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Had Modi-led government degraded democracy of India?
3/14/2019 11:38:32 PM
Jamwal Mahadeep Singh

Where justice is denied,
where poverty enforced, where ignorance prevails and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, persons nor property will be safe - Frederick Douglass, an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. With a population of over 1.3 billion people and growing India are the world's largest democracy and the second largest country on the planet after China. The country is run as per the provisions of the Indian Constitution and every elected government under this democratic set up speaks very high of running the nation in a most democratic way and speaks of enhancing the democratic values. We may speak in our own whims and wishes that suits to us appreciating our achievements but at the international level there are certain agencies with the statics to apprise the world populace about the placement of every country on different aspects. Accordingly, we have UK based company the 'Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)" that measures the state of democracy all over the world and publicize 'Democracy Index' based on 60 indicators grouped in five different categories. The study has five criteria: 1. whether elections are free and fair (electoral process and pluralism)? 2. Whether governments have checks and balance (functioning of government)? 3. Whether citizens are included in the politics (political participation)? 4. Where citizens support their government (political culture)? 5. Whether citizens enjoy freedom of expression (civil liberties)? The Democracy Index measure the state of democracy in 167 countries, of which 166 are sovereign states and 165 are UN member states. It was first publicized in 2006, with updates for 2008, 2010 and the following years since then. In addition to a numeric score and a ranking, the index categorizes countries as one of four regime types: full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes and authoritarian regimes.
Full democracies: are nations where civil liberties and basic political freedoms are not only respected, but also reinforced by a political culture conducive to the thriving of democratic principles. These nations have a valid system of governmental checks and balances, independent judiciary whose decisions are enforced, governments that function adequately, and media that is diverse and independent. These nations have only limited problems in democratic functioning. Of the 167 countries rated by 'Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)", it has placed 19 countries in full democracy index. The countries placed in this category are Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Canada, Australia, Germany, United Kingdom, Spain and many more countries.
Flawed democracies: are nations where elections are fair and free and basic civil liberties are honored but may have issues (e.g. media freedom infringement). These nations have significant faults in other democratic aspects, including underdeveloped political culture, low levels of participation in politics, and issues in the functioning of governance. This category has been compiled up of 56 nations that include South korea, United States, Italy, Japan, Israel, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, India and even lesser known countries such as Cap Varde, Costa Rica, Botswana, Estonia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Namibia, Paraguay and many more.
Hybrid regimes: are nations where consequential irregularities exist in elections regularly preventing them from being fair and free. These nations commonly have governments that apply pressure on political opponents, non independent judiciaries, and have widespread corruption, harassment and pressure placed on the media, anemic rule of law, and more pronounced faults than flawed democracies in the realms of underdeveloped political culture, low levels of participation in politics, and issues in the functioning of governance. 38 countries have been placed under this category including Bangladesh, Nepal, Turkey, Kenya, Uganda, Bhutan, Morocco, Lebanon, Thailand, Iraq, Pakistan, and many more.
Authoritarian regimes: are nations where political pluralism has vanished or is extremely limited. These nations are often absolute monarchies or dictatorships, may have some conventional institutions of democracy but with meager significance, infringements and abuses of civil liberties are commonplace, elections (if they take place) are not fair and free, the media is often state-owned or controlled by groups associated with the ruling regime, the judiciary is not independent, and they are characterized by the presence of omnipresent censorship and suppression of governmental criticism. 52 Nations including Jordan, Kuwait, Cambodia, Angola, Algeria, Egypt, Cuba, Qatar, Rwanda, Russia, China, UAE, Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and many more have been indexed under this classification. There are a few questions considered as most important while compiling index and they are:
1. Whether national elections are free and fair?
2. The security of voters?
3. The influence of foreign powers on government?
4. The capability of the civil servants to implement policies?
When we look into the aspects of placing India in the classification of flawed democracy, the placement is based on where elections are fair and free and basic civil liberties are honored but may have issues (e.g. media freedom infringement). The United Nations General Assembly recognizes May 3 as the World Press Freedom Day. This is to remind the democratic governments all over the world that the freedom of expression and freedom of Press is imperative for an elected body. In a democratic society, Press acts as a mediator between the masses and the elected representatives. It has the potential to keep a check on the powers of the state, and at the same time it acts as a report card of the government in power. On the aspect 'World Press Freedom Index' that measures the level of media freedom in 180 countries based on the level of freedom available to journalists and not the quality of journalism, aware us that the World Press Freedom Index 2018 compiled by Reporters Without Borders - RSP - Reporters sans frontiers), reflects growing animosity towards journalists. India ranked among 180 countries at number 133 in 2016 that slipped to lowly 136 in 2017 and it further dropped from 136 to 138 in 2018. The index slowly slipping down 2 ranks in 2017 and further 3 ranks in 2018. Among India's neighboring countries, Pakistan ranks 139; Sri Lanka at 141, Afghanistan at 120, Bangladesh at 146, Nepal at 100, and Bhutan at 84 and China is ranked at 176.
There are significant faults in other democratic aspects, including underdeveloped political culture, low levels of participation in politics, and issues in the functioning of governance. When we refer to political culture it is the set of attitudes, beliefs, and sentiments which give order and meaning to a political process and which provide the underlying assumptions and rules that govern behavior in the political system. A political culture is the product of both the collective history of a political system and the life histories of the members of that system, and thus it is rooted equally in public events and private experiences. When we visit the data of "Association of Democratic Reforms" (ADR), a non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in the area of electoral and political reforms along with National Election Watch (NEW), a conglomeration of over 1200 organizations across the country, aiming at bringing transparency and accountability in Indian politics and reducing the influence of money and muscle power in elections, we find that 24 ministers i.e. 31% ministers in Modi govt have declared criminal cases against them. 14 of these ministers, that are 18%, have declared serious criminal cases related to murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping and crimes against women against them. Thomson Reuters Foundation (a Canadian global information and news network) survey on women's issues has leveled India as most dangerous country for women due to the high risk of sexual violence and being forced into slave labor, according to a poll of about 550 global experts. The 'Transparency International' an international non-governmental organization that is based in Berlin, Germany, founded in 1993 to take action to combat global corruption with civil societal anti-corruption measures and to prevent criminal activities arising from corruption. Transparency International India (TII) is a leading non political, independent, non-governmental anti-corruption organization of India. Transparency International rate India along with Philippines and Maldives as worst regional offenders and score high for corruption and have fewer press freedom. The India slipped by two points from 79 in 2016 to ranking of 81 in 2017 in 'Global corruption Perception Index' carried on 180 countries and still we feel proud on words 'Na khayunga na khane dunga'.
The India that was ranking at No 27 in the list of 165 countries in annual Global Democracy Index of the year 2014, slipped to a position of 35 in 2015 just in the first year after Modi led BJP government came into power and further to position 42 in 2018. The novelists, essayists, playwrights and poets had returned the awards in 2015; they received from India's prestigious literary academy, over rising intolerance. Indian army veterans including those retired as Major General have to go for hunger strike to protest Modi's broken promises in 2015. We cannot isolate the letter written by eight U.S. Senators and 26 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2016, the lawmakers - several of them consistently pro-India, showing their grave concern about increasing intolerance, vigilantism and violence experienced by members of religious minority communities and reminding Mr. Modi of his commitment to pluralism and tolerance. The Modi government shouts over roof tops that we are the world's largest democracy and assume that it is also the best. Whereas the fact on the ground speaks that majority of the Indian people still live in rural India in poverty and poor living conditions, and with little education or awareness of matters outside their areas of residence. India has slipped to 42nd place in 2017 among 165 countries rated by the agency from number 32 in the year 2016, on an annual Global Democracy Index and this all is amid "rise of conservative religious ideologies" and increase in vigilantism and violence as well as other dissenting voices. The India in democracy index rating has come down from number 27 that was in the year 2014 to lesser position degraded by 15 positions to number 42 in 2017 since Modi led BJP government came into power at the center and in other states - a hard reality difficult to be digested by Modi Bhakat. The only field that goes in favor of India is 'Ease of Doing Business Index' in 2017 standing at number 100. Last year when India has moved just one point from 131 to 130 positions, Modi government had questioned the credibility of World Bank's ranking process. It is quite understandable that what suits to Modi, appreciate it and that expose failures condemn it and question credibility. The ease of doing business index is also an indicator for the common mass that Modi-led BJP government is much serious about its business class and world tours of PM are focused to bring in business only rather than its farmers committing suicide, unemployed educated class, about high rise prices and what not.
The vital question involved in the write up is what expectations of citizenry from the government to arrive at the conclusion that democracy has been degraded other than the rating in the field. The most basic outcome of democracy is that it produces a government that is accountable to the citizens, and responsive to the needs and expectations of the citizens. It never remained accountable to common mass and responsive to the needs of populace as we have seen at the time of demonetization when hundreds of people lost their life to get their own saved money that was kept in hostage by this government. We expect democracy not to take any decision against the public opinion. But Modi government has never respected the opinion of the public as not lowering oil prices in spite of crude oil prices going down. Rather introducing increased excise duty to fill up the exchequer. Oil prices not brought under GST. Not defending the rupee in spite of reaching almost Rs 72 per dollar. Almost more than 4 years have passed but appointment of Lokpal is still pending. A citizen in democracy has the right and the means to examine the process of decision making. This aspect is missing when worth crores of rupees waived off of few industrialists. Thousands of criminals disguised as stone pelters were released on the recommendation of Modi government interlocutor in J&K. Thousands of criminal cases withdrawn against criminals in BJP ruled states. How the demonetization was loaded on innocent savers as much claimed benefits of it dashed to ground. This is Modi transparency. The content of the issues that affect the interests of the nation in general is the priority expectations in democratic country. Concluding the write up, we can easily arrive at the conclusion that Modi led BJP government has degraded democracy of India and is in world domain owing to the data released by 'Global Democracy Index' that has slipped to position 42 in 2017 from position 27 in 2014. "People shouldn't be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people" - Alan Moore.
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