Wondering Why India Ranks As A ‘Flawed Democracy’? Here Are 22 Possible Reasons

What Leads To The Fall Of Democracies?   

Recently, the Democracy Index Report was released by the EIU and a countrywide debate started, on the fall of India by 10 odd places i.e from 51 to 41; citing the reason as “Erosion Of Civil Liberties”.

The facts tell us numbers and the numbers come from observation. The fallen status is a gentle reminder that the world is watching us.

It will be suitable to commence my article by quoting Dr. Ambedkar.

“An ideal society should be mobile, should be full of channels for conveying a change taking place in one part to other parts. In an ideal society, there should be many interests consciously communicated and shared. There should be varied and free points of contact with other modes of association. In other words, there should be social endosmosis. This is a fraternity, which is only another name for democracy. Democracy is not merely a form of Government. It is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. It is essentially an attitude of respect and reverence towards fellowmen.”

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, in ‘Annihilation of Caste’

Recently, the Democracy Index Report was released by the EIU and a countrywide debate started, on the fall of India by 10 odd places i.e from 51 to 41; citing the reason as “Erosion Of Civil Liberties”.

Many people might be in doubt when the Democracy Index is released every year; but why did it gain momentum this year? The report has an answer for this, in the title itself: ‘A Year Of Democratic Setbacks And Popular Protest’.

Before coming to why we fell in the index, I want to share some facts from the report, about the state of democracy in the world, as well as in India.

A Short Analysis Of The Report

The report says that the world is going through a global democratic recession. The authoritarian regimes are on the rise, the governance operated by the elites has increased while the popular participatory democracies are shedding. It says that strong media is essential for a vibrant democracy. Democracy is under threat globally.

We need institutions that serve all citizens and protect their rights. A plural political system is essential. Religions should not be soul determinants of political unions. The governments should prevent the circulation of fake news.

India’s score reduced in electoral pluralism, political participation and civil liberties and remained stable in government functioning and political culture.

The overall score of India reduced to 6.90 from 7.23. It’s not that we got the tag of a ‘flawed democracy’ for the first time. We are a ‘flawed democracy’ from 2006 itself; when the index was published for the first time.

In the span of ten years, we fell to a score of 6.76 (2019) from 9.41 (2009) out of a possible 10. The score given to the functioning of the government has also reduced drastically, from 8.21 (2006) to 6.79 (2019).  The world map below, shows our place, globally, in retaining democracy.

Global Map depicting the democracy index worldwide. Source: EIU Report

The following graph shows the interconnection between various parameters considered while calculating the score.

Graph Showing the year wise global average scores in various parameters. Source: EIU Report

The above graph clearly shows that it’s not necessary that an increase in political participation increases your civil liberties. We can see the increase in political participation from 2013, while at the same time, civil liberties have sharply reduced.

When Did The ‘Fall’ Start?

Here are some news headlines, which I’ve taken from various national dailies, and online platforms; which you need to revisit, to clearly understand, how the dissent is suppressed by those in power.

Police attacking anti-CAA protestors in UP.
  1. Shah Faesal, who topped the UPSC exams in 2009, was served with a notice for his tweet over growing rapes in the country.
  2. 43% newly-elected Lok Sabha MPs have a criminal record: ADR
  3. The IAS officer, suspended by the Election Commission (EC) for checking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chopper, in Odisha
  4. Two IAS officers resigned in India. S Sasikanth Senthil, who was serving as the deputy commissioner of Dakshina Kannada, and Indian Administrative Service officer, Kannan Gopinathan from the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, took the decision to resign, as they felt it was unethical to continue in the government. S Sasikanth Senthilsaid: “When the fundamental building blocks of our diverse democracy are being compromised in an unprecedented manner.”
  5. In Uttar Pradesh, a police officer was killed by a mob, following allegations of cow slaughter in Bulandshahr. He was attacked with stones, sticks, and an axe before he was shot dead with his licenced revolver, police said. Attempts were also made to set his jeep on fire, they added.
  6. Police arrested activists who were staging a protest against the tree-cutting, being carried out for the Metro car shed project, at Aarey colony in Mumbai, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019.
  7. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee decided to stop the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from investigating cases in Bengal, the second state after Chandrababu Naidu’s, Andhra Pradesh, to prevent the federal agency from operating within their respective state.
  8. The government denied pension to freedom fighter Dev Narayan Mishra from 1982 to 2019.
  9. Uttar Pradesh, DGP OP Singh tweeted, “Sec 144 is in force and no permission for any gathering has been given for 19.12.19. Pls, do not participate. Parents r also requested to counsel their children .” 
  10. “Beaten, mocked, belongings destroyed: Emotional Jamia students recall police action in library”.
  11. Rampage by masked goons on students and faculty of Jawaharlal Nehru University in the presence of Delhi Police, whose assembled personnel let them go in, refused to intervene when they went about beating people up with lathis, and iron rods, screaming, shoot the traitors, and let them walk out, once their job was done, instead of arresting them. This unmasks the true nature of the politics that govern us today.
  12. “EC refused to disclose details of alleged poll-code violations by Narendra Modi and other leaders”.
  13. The Modi government unilaterally and arbitrarily decided to change the constitutional status of Jammu & Kashmir.
  14. Farooq Abdullah has been held under house arrest since August 5th, now booked under PSA; when the Centre announced the abrogation of the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370.
  15. BJP leader Ram Madhav said “Hitler, Mussolini were ‘products of democracy”
  16. BJP made a mockery of the legal system by giving a ticket to terror accused Pragya Singh Thakur.
  17. Journalist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead in Bengaluru.
  18. Rationalist, Dabholkar was shot dead.
  19. Kannada writer M.M. Kalburgi was shot dead.
  20. Govind Pansare was shot dead.
  21. Assam NRC declared 19 lakh people as illegal migrants. Many of them are poor, as well as Muslims.
  22. Anti-CAA stir: 15 dead, 263 police personnel injured since Dec 10, says UP top cop”
Rampage by masked goons on students and faculty of Jawaharlal Nehru University in the presence of Delhi Police

There are many such instances which make us question whether we are a democracy now? Of course, we are a democracy, but a ‘FLAWED one’, otherwise, I would not have been able to write this.

Here is What Dr Ambedkar Said About The Democratic Setup

  • “Our political democracy must stand on the base of social democracy which means a way of life which recognises liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life.
  • If we want to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, we must hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives
  • A democratic form of Government presupposes a democratic form of society. The formal framework of democracy is of no value and would indeed be a misfit, if there was no social democracy.
  • To have a Popular Government run by a single party is to let democracy become a mere form for despotism to play its part from behind it. How, under a one-party government, the tyranny of the majority, ceases to be an empty phrase and becomes a menacing fact has been our experience, in India, under the Congress Regime.”

To conclude, I want to say, that liberty will thrive and prosper, only when the scope of the investigation, along with the area of inquiry, will get enlarged. The dissent should exist along with a tolerance for a peaceful society. For democracy to sustain, there should be checks and balances across every pillar of democracy, including the media.

References :

News: India today, Times now, Business Standard, The Print, Scroll.

Books: Dr.Ambedkar’s writings and speeches volumes.

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