Skip to main content

Ex-babus on India's poor rankings: Hard won democratic rights, life, liberty 'at stake'

Counterview Desk

The Constitutional Conduct Group (CCD), representing "concerned" former civil servants of the All India and Central services, has alleged that India’s plummetting rank in key global indices "amounts to violation of Constitutional provisions", regretting, Government of India, instead of expressing concern at the decline and attempting to stop the deterioration, "has been more concerned with attacking the reports and surveys and stating that they are wrong or deliberately misleading."
Signed by about 90 ex-officials, and claiming that it is not affiliated with any political party "but believe in impartiality, neutrality and commitment to the Constitution of India", the CCD's open statement said, "Hunger and malnutrition stalk the land. Moreover, democracy, freedom of speech, the right to protest and secularism, all basic features of the Indian Constitution, are in grave danger. There has to be a vigorous push back."

Text:

India’s rank in the list of countries in the world across different indices has been slipping and that is a matter of enormous concern. Not only because the rankings, when taken cumulatively, show that the socio-economic situation in India has been steadily deteriorating, but also because the very things that make India an important democracy are slowly getting extinguished.
Sadly, the Government of India (GoI), instead of expressing concern at such a decline and attempting to stop the deterioration, has been more concerned with attacking the reports and surveys and stating that they are wrong or deliberately misleading.
The latest such report showing a fall in India’s ranking among countries is the Global Hunger Index, 2021. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is prepared by European NGOs of Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe and measures and compares hunger in different countries of the world.
According to earlier reports of the GHI, India had ranked 55 in 2015, but slipped to 94 in 2020 with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, all doing better than us. Even worse is the fact that, in 2021, in the course of a year, we have gone from rank 94 to rank 101, with only 15 countries ranking lower.
The GHI measures hunger through four indicators, viz. undernourishment (i.e. the share of population whose caloric intake is insufficient), the percentage of wasting of children under 5 (i.e. children who have low weight for their height), the percentage of stunting for children (i.e. those children whose height is low for their age) as also the mortality rate for children under 5 years of age.
While the index may have some limitations, the argument by the GoI that it is “devoid of ground reality” and is based on “unscientific methodology” is misplaced. Government’s own data from the National Family Health Survey, the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy and from academic studies broadly confirm the statistics which are contested by the GoI.
Several other reports which rank the different countries of the world also do not show India in a very happy light. The Human Development Report of the UNDP measures three basic scales of human development: education, life expectancy and per capita income and ranks countries on that basis.
The Human Development Index of 2020 shows India at rank 131 out of 189 countries, having slipped two spots from 2018. In fact, there has been practically no improvement since 2014, when, too, India ranked at 131.
As regards the status of women, the 2021 Global Gender Gap Report placed India at the dismal rank of 140, a drop of 28 spots, much below the 65th rank that Bangladesh is at.
Moreover, the child sex ratio has fallen from 983 girls per 1000 boys in 1951 to 899 per 1000 in 2018, underlining the strong and pervasive male child preference in Indian society.
The World Happiness Report which is brought out by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network measures subjective wellbeing by relying on life evaluations, positive emotions and negative emotions. The World Happines Report of 2020 also places India very low.
It ranks India at 139 out of 149 countries. As per this report Pakistan is a happier country than India standing at rank 105. The ten countries behind India in 2020 are Burundi, Yemen, Tanzania, Haiti, Malawi, Lesotho, Botswana, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan.
The March 2020, ‘Democracy Report’ of the widely respected V-Dem Institute in Sweden noted the increasing challenges for the media, civil society and the opposition to function freely under the current regime and observed that “India has continued on a path of steep decline, to the extent it has almost lost its status as a democracy.”
Govt of  India sidestepped discussion in Parliament on Democracy Index on the grounds that the issue was trivial and too sensitive
In an unflattering grouping of India with Hungary, Poland and Brazil, the report argues that the “first steps of autocratisation involve eliminating media freedom and curtailing civil society.” The report could not have been more explicit when it says: “…the dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India (is) associated with the current Hindu- nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi”.
Dem Institute is not alone in its assessment. The Democracy Index of the Economist Intelligence Unit noted a precipitous decline in India’s position, which fell by 26 places from rank 27 out of 167 countries in 2014 to rank 53 in 2020. The United States Commission for International Religious Freedom flagged India as one of 15 “countries of particular concern” for the treatment of its minorities and has continued that label for this year as well.
Finally, in the judgement of Freedom House, an NGO based in the US, India was described as “partly free”, downgraded from an earlier characterization as “free” and more specifically, Jammu and Kashmir was downgraded from being “partly free” to “not free”.
The GoI sidestepped a discussion in Parliament on the Democracy Index’s findings on the grounds that the issue was both trivial and also too sensitive. It dismissed the allegations of the US Commission for International Religious Freedom as “biased and untrue”, and brushed aside Freedom House’s political judgements as “inaccurate and distorted”.
India has become known internationally for criminalizing dissent and using laws relating to sedition and terrorism against those activists, media persons and opposition politicians who stand up against the ruling dispensation. Human rights violations continue apace and constitutional institutions like the Election Commission and the judiciary are undermined and eviscerated by all manner of means including the lure of post-retirement sinecures, intimidation and threats.
India has not done well with respect to levels of education, life expectancy, the status of girls/women and per capita income. Hunger and malnutrition stalk the land. Moreover, democracy, freedom of speech, the right to protest and secularism, all basic features of the Indian Constitution, are in grave danger. There has to be a vigorous push back.
These challenges have to be met head on by a vigilant civil society, the media, political opposition, people’s movements and revitalized Constitutional institutions like the Election Commission and the judiciary. What is at stake is no less than the life and liberty of the poor and the disadvantaged and the hard won rights of the people of India under the Constitution.

Comments

TRENDING

Whither Govt of India strategy to reduce import dependence on crude oil, natural gas?

By NS Venkataraman*  India presently imports around 80% of it’s crude oil requirement and around 50% of its natural gas requirements . As the domestic production of crude oil and natural gas are virtually stagnant and the domestic demand is increasing at around 7% per annum, India’s steadily increasing dependence on import of the vital energy source is a matter of high energy security concern. This is particularly so, since the price of crude oil and natural gas are considerably fluctuating / increasing in the global market due to geo political factors, which are beyond the control of India. India has promised to achieve zero emission by the year 2070, which mean that the level of emission has to start declining at slow and steady rate from now onwards. It is now well recognized that global emission is caused largely due to use of coal as fuel and natural gas as fuel and feedstock. While burning of coal as fuel cause emission of global warming carbon dioxide gas and sulphur

'Massive concern for people': Modi seeking to turn India into global manufacturing hub

By Shankar Sharma*  The news item quoting Narendra Modi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet, "Want to turn India into a manufacturing hub: PM Modi at SCO Summit" should be of massive concern to our people. One can only continue to be shocked by such policies, which can be termed as ill-conceived to say the least. Without objectively considering the environmental and social impacts on our communities in the medium to long term, such policies will also result in massive economic impacts because a lack of environmental and social perspective cannot be economically attractive either. In order to become the global manufacturing hub, India will have to meet an enormous demand for energy of various kinds, and in order to meet this much energy demand the economy has to manufacture enormous number of appliances/ gadgets/ machineries (to generate and distribute commercial forms of energy such as coal, nuclear, gas, hydro, and renewable energy (RE) sources such as so

Denying dissent democratic space in Gujarat: 'sad narrative of eroding ethical values'

By Sandeep Pandey*  A padyatra (foot march) was to be taken out between 26 September and 4 October, 2022 from Randhikpur village in Dahod district of Gujarat to Ahmedabad to apologise to Bilkis Bano. Randhikpur is Bilkis Bano’s village. In 2002 Gujarat communal violence she was gang raped, her 3 years old daughter, another child in womb and a total of 14 family members were killed. 11 people were convicted and sentenced for life in 2008. However, on 15 August, 2022 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a speech from Red Fort appealing to people to change their attitude towards women and treat them with respect, a district level committee of Panchmahal decided to release the 11 rapists and murderers. A Bhartiya Janata Party leader described four of these criminals as virtuous Brahmins. Before the padyatra could begin from Randhikpur, on 25 September night, 7 activists were picked up from Godhra corporator Hanif Kalandar’s house where they had gone for d

Pesticide companies' lobbying 'seriously impairing' basics of governance, regulation

Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi*  The Indian agricultural sector is grappling with low incomes, shortage of natural resources, increasing pest incidence and low public investments in research and extension. Pest attacks are increasing. Previously unknown pests are attacking crops. Farmers, indebted as they are due to various market mechanisms, are finding it hard to protect their crop investments. Thus, farmers are pushed into the conundrum of pesticide usage by pesticide markets and companies. Pesticide usage in India is increasingly becoming a regulatory problem. Regulation has not been effective in the face of such challenges. Scientific expertise on pesticides is often subsumed in the policy tradeoffs that, in the ultimate scenario, encourage production and marketing of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs). Expert Committee reports, which are recommending withdrawal of certain HHPs, are not being acted upon. Lobbying by pesticide companies has seriously impaired the basics of governance an

Kerala health bill public hearing? Here the minister 'ensured' cameras were turned off

By Our Representative  On Friday, September 30, 2022, about 100 members of the general public gathered at the conference room of the collectorate at Ernakulam, Kerala, to express their apprehensions about the Kerala Public Health Bill, 2021, which the state assembly referred to a 15-member select committee chaired by state health and family welfare minister, Veena George. Minister Veena George asserted at the outset that this was a sitting of the select committee, and all cameras would need to be turned off. Advocate PA Pouran, general secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties in Kerala, stood up in protest, arguing that the meeting was a public hearing and should ideally be televised to reach vast numbers of people. Other members of the audience protested too, but the minister insisted that the gathering was part of a sitting of the select committee.  “Why then did you invite all of us?” protested George Mathew, who had arrived from Aluva and earlier served as a member of t

How Gandhian values have become 'casualty' in India under majoritarian BJP rule

By Sandeep Pandey*  A Muslim youth was beaten recently when he tried to witness the famous garba performance during the Hindu religious nine days festival of Navratri in Gujarat. There was a time when Muslims could easily participate in Garbha events in an atmosphere of cordiality. Bilkis Bano was gang raped in 2002 Gujarat communal violence, her 3 years old daughter, the child in womb and a total of 14 family members were killed. 11 accused were awarded life term. However, recently a District level committee has decided to release all the culprits. A ruling Bhartiya Janata Party leader has described some of these criminals as virtuous Brahmins, the highest among the Hindu hierarchical caste system. In a communally polarized Gujarat today most Muslims feel offended by the decision of the government and BJP supporters either justify the release of rapists and murderers or just ignore the ignominious decision. Mahatma Gandhi came from the Guj

GoI 'feeling threatened' by forces which can potentially fight 'Brahmanical fascism'

Counterview Desk  A network of civil rights and people’s organisations , Campaign Against State Repression (CASR)*, has characterised the recently-imposed ban on Popular Front of India (PFI), National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations (NCHRO) and other organisations as “Brahmanical Hindutva fascist” move of the Government of India (GoI), calling it “onslaught on democratic dissent”. In a statement, CASR said, the move is aimed at terrorizing and vilifying the Muslim community, adding, at the same time, the GoI is curbing any protest and demonstration against the “fascist diktat of ban”, with peoplebeing “detained and arrested.” It added, “This kind of attack on right to oppose or criticize any step of government should be conceived as an attack on the very democratic values of the people.” Text : On 28 September 2022, Central Government led by BJP-RSS banned the Popular Front of India, National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations, Campus Front of India, National Wom

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

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".

Paradox? Heavy military deployment has had 'tangible success' in enhancing J&K security

By Katarzyna Rybarczyk*  An ethnically diverse Himalayan region of Kashmir has been a subject of a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan since the partition in 1947. Despite both countries claiming full control over the region’s entirety, Kashmir is divided between them, into an Indian-administered part and a Pakistan-administered part. For the last three decades, Indian-controlled Kashmir has been characterised by unrest due to a separatist insurgency opposing the Indian rule. Although India’s fragile relationship with Kashmir is not a new issue, tensions intensified when in 2019 India revoked Article 370, depriving the region of its special status and a certain degree of autonomy attributed to it. Article 370 allowed Kashmir to have its own constitution and to make decisions regarding property ownership and permanent residency. As a result, Indians from other parts of the country were not able to purchase property and settle in Kashmir. Scrapping Kashmir’s special status me