The country of Nepal experienced a major and extraordinary movement for democracy in the year 2006. Democracy was originally established in Nepal in 1990. And the then ruler of Nepal, King Birendra readily accepted the democratic system of government. However, the entire royal family was mysteriously massacred in 2001and King Gyanendra took over. He, on the other hand, was not very accommodating to the idea of democracy. Asa result, he dismissed the then Prime Minister and dissolved the Parliament. This enraged the masses of the country and led to a massive movement by them to demand the restoration of democratic rule in Nepal.
POPULAR STRUGGLES IN NEPAL AND BOLIVIA
The movement for democracy in Nepal
All the major political parties came together to form a Seven Party Alliance. They started a four-day strike in Kathmandu which soon turned into an indefinite one after the joining of Maoists and other organizations. The number of protestors had risen to about 3-5 lakh by April 21, 2006. They demanded the restoration of Parliament, power to an all-party government, and a new constituent assembly.
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On April 24, 2006, the King succumbed to the demands of the masses. The SPA chose Girija Prasad Koirala as the Prime Minister of the interim government.
Bolivia’s Water War
Bolivia is a small, developing country in Latin America. The Water Bank coerced the government of Bolivia to give up its control of the municipal water supply. The government sold these rights to a multinational company for the city of Cochabamba. The MNC, soon after gaining control, increased the price of water by four times. This resulted in a spontaneous popular protest.
The labor, human rights activists, and community leaders formed a new alliance called FEDECOR in January 2000. They organized a successful four-day strike and the government agreed to negotiate. However, nothing happened.
People planned another strike in February which was brutally repressed by the police. Then a strike started again in April. Things got out of control and the MNC officials were driven out of the city. The government had no choice but to accept the demands of the people. The contract with MNC was canceled and the municipality restored the water supply at the old cheaper rates.
MOBILISATION AND ORGANIZATIONS
We notice that the one common factor behind the success of these struggles and movements is the support of the prominent organizations of that country. This makes us believe that the involvement of such organizations is crucial to the success of these movements. Let us recall some previous instances to prove this.
- The Seven Party Alliance (SPA) which included all the major political parties of Nepal, led the entire movement for democracy. They organized a successful four-day strike.
- Later, the involvement of the Nepalese Communist Party (Maoists) turned it into an indefinite strike.
- Other than that, the number of protesters increased to become about 5 lakhs by the end. These protestors included teachers, lawyers, indigenous people, and human rights activists.
- The organization called FEDECOR led the famous Water War in Bolivia. It included the local professionals. Farmers. Environmentalists. Factory workers. Students. And homeless street children.
- The Socialist Party in Bolivia also supported this movement.
All such organizations that come together and aim at influencing the government and its policies are called pressure groups or interest groups. These groups consist of people with the same interests, occupations, aspirations, or opinions, who come together to work towards the same objective.
PRESSURE GROUPS AND MOVEMENTS
Sectional Interest Groups
These are the type of groups that include people of a particular section, or a group of society, such as workers, businessmen, employees, industrialists, followers of a religion, caste, group, etc. who work for the benefit and betterment of their section and to promote their interests? Traders Union and Business associations, professional bodies, etc. are some examples of such groups.
Public Interest Groups
The other type of organizations come together to support and promote common, general causes for the betterment of society as a whole, instead of their interests. Such organizations came to be known as promotional groups or public interest groups. FEDECOR in the Bolivian Water War was one such organization.
As in the case of interest groups, the groups involved with movements also include a very wide variety. A majority of these movements are issue-specific i.e., they work on a single issue within a limited frame of time. While the others are more general kinds of movements that aim at a broader set of goals over a longer time frame. The Environmental Movement and the women’s movement are examples of such movements. There is no single organization or group that leads or guides these movements
The influence of Pressure Groups on Politics
These pressure groups influence politics and the governments by undertaking various tactics.
- They try to gain public support and sympathy through various information campaigns, meetings, filing petitions, etc. to achieve their goals. Also, they aimed at influencing the media to direct more attention toward their cause and interest.
- They organize and carry out numerous protest activities and strikes to involve the masses.
Business associations invest in expensive advertisements and professional lobbyists to spread maximum awareness about their goals
Is their influence healthy?
Majorly, the influence of these pressure groups has proven to be healthy and helpful in protecting the interests of the people. These movements serve as constant reminders to the governments about the needs and concerns of the citizens and also sensitize the government to the demands of different sections of society. And thus, deepen and strengthen the democracy of a country.
However, sometimes, these groups can have a personal agenda to serve and may abuse public emotions and decisions in their favor with money. They exercise power without responsibility. However, a single group cannot achieve dominance over society.