India slipped 10 places to 51st position in the 2019 Democracy Index's global ranking which is published by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) .
• The EIU Democracy Index provides a snapshot of the state of world democracy for 165 independent states and two territories.
• The Democracy Index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture.
• Based on their scores on 60 indicators within these categories, each country is then itself classified as one of four types of regime: full democracy; flawed democracy; hybrid regime; and authoritarian regime.
India's overall score fell from 7.23 in 2018 to 6.90.
The primary cause of the democratic regression was an erosion of civil liberties in the country.
India was included in the "flawed democracy" category.
China's score fell to 2.26 in the 2019 index, and the country is now ranked 153rd, close to the bottom of the global rankings.
Among other emerging economies, Brazil was ranked 52nd with a score of 6.86, Russia stood at 134th with a score of 3.11
The overall list was topped by Norway, followed by Iceland and Sweden.
Civilisation progresses with the evolution of institutions designed by humans to govern their affairs. Institutions of electoral democracy have evolved over the centuries. By various yardsticks, democracy is shining in India.
India has a great Constitution. It conducts free and fair elections. Its Parliament has passed many landmark laws since Independence.
However, democracy consists of much more than elections and passage of laws. Failures of governance (and democracy) in India can be seen in so-called ‘backward areas’ in the heartlands.
In the popular discourse about democracy, too much attention has been given to the vertical institutions required for people to elect their leaders, and too little to the lateral institutions required to create harmony amongst people.
When problems are complex, good governance requires effective methods for people’s participation. Referendums of the entire electorate give an illusion of good democracy — that the people have been consulted. But this is not enough. voters should be educated about what they are voting for.
Healthy democracies need three vibrant layers of institutions. At the bottom is the public space and the media in which people must be free to speak up if they want to. On the top is the layer of constitutional institutions — parliaments, courts, etc.
Social media has enlarged the public space enormously. Many more people are speaking up and many issues are being raised. Social media provides a good platform for opposing views.
There is fear that India may be slipping down the path where a majoritarian view is imposed from above to strengthen the government. This may strengthen government on the ground, while stifling democratic governance.
It is imperative for India to build intermediate level, unofficial or semi-official institutions for non-partisan deliberation amongst concerned citizens. The government must give more space for such institutions to form and operate.
When there is global despair about the ability of democratic institutions to deliver the benefits of good governance to citizens, this innovation must become India’s invaluable contribution to the history of democracy’s evolution.
India does have the highest rating among South Asian democracies. But its performances on several yardsticks makes it a flawed democracy. If we want the largest democracy to count among the world’s greatest, there must be serious introspection among all stakeholders.
Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is an organization that provides forecasting and advisory services to assist entrepreneurs, financiers, and government officials.
The EIU provides country, industry, and risk analyses based on the work, research, and insights of a worldwide network of economic, political, and business experts.
Additionally, the EIU has a system of country specialists that provide country-specific insight and analysis.
The Economist Intelligence Unit operates as an independent research and analysis business within the London-based Economist Group, the media company that publishes The Economist magazine.