NEWS
22/01/2020 2:12 PM IST | Updated 23/01/2020 9:18 AM IST

Here's Why India's Dropped To 51st Place In Democracy Index, Its Lowest Ever

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2019 Democracy Index says India dropped 10 spots because of “an erosion of civil liberties in the country”.

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India has dropped ten places to the 51st spot in the The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2019 Democracy Index released on Wednesday, mainly because of “an erosion of civil liberties in the country”.

The report, titled ‘A year of democratic setbacks and popular protest’, looks at the state of democracy across 165 countries and two territories. In the 2019 index the average global score for democracy fell from 5.48 in 2018 to 5.44, the research group said, “this is the worst average global score since the index was first produced in 2006”.

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The 2019 result, the report noted, was worse than that recorded in 2010, in the wake of the global economic and financial crisis. The average global score fell to 5.46 in 2010. 

The decline is mainly driven by a “sharp regression in Latin America and
Sub-Saharan Africa, a lesser one in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region”. Democracies in Asia also had a tumultuous year. 

While Thailand’s score improved in 2019, India dropped ten places in the Democracy Index’s global ranking to the 51st place. India’s score in 2019 was its worst ranking since the inception of the Democracy Index in 2006, as Bloomberg noted.

India’s overall score fell from 7.23 in 2018 to 6.90 in 2019. Here are the reasons mentioned in the report for the regression in India:

— Detailing the erosion of civil liberties, the report said that the government abrogated Article 370 and repealed Article 35A, stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its special status.

Jammu and Kashmir is now divided into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. “Ahead of the move, the government deployed a large number of troops in J&K, imposed various other security measures and placed local leaders under house arrest, including those with pro-India credentials. The
government also restricted internet access in the state.”

The Narendra Modi government imposed the internet ban in Jammu and Kashmir in August last year, and only partially restored broadband and 2G internet this month. Several political leaders, including Omar Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, were detained ahead of the government’s announcement on the abrogation of Article 370. They are yet to be released.  

— A citizenship registration exercise in Assam has excluded 19 lakh from the final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the report said. The vast majority of people excluded from the NRC are Muslims, the research group said while adding that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) says most of the excluded people are immigrants from Bangladesh, whose government denies this. “Critics claim that the exercise targets the Muslim population and will lead to demographic changes along religious lines.” 

Union home minister Amit Shah has repeatedly said that the government plans on roll out the NRC across the country (see here and here). 

— “The new citizenship law has enraged the large Muslim population, stoked communal tensions and generated large protests in major cities,” the research group said. Protests have erupted across the country against the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). 

The new citizenship law seeks to grant citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist, Jain and Christian immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. When combined with the National Register of Citizens, there are concerns that it may lead to discrimination against Muslims.