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

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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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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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