On January 22nd 2020, the Economists Intelligence Unit (EIU), a U.K. based company published its report on the ‘Democracy Index’ which highlighted that India has dropped down from its earlier position to 51st rank. Many theorists and analysts presented distinctive reasons for such a fall for India. However, the primary reason remained the intact and undervalued position of civil liberties which has grown recently. Before, looking at why India couldn’t retain its position, it is important to first outline the factors of relevance for determining and measuring the ‘State of democracy’ of more than 165 countries in the world.
EIU has been taking the initiative under the Research and Analysis division of the Economist Group to analyze the state of sovereign and UN member countries for more than a decade. It first published its report in 2006. EIU uses 60 indicators as factors for determining the position of a country. These 60 indicators in the form of the questionnaire are categorized into five broad categories such as the Electoral process and pluralism, functioning of the government, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties. The Democracy Index apart from ranking the countries numerically also recognizes them into four different regimes such as full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes, and authoritarian regimes. Such segmentation into broad categories determines the status of a nation in the context of its form of government and more specifically its democratic identity in the world. The recent report titled “A year of democratic setbacks and popular protests” identifies how the democratic systems around the world have faced a setback in maintaining their claimed style of governance.
Coming back to analyzing India’s position at the recent Democratic Index, it can be said that India has slipped 10 positions below from its earlier rank. Considered as one of the most powerful and largest democracies in the world, the rank attained by India in the Democratic Index however tells a different story. The primary cause for such a democratic regression, as reported by The Hindu as per the Democratic Index, 2019 was “degradation of the Civil Liberties”.
Out of 10, India scored 8.67 in Electoral process and pluralism whereas 6.76 in Civil Liberties. While the Constitution of India explicitly recognizes and guarantees fundamental rights and liberties to the citizens, it is indeed a difficult and complex task to attain the same. ‘Civil Liberty’ is considered one of the most important aspects of a democratic nation because it is that essential element that gives its citizens the rights and freedom of the common good of the community. It enables citizens to exercise the freedom of speech and expression, hold dissent, freedom of religion, the right to vote, and other civil rights. Considering the regime of the Modi government, it has been claimed by different analysts that the freedom of speech and expression, particularly to invoice one’s dissent opinion in matters of governmental issues has been eroded significantly.
A ‘Flawed democratic’ nation is one which though conducts free and fair elections and guarantees civil liberties to its citizens but fails in ensuring media freedom, freedom of criticism and dissent, developed political culture, and a good level of political participation. India has been included in the category of ‘flawed democracy’ by EIU’s survey report, the reasons for which can be cited from the recent incidents such as restricting Internet access in Jammu & Kashmir, repealing Article 370 and 35 A of the Indian Constitution, countrywide protest by the citizens after over the CAA bill, religious unrest, etc. This is evident from the grade allotted to the country in the category of ‘Government functioning’ and ‘Political participation’ which is 6.79 and 6.67 respectively.
However, if we look from a different perspective, India has made a standpoint to scrape off some discriminating laws that were considered gender biased and oppressive, like the law on Homosexuaity, Adultery, Triple Talak, Rights on a daughter in her fathers property (irrespective of whether her father is living or not after 2005), etc. India, no doubt has faced turmoil due to the government's contentious decisions, but it has gone a long way to cure the discriminative and subjugating policies and laws.
India stands at a position which offers it an opportunity to go a long way and achieve higher positions. It is the cultural and political distinctiveness that grants India a unique identity in the world’s sphere. The rules of governance and principles of grundnorm i.e. the Indian Constitution which India follows has resulted in identifying itself as one of the greatest democracies in the world. However, the need is to realize these principles in its truest form.