Home / News / India /  EAC questions India rankings by 3 global bodies, calls it ‘arbitrary’

EAC questions India rankings by 3 global bodies, calls it ‘arbitrary’

The EIU has recently flagged 'an escalation in abuses against journalists in recent years' in India, citing a decline in the country's ranking in Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom Index where India now sits in the bottom quartile of countries. (Reuters)Premium
The EIU has recently flagged 'an escalation in abuses against journalists in recent years' in India, citing a decline in the country's ranking in Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom Index where India now sits in the bottom quartile of countries. (Reuters)

  • The Economic Advisory Committee in its working paper slammed the report by the World index, EIU Democracy index and Variety of Democracy indices, referring them as 'arbitrary', 'perception-based', 'non credible' and 'not tenable'.

The Economic Advisory Committee to the PM on 22 November released a 36-page working paper requesting the World Bank to demand greater transparency and accountability from three renowned global institutions who have downgraded Indian rankings based on ‘perception-based indices’.

The EAC to PM named the three organisation as Freedom in the World index, EIU Democracy index and Variety of Democracy indices.

According to the working paper, the EAC to the PM questioned the methodologies the three bodies to evaluate India on their parameters that included political rights, press freedom, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation, liberal democracy, electoral democracy, liberal component, egalitarian component, participatory component, and deliberative component respectively.

Freedom in the World index:

Criticizing the Freedom in the World index for putting India's score on index at 66 in 2022 -- down from 77 in 2018, the EAC slammed the report for being referred as 'partially free', after it was downgraded down from free status in 2021 report.

Also, the Freedom in the World index considered Jammu and Kashmir as a separate territory from India and as per the latest report, territory of Jammu and Kashmir is considered as “Not free".

To this, EAC replied in its working paper, "The previous two times when India was downgraded to ‘Partially Free’ status was during 1975-76 (Emergency period) and 1991-96 (years of economic liberalisation)," and called it arbitrary.

The EAC to the PM report also even sought on what basis the Freedom in the World index report ranked the current India with the 'years of emergency'.

"Our analysis of the annual reports show that they use some media reports and cherry pick some issues to make the judgements," the EAC to the PM paper said.

EIU- Democracy Index:

Next the EAC to the PM paper raised questions on the EIU, which is the research and consulting arm of the firm that publishes the Economist magazine.

As per the working paper by the EAC to the PM, in the EIU-Democracy Index report the list of questions show questions are quite subjective. "Our analysis of the list of questions show questions are quite subjective, making objective scoring difficult. Hence, they do not lend themselves easily to cross country analysis," the government paper said.

ALSO READ: India slips to 42nd place on EIU Democracy Index; US at 21st

Apart from this, the EIU report mentions few excerpts from media explaining the situation in the country, including the 2021 report cited that the authorities’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic has also led to a further erosion of civil liberties in 2020.

India is placed in the category of "Flawed Democracy" and its rank deteriorated sharply from 27 in 2014 to 53 in 2020 and then improved a bit to 46 in 2021.

As per EIU Democracy Index, India’s rank is 46 in 2021 and below various countries that are clearly less democratic or are recently formed states, the EAC to the PM paper noted.

Also, the EAC to the PM noted: "Since the latest public opinion poll has not been conducted after 2012, this implies that the score for India is based only on expert opinions since 2012 till today."

V-DEM indices:

In the V-DEM rankings -- produced by the Varieties of Democracy Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, the scores on most of the indices have been declining for India since 2014 and in fact India was downgraded to “Electoral Autocracy" in 2021.

Calling the findings arbitrary, the EAC to the PM said, "Another key point to note here is that the previous time period when there was a considerable decline in democracy indices was in the year 1975-76 which was a period of Emergency."

Though when dug deep, India does well on objective parameters such as share of population with suffrage or share of direct popular vote but shows sharp decline in categories which are based primarily on “expert opinion".

The EAC to the PM said noted again, "Analysis of the reports of V-DEM indicates that articles from media seem to have been cherry picked and judgements have been made on that basis."

As per the latest report, India’s rank in V-DEM Liberal Democracy Index is 93, which is less than recently formed countries like Kingdom of Lesotho (60), Timor Leste (64) and Kosovo (79). Countries such as Nepal (71st position) and Bhutan (65th position) which are recent democracies are also ranked higher than India.

Conclusion:

In its conclusion, the EAC to the PM noted that Freedom in the World Index and V-DEM indices have placed India at the same level as during the Emergency of the 1970s, and cited it non credible.

However, the the government paper noted the indices used by agencies cannot be ignored as mere opinions as they indirectly feed into concrete things like World Bank’s World Governance Indicators (WGI). They in turn, feeds into sovereign ratings and will gain further currency because of the growing mandate for using ESG indicators for investment and trade.

The EAC to the PM working paper found serious problems with the methodology used in these perception-based indices. It sought more transparency on how the experts are chosen, or their expertise.

Apart from this, the government paper noted the questions used are subjective and are worded in a way that is impossible to answer objectively even for a country, let alone compare across countries.

Lack of reasonable questions were also the concerns raised by the EAC to the PM working paper. Also, few questions asked by the agencies are not an appropriate measure of democracy across all countries. And the last issue with the agencies included the methodologies used by thee perception-based indices, which are not tenable.

The EAC to the PM working paper sought independent Indian think-tanks should be encouraged to do similar perception based indices for the world in order to break the monopoly of a handful of western institutions.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Saurav Mukherjee

A business media enthusiast...believe to listen more, than just blabbering like others.
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