New Delhi: India has slipped to 42nd place on an annual Global Democracy Index amid “rise of conservative religious ideologies" and increase in vigilantism and violence against minorities as well as other dissenting voices.
While Norway has again topped the list, followed by Iceland and Sweden, compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), India has moved down from 32nd place last year and remains classified among “flawed democracies".
The index ranks 165 independent states and two territories on the basis of five categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation and political culture. The list has been divided into four broad categories—full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime and authoritarian regime.
The US (ranked 21), Japan, Italy, France, Israel, Singapore, and Hong Kong have also been named among ‘flawed democracies’. The EIU is the research and analysis division of the UK- based media behemoth The Economist Group. Created in 1946, the EIU describes itself as having over 70 years of experience “in helping businesses, financial firms and governments to understand how the world is changing and how that creates opportunities to be seized and risks to be managed".
The top three positions on the list are occupied by Nordic countries—Norway, Iceland and Sweden. New Zealand is at fourth and Denmark at fifth place, while others in top ten include Ireland, Canada, Australia, Finland and Switzerland.
Only top 19 countries have been classified as ‘full democracies’, while the hybrid regimes include Pakistan (110th), Bangladesh (92nd), Nepal (94th) and Bhutan (99th). Those named as ‘authoritarian regimes’ include China (139th), Myanmar (120th), Russia (135th) and Vietnam (140th). North Korea is ranked the lowest at 167th, while Syria is a notch better at 166th place.
Top-ranked Norway has been given an overall score of 9.87 with perfect-ten scores for electoral process and pluralism; political participation; and political culture. India’s overall score has fallen to 7.23 points, even as it scored well on electoral process and pluralism (9.17). It has not managed to score so well on other four parameters—political culture, functioning of government, political participation and civil liberties.
“The rise of conservative religious ideologies also affected India. 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 EIU added.
This year’s report which also measured the state of media freedom around the world noted that in India, media is ‘partially free’. Moreover, journalists are at risk from government, military and non-state actors and radical groups, and the threat of violence has a chilling effect on media coverage.
“India has also become a more dangerous place for journalists, especially the central state of Chhattisgarh and the northern state of 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, as in the previous year," it noted.
In the 2017 Democracy Index, the average global score fell from 5.52 in 2016 to 5.48 (on a scale of 0 to 10). Some 89 countries experienced a decline in their total score compared with 2016. 27 recorded an improvement. The other 51 countries stagnated, as their scores remained unchanged compared with 2016.
Almost one-half (49.3%) of the world’s population lives in a democracy of some sort, although only 4.5% reside in a “full democracy", down from 8.9% in 2015 as a result of the US being demoted from a “full democracy" to a “flawed democracy" in 2016. Around one-third of the world’s population lives under authoritarian rule, with a large share being in China, EIU noted.