NEW DELHI: India has slipped 10 places in the democracy index to 42, in the rankings released by The Economist Intelligence Unit. Norway, Iceland and Sweden are the top three on the list while Chad, Syria and North Korea bring up the bottom. Another Asian country, Indonesia, has dropped from 48 to 68 in the latest rankings.
The report, titled Democracy Index 2017, has classified India as a flawed democracy and attributed the dip in India’s rankings to lack of freedom of speech and free media.
“India has also become a more dangerous place for journalists, especially Chhattisgarh and Jammu and Kashmir. The authorities there have restricted freedom of the press, closed down several newspapers and heavily controlled mobile internet services. Several journalists were murdered in India in 2017,” the report said.
The rise of conservative religious ideologies is another factor that has affected the country’s ranking. “The strengthening of right-wing Hindu forces in an otherwise secular country led to a rise of vigilantism and violence against minority communities, particularly Muslims, as well as other dissenting voices,” the report said.
Experts have echoed many of the views in the report. “We Indians take pride in being the largest democracy in the world but we undermine the very values associated with it. This report should serve as a warning sign for the Prime Minister. His style of governance is not really democratic and this report has just proved his critics at home right,” Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, political analyst and the author of Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times said.
India’s overall score dropped 0.58 points on the index from 7.81 to 7.23.
India has been ranked 49th with regard to media freedom, with its media being classified as ‘partly free’.
“This is one of the main reasons why India’s rankings dropped. The moment the media’s working is interfered with by governments, countries take a dip on the index,” a researcher, who was involved in the compilation of the report, said.
The report has also commented on the curbs on offensive speeches. “The consequence of growing intolerance to offensive speech allows governments to justify their own curbs on freedom,” it said.
Jai Mrug, the Director of VotersMood Research, said the report was self-explanatory. “This is a very comprehensive report. It only vindicates what people have been vouching for in the country. It is important that institutions like the media are allowed to function without interference from the government,” he said.