A recent study titled ‘Freedom in the world 2021-democracy under siege‘ says that India “seems to have lost its ability to function as a global democratic king.” It said that the dropping of India “from the top ranks of free nations might have an especially devastating effect on global democratic values.“
India was ranked as ‘free’ in Freedom House’s 2018, 2019 and 2020 surveys, although its scores decreased from 77 to 71 during that time. In its’ most recent survey report, India had a ranking of 67 out of 100. India’s status declined from ‘Free’ to ‘Partly Free’ because of a multiyear design in which the Hindu majority government and its allies have directed rising savagery and unfair approaches. It influenced the Muslim populace and sought a crackdown on articulations of contradiction by the media, scholastics, common society gatherings, and nonconformists.
Although India remains a multi-party democracy, the incumbent government has retained control over repressive policies and escalated violence against the Muslim minority, and the persecution of journalists, non-governmental organisations, and other government opponents has significantly increased. Judicial integrity has also been strained; a judge was moved only after the police had been reprimanded for taking no action during the New Delhi riots that left more than 50 people, mainly Muslims, dead, the survey report said.
Also read: International Democracy Day: A Mere Joke Amidst The Unconstitutional Arrests During Lockdown
It also gave India a critical review on the willingness of various groups of the population, including national, racial and religious minorities, to have full voting rights and electoral opportunities. “Disputed territories are often measured separately if they follow certain conditions, including limits that are reasonably consistent to enable year-on-year comparisons.” the study said.
Although the survey report gave India a high score for the ability to conduct free and fair elections with such a vast population but expressed concern about ambiguous funding of political parties—especially through electoral bonds that enable donors to obscure their identities. Though political activity is generally free, Freedom House said, “Some political leaders have tried to inflame communal conflicts to energise their followers.”
India’s Freedom Score Internet has remained at 51. However, the study reported that ‘Internet freedom in India has degraded sharply for the third straight year,’ citing Internet shutdowns, censored video, misinformation circulated by political figures, cyberstalking, amendments to the Foreign Direct Investment Policy, concerted spyware campaigns and automated surveillance.
Also read: 6 Legislations Passed in 2019 That Are A Blot On India’s Democracy
Another report from global rating agency Moody’s Investors Service downgraded India’s sovereign rating to Baa3, which is still investment grade. It maintained its outlook as unfavourable, citing sluggish changes, policymakers facing growing pressures from a sustained period of slower growth, rising government debt, and declining debt affordability and tension in the financial system.
A central government passed the three farm laws without recognising that agribusiness is a state subject under the constitution and without open discussion in parliament or conversations with the farmers’ associations, which led to the farmers’ ongoing protests.
Indira Gandhi’s declaration of emergency and Narendra Modi’s declaration of demonetisation are instances of such single-individual choices. In the case of the latter, even the president of India was also not counselled previously, making demonetisation a draconian measure. During the current pandemic period, rules around the world have gotten more tyrant. India is no exemption to a fledgeling democracy.
Several incidents act as evidence to prove that India is now only ‘partly free”. The freedom of speech and expression is now restricted, and government comments have been proved to be outside the purview. Lower caste communities and religious minorities have been blamed for spreading coronavirus across the country. Farmers have faces cruelty while fighting for their rights. People have been considered terrorists for taking a stand for themselves.
Also read: The Bangladesh Student Protests Display The Necessity of Dissent in Democracy
India, just this year, commemorated its 72nd Republic Day. In consequence of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic that has devasted the economy, obliterated the lives and occupations of crores of individuals. Liberal democracy is defined as “a popularity-based arrangement of government in which individual rights and opportunities are formally perceived and ensured, and the activity of political force is restricted by law and order.”
Unfortunately, India can be called anything but a liberal democracy now. Individual rights and opportunities exist only in principle today.
The democratic system does not mean merely a political race or ability to cast a vote but to have equivalent admittance to all chances, contest in an election, freedom of speech, enjoying utmost freedom of expression and others unhampered. Be that as it may, those are a long way from reality today.
Chetna is a student at University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun, pursuing BBA LLB(Hons.), and founder of JustVocates Law Journal. You can find Chetna on Linkedin and Instagram.
Featured Image Source: Newslaundry