Skip to main content

India "slides" in liberal democracy index after Modi came to power: EU-assisted report

By Rajiv Shah
Even as India goes to polls, a recent European Union-assisted Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) report, claiming to provide "new ways to study the nature, causes, and consequences of democracy embracing its multiple meanings", has raised the alarm that "freedom of expression, media, and civil society are under threat", especially in "key countries, such as Brazil, India, Poland, Russia, Turkey, and the United States."
Noting that "autocratization is now manifesting in a number of large countries, including Brazil, India, Russia, Turkey, and the United States", the report ranks 178 countries across the globe for its liberal democracy index (LDI) to say that "the recent significant declines in liberal democracy in India and the United States alone have affected some 1.6 billion people, while less than 1 million people benefited from the improvements in Bhutan and Vanuatu."
The 2018 report ranks India's DLI at 81, down from 78 a year earlier. Among the neighbours, while Pakistan and Bangladesh rank worse than India, 109 and 135 respectively, three other neighbours rank better -- Bhutan 62, Nepal 70 and Sri Lanka 75.
If small European countries are best performers (Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Switzerland and Denmark), among other major countries, Australia ranks 8, Germany 14, UK 16, Canada 20, Japan 25, USA 31, Israel 53, Brazil 56, China 167, and worst is North Korea,178.
Asserting that "during the last two years, there is a striking rise in the share of the world’s population living in countries backsliding on democracy", the report says that the countries that are part of a global autocratization trend include India, the United States, Brazil, Russia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Turkey, Thailand, Ukraine and Poland." 
Pointing out that the world’s most populous democracies – the United States and India – have joined other democracies that "registered as backsliders" during the preceding year, such as Brazil, Hungary, Poland, and Suriname, the report insists, "The pattern of backsliding in the most populous democracy – India – exemplifies this trend."
According to the report, "In India, the infringements on media freedom and the civil society activities of democracy following the election of a Hindu-nationalist government have started to undermine the longest-standing and most populous democracy in the Global South", even though "the main indicators of the core electoral aspects of democracy do not show significant decline."
The report wonders, "It remains to be seen if this trend will be reversed in the coming years or if India will descend further into the authoritarian regime spectrum – as during their authoritarian interlude from 1975-77."
According to the report, "The most populous democracy in the world, India, is at risk. Its level of democracy has declined significantly over the last decade. The disquieting trend particularly concerns freedom of speech and alternative sources of information, civil society, the rule of law, and some electoral aspects."
Underlining that "much of these changes have taken place after the Bharatiya Janata Party won the parliamentary elections in 2014 and its leader, the current prime minister, Narendra Modi, assumed office", the report describes him as "a hard-line Hindu nationalist".
Providing a 10-year comparison, the report says, multiple indicators in the V-Dem liberal democracy index show that "only one indicator – for the quality of the voters’ registry – has improved... All others have either stayed the same or declined over the last ten years, and the latter include no fewer than 19 indicators."
The report believes, "While there are about 12,000 newspapers circulating in India today, the media is increasingly being censored. Several newly introduced or more harshly enforced laws hinder free speech and encourage censorship. For example, India’s law on defamation contains prison sentences of up to two years and is used to silence critical journalists at an increasing rate."
"Moreover", it says, "Sedition laws that were upheld by the courts in 2016 even allow harsh punishment of people accused of inciting 'dissatisfaction' – disloyalty and all feelings on enmity – towards the government. Its existence serves as a deterrent and encourages self-censorship."
It continues, "Harassment of journalists is also on the rise. Many journalists have been murdered or threatened for reporting critically on the actions of the ruling party. Three journalists were killed in march 2018 alone."
'For example", the report says, "Editor Gauri Lankesh, who was a known feminist and critic of the caste system as well as of the Hindu nationalists, was shot dead in September 2017. A hardline Hindu nationalist was arrested in connection to her murder but no sentence has been handed down." It adds, "The sharp decline in the V-Dem indicators on freedom of expression − in particular self-censorship and media harassment − refect the increasingly adverse environment for members of the media."
Coming to civil society, the report says, "The autocratization-process in India has also led to a partial closing of the space for civil society. The government increasingly restricts the entry and exit of civil society organizations by using a law on foreign funding for NGOs, the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA). As of 2017, 20,000 CSOs – mainly working on human rights and environmental issues – have lost their licenses. After that only 13,000 CSOs remain to continue working unconstrained."
The report also notes, "Three UN special rapporteurs have urged prime minister Modi to repeal the FCRA, claiming it is progressively used more to 'silence organisations involved in advocating civil, political, economic, social, environmental or cultural priorities, which may differ from those backed by the government'.
Observing a "noticeably large drop in the V-Dem indicators on the ease of entry and exit, and the level of repression of civil society organizations in India", the report says, this suggests that "law enforcement is gradually becoming less predictable, and that the state fails to effectively protect its citizens from politically motivated killings."
Even though pointing out that "elections in Asia’s oldest democracy have remained free and fair and open to multi-party competition", the report says, "Nevertheless, several indictors capturing how clean elections are, have declined. In particular, intimidation and violence have increased at polling stations."
Thus, "Party agents intimidate, harass and bribe voters, in effect preventing them from casting their votes freely. electoral violence includes deadly attacks against polling officials and voters on their way to polling stations."
---
Download full report HERE

Comments

Anonymous said…
When the Prime Minister of the country is unable to check the atrocious statements made by party members (the latest being the remark made by Pragnya), then there is little hope for improvement in the situation.

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Labelling a Jesuit a Marxist? It's like saying if you use a plane, you become American

Jesuits: Cedric Prakash, Stan Swamy By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* A thirteen- fourteen-year-old has many dreams! That's an impressionable age; at the cusp of finishing school. It is also a time when one tastes a different kind of freedom: to go for camps with boys of your own age (not with ones family). Such camps and outings were always enjoyed to the hilt. The ones, however, which still remain etched in my memory are the mission camps to the Jesuit missions in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Did Modi promote Dholavira, a UNESCO site now, as Gujarat CM? Facts don't tally

By Rajiv Shah  As would generally happen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet – that not only was he “absolutely delighted” with the news of UNESCO tag to Dholavira, but he “ first visited ” the site during his “student days and was mesmerised by the place” – is being doubted by his detractors. None of the two tweets, strangely, even recalls once that it’s a Harappan site in Gujarat.

Giant conglomerates 'favoured': Whither tribal rights for jal-jungle-jameen?

Prafull Samantara By Mohammad Irshad Ansari*  The struggle for “Jal, Jungle and Jameen” has been a long-drawn battle for the tribal communities of India. This tussle was once again in the limelight with the proposed diamond mining in the Buxwaha forest of Chhatarpur (Madhya Pradesh). The only difference in this movement was the massive social media support it gained, which actually seems to tilt the scale for the tribal people in a long time.

If not Modi, then who? Why? I (an ordinary citizen) am there! Main hoon naa!

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The number of women ministers is doubled in early July from the first term after cabinet reshuffle by the present government led by Narendra Modi. While there were 06 women ministers in the previous term, this term there are 11. The previous two governments led by Dr Manmohan Singh had 10 women ministers in each tenure. Are these number of women ministers something to rejoice in the near 75 years of independence? Yes maybe, if we think that things are slowly improving in the patriarchal system. This change is less likely to achieve gender balance in the parliament otherwise we require more than 11 as per the 33% reservation . This change is also less likely because the men politicians’ inability to handle the country’s mess is becoming more and more evident and especially during the corona crisis. Seems, the addition of more women ministers may be a result of the recent assembly elections where women played a decisive role in the election results. For example

Tussle between Modi-led BJP govt, Young India 'key to political battle': NAPM

Counterview Desk  In its month-long campaign, civil rights network National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM) carried out what it called Young People's Political Persecution and Resistance in “solidarity with all comrades facing political persecution and remembering human rights defender Stan Swamy…”

Gujarat govt gender insensitive? Cyclone package for fisherfolk 'ignores' poor women

By Our Representative A memorandum submitted to the Gujarat government by various fisherfolk associations of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat under the leadership of Ahmedabad NGO Centre for Social Justice's senior activist Arvind Khuman, who is based in Amreli, has suggested that the relief package offered to the fishermen affected by the Tauktae cyclone is not only inadequate, it is also gender insensitive.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Debt bondage, forced labour, sexual abuse in Gujarat's Bt cottonseed farms: Dutch study

By Rajiv Shah  A just-released study, sponsored by a Netherlands-based non-profit, Arisa , “Seeds of Oppression Wage sharecropping in Bt cottonseed production in Gujarat, India”, has said that a new form of bondage, or forced labour, exists in North India’s Bt cottonseed farms, in which bhagiyas, or wage sharecroppers, are employed against advances and are then often required to work for years together “without regular payment of wages.”

Covid: We failed to stop religious, political events, admits Modi-dharmacharya meet

Counterview Desk An email alert sent by one the 11 participants, Prof Salim Engineer, on behalf of the Dharmik Jan Morcha regarding their "religious leaders' online meet" with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, even as offering "support to meet challenges of Corona pandemic", blames religious congregations, though without naming the Maha Kumbh and other religious events, which apparently were instrumental in the spread of the second wave.