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

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

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".

Mahanadi delta: Aggressive construction in flood plains, reduced fish stock, pollution

By Sudhansu R Das  Frequent natural calamities, unemployment, low farmers’ income, increase in crime rate and lack of quality human resources to strike a balance between growth and environment etc. continue to haunt the state. The state should delve into the root causes of poverty, unemployment and natural calamities.