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Popular Struggles and Movements – Term II

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Below is the video of the first part of the lesson – up to the stories of the struggles in Nepal and Bolivia and below the video is the important concepts of the lesson with audio transcript.

 

 

 

Lesson Summary and Important Questions and Answers

Nepal: How did the events unfold?

A. From monarchy to democracy and back to monarchy.

1. Nepal is a third wave country. It became a democracy in 1990.

2. A constitutional monarchy was established. Birendra was the king.

3. He was killed in 2001 by his own son.

4. Birendra’s brother Gyanendra became the king.

5. The democratically elected government was weak andnot popular among the people.

6. He used this to his advantage; he dismissed the parliament in 2005 and declared himself as the king. Monarchy was back in Nepal.

 

B. Monarchy to Democracy again.

1. In 2006, People revolted against this move of the king.

2. Seven major political parties formed an alliance called the Seven Party Alliance (SPA).

3. The S P A was supported even by the Maoists.

4. Thousands and eventually lakhs of people gathered on the streets of Khatmando demanding restoration of the parliament.

5. On 21st of April about 5 lakhs of people gathered in the capital.

3. The demands of the SPA.

1. Restoration of the parliament.

2. Transfer of power to the all-party alliance.

3. Forming a new constituent assembly.

4. The success.

1. Unable to withstand the pressure, the king agreed to all of the demands.

2. His powers were taken away and an interim government was formed. A new constituent assembly was also formed.

3. This is famous as the Nepal’s second movement for democracy.

 

 

Bolivia.

Background.

1. It’s a small Latin American country.

2. It needed money for developmental activity.

3. It approached the World Bank for loan.

4. The World Bank  agreed to give loan but asked Bolivia to privatise muncipal water supply.

The Effects.

1.  The M N C that got the right, started operating in the city of Cochabamba.

2. The water price was increased four times.

3. The people had to pay around 20% of their income only for water bill.

The Reaction i.e., the struggle.

1. FEDECOR, a public interest group led the struggle.

2. The Socialist party supported the people.

3. In January 2000, an alliance of labours, human right activists and community leaders, with the support of the above, went on a general strike.

4. The government promised to negotiate and the strike was called off. But nothing happened.

5. In February, the people went on strike again. The police brutally supressed the strike.

6. In April, people went on strike again. Martial law was introduced.

7. The people’s power was such that the M N C fled the city.

8. The water supply was restored to the local self-government.

9. This is famous as the Bolivia’s Water War.

Differences and similarities between Nepal and Bolivia.

Similarities:

1. Both these are instances of political conflict that led to popular struggles. In both cases the struggle involved mass mobilisation.

2. Public demonstration of mass support clinched the dispute.

3. Both instances involved critical role of political organisations; if it was S P A in Nepal, it was FEDECOR in Bolivia.

Differences:

1.  The movement in Nepal was to establish democracy, while the struggle in Bolivia involved claims on an elected, democratic government.

2. The popular struggle in Bolivia was about one specific policy, while the struggle in Nepal was about the foundations of the country’s politics.
3. Both these struggles were successful but their impact was at different levels. It was felt at the local level in Bolivia. The democratically elected government was forced to change the policy. The impact felt in Nepal was at the national level. It changed the very way the country was governed.

 

How does democracy evolve through popular struggles?

1. It is possible that some significant decisions may take place through consensus and may not involve any conflict at all.

2. Defining moments of democracy usually involve conflict between those groups who have exercised power and those who aspire for a share in power. For example, the conflict in Nepal was between Monarchy and Democracy.

3. These moments come when the country is going through transition to democracy, expansion of democracy or deepening of democracy. This is evident with the case of Nepal and Bolivia. There was conflict in Nepal because it faced the foundational challenge. Bolivia on the other hand faced the challenge of expansion and deepening.

 

Differences between Movements and Pressure groups.

1. Movements have loose organisation while pressure groups are fully organised.

2. Generally pressure groups are guided by organisations but this is not so common in movement groups.

3. The decision making in pressure groups is more formal and rigid, while in the movement groups it is more informal and flexible.

4. Lastly movement groups depend much more on spontaneous mass participation than a pressure group.

 

Differences between single issue and long term movements

Issue Specific Movements

1. Issue specific movements are related to only a single issue.

2. They are short lived and have a clear organisation and leadership.

For e.g. .Nepalese movement and Narmada Bachao Andolan

Long term Movements

1. Long term movements are related to general issues like environmental protection, anti-liquor movement etc.

2.  They have a broad goal and are actively long. They can last for generations. For example, women’s movement for equality.

3. They can be very flexible. For example, The Narmada Bachao Movement was started to prevent construction of dams across the Narmada. Now it questions economic development that requires construction of dams.

Differences between political parties and pressure groups

1. Pressure groups do not enjoy power directly, whereas the political parties do.

2. Pressure groups usually represent a particular section or view of the society; on the other hand, political parties represent bigger social divisions.

3. Pressure groups do not contest elections, whereas political parties contest elections and run the government.

4. At a given point of time, a person can be a member of only one political party but a member of many pressure groups.

5. Examples of pressure groups are Lawyers Association, Teachers ‘Association, Trade Unions, Students ‘Unions  and so on.

6. Examples of political parties are BJP, INC, NCP etc.

 

Differences between sectional interest groups and public interest groups

Sectional Interest Groups:

1. They promote selective good rather than collective good.

2. They work for the benefit of the members of the group. They are not much concerned about the society at large.

3. Examples of Sectional Interest Groups are Lawyers Association, Teachers ‘Association, Trade Unions, Students ‘Unions  and so on.

Public Interest Groups:

1. They promote collective good rather than selective good.

2. They work for the benefit of the society. The members may not be benefited by their work.  E.g., An N G O that fights against the bonded labour.

3. As in case of B A M C E F, sometimes both the members and society can benefit.

How do pressure groups and movements influence politics

• They try to gain public support and sympathy for their goals and their activity by carrying out information campaigns, organising meetings, file petitions, etc. Most of these groups try to influence the media into giving more attention to these issues.

• They often organise protest activity like strikes or disrupting government programmes. Workers’ organisations, employees’ associations and most of the movement groups often resort to these tactics in order to force the government to take note of their demand.

• Business groups often employ professional lobbyists or sponsor expensive advertisements. Some persons from pressure groups or movement groups may participate in official bodies and committees that offer advice to the government.

 

Relationship between Pressure groups and Political Parties

• While interest groups and movements do not directly engage in party politics, they seek to exert influence on political parties. Most of the movement groups take a political stance without being a party. They have political ideology and political position on major issues. The relationship between political parties and pressure groups can take different forms, some direct and others very indirect.

• In some instances the pressure groups are either formed or led by the leaders of political parties or act as extended arms of political parties. For example, most trade unions and students’ organisations in India are either established by or affiliated to one or the other major political party. Most of the leaders of such pressure groups are usually activists and leaders of party.

• Sometimes political parties grow out of movements. For example, when the Assam movement led by students against the ‘foreigners’ came to an end, it led to the formation of the Asom Gana Parishad. The roots of parties like the DMK and the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu can be traced to a long drawn social reform movement during the 1930 and 1940s.

• In most cases the relationship between parties and interest or movement groups is not so direct. They often take positions that are opposed to each other. Yet they are in dialogue and negotiation. Movement groups have raised new issues that have been taken up by political parties. Most of the new leadership of political parties comes from interest or movement groups.

 

Is pressure groups influencing politics healthy?

Why is it not healthy?

1. A democracy must look after the interests of all, not just one section.

2. These groups wield power without responsibility.

3. Political parties have to face the people in elections, but these groups are not accountable to the people.

4. Pressure groups and Movements may not get support and funds from the people, but, Sometimes, pressure groups with small public support but lots of money can hijack public discussion in favour of their narrow agenda.

Why is it healthy?

1. Putting pressure on the rulers is not an unhealthy activity in a democracy as long as everyone gets this opportunity.

2. Governments can often come under undue pressure from a small group of rich and powerful people. Public interest groups and movements perform a useful role of countering this undue influence and reminding the government of the needs and concerns of ordinary citizens.

3. Where different groups function actively, no one single group can achieve dominance over society. If one group brings pressure on government to make policies in its favour, another will bring counter pressure not to make policies in the way the first group desires. The government gets to hear about what different sections of the population want. This leads to a rough balance of power and accommodation of conflicting interests.

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