India has ranked 53 out of 167 jurisdictions in the Democracy Index, 2020, released by the Economist Intelligence Unit [EIU]. India has scored 6.61 out of a possible 10, maintaining its classification as a 'flawed democracy'.
This is two spots lower than the the 2019 edition (that is, pertaining to the year 2019) when India was ranked 51. In 2019, India had seen a steep fall - 10 places from 2018 - and scoring 6.9 out of a possible 10. Also while in 2019, India scored 6.74 on 10 on 'civil liberties' - one of the five categories used to arrive at the index - the country has sunk to 5.59 this year.
The downward trajectory in terms of rank and score began since 2015, when India scored 7.92 (in 2014) and ranked 27. The white paper of the index attributes this fall to the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In India, democratic norms have been under pressure since 2015. India's score fell from a peak of 7.92 in 2014 to 6.61 in 2020 and its global ranking slipped from 27th to 53rd as a result of democratic backsliding under the leadership of Narendra Modi, a member of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who became prime minister in 2014 and was re-elected for a second term in 2019.
While India's score fell, its neighbours' scores - that of Bhutan, Pakistan and Bangladesh - improved marginally, says the paper.
The world average score has fallen too. The world average has fallen from 5.44 in 2019 to 5.37 in 2020. "This is by far the worst global score since the index was first produced in 2006", says the EIU in its paper titled 'In sickness and in health?'. The fall comes largely due to clampdown on liberty and individual freedom as a response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand and Canada have the highest scores, and thus occupy the top five positions. North Korea is last at the 167th rank, followed by Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Syria at 164. Portugal and France have lost their status as a 'full democracy' and have each been relegated to a 'flawed democracy', while Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have pushed ahead from 'flawed democracies' to 'full democracies'.
Taiwan has been called the star of this year's index by the EIU and as a "beacon of democracy in Asia", rising 20 ranks - from 31 in 2019 to 11 in 2020.
The Indian decline
"The increasing influence of religion under the Modi premiership, whose policies have fomented anti- Muslim feeling and religious strife, has damaged the political fabric of the country.", states the report.
The EIU has cited two incidents that took place last year.
First, it goes back to 2019, with the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act, which expediates citizenship on religious lines for refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan which "continued to fuel riots in 2020", including the one that that took place in Delhi last February. Critics of the Act say that CAA undermines the foundation of a secular India, while the government maintains it is a humanitarian piece of legislation.
Second, it mentions the foundation ceremony for the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, which it says has been a rallying cry for Hindu nationalists. "The temple's construction will further endear Mr Modi to his Hindu nationalist base." It also states that on top of these issues, the authorities' handling of the coronavirus pandemic has led to a further worsening of civil liberties.
Though India may have declined in the index, it still outranks its neighbours on score and rank.
How is the index constructed?
The Democracy Index ranks countries on 60 indicators grouped into five categories, giving it a score from 0 - 10 (with 10 being the best obtainable score). The EIU uses its own poll and expert assessment to arrive at these scores. The five categories can be seen below.
- Electoral process and pluralism: India maintains a robust score of 8.67 from last year
- Functioning of the government: India's score improves this time to 7.14 from 6.79
- Political participation: India's maintains a constant score of 6.67
- Political culture: India's score falls to 5.0 from 5.63
- Civil liberties: India's score declines more than a point from 6.76 to 5.59
These five scores (8.67, 7.14, 6.67, 5.0 and 5.59) are then averaged to get India's score of 6.61.
Find the EIU Democracy Index 2020 here.
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