Democracy Index: A dangerous slip

Democracy Index: A dangerous slip

The report evaluated countries on the basis of five parameters — electoral process and pluralism, the functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties.

India’s slipping by 10 places in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2019 Democracy Index is not unexpected in view of the many actions and decisions of the Narendra Modi government in the past few months which were violative of democracy’s basic norms and principles. Leaders of the government and the ruling party and their associates and supporters have also promoted an ethos which is patently anti-democratic. The downgrading is not a stray censure, nor a motivated action by a foreign agency, there is a rising view all over the world that India’s democracy is sliding and authoritarianism is gaining ground. Some have cited the stoking of aggressive nationalism, others the rise of a majoritarian ideology and yet others have called Modi himself the source of the threat. These are not separate causes but are interlinked and have to be seen together to understand the situation that prevails now, and which is deteriorating.  

The report cites the erosion of civil liberties in the country as the main reason for the decline of democracy. It has expressed concern over the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act, the proposal for the controversial National Register of Citizens and the situation in Kashmir where politicians are under arrest and communications facilities shut down for months. India has always been in the ‘flawed democracy’ group in the report, but this time, it has given the country the lowest score since the launch of the index in 2006 – 6.9 out of 10. 

The report evaluated countries on the basis of five parameters — electoral process and pluralism, the functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties. There is, in fact, no need to go to a survey to know that these and other essential features of democracy have suffered serious harm in the country. When peaceful protesters are not listened to and shot dead and those who oppose the government are told to go to other countries, the weakening of democracy is obvious. It also gets weakened when institutions that ensure checks and balances in the system are pressured and diminished. It is in danger when the equality of all citizens is not recognised and divisiveness, instead of unity of all people, is promoted in government policies and political practice. The Republic Day was an occasion to ponder over the threat to the ideals and values of the Constitution, which was highlighted by the report. It’s not just the EIU and its Democracy Index, but those who have been reading the Preamble of the Constitution and waving it in public in the past few weeks have also tried to convey this message to the nation and to those in power.

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