence.

Why are pressure groups important in a political system?

They are vital for a healthy democracy as they provide a mechanism for the public to influence government outside of elections, ensuring that a wide range of interests and voices are considered in the policymaking process.



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