"Erosion Of Liberties": India Slips 10 Places In Democracy Index 2019

The Economist cited "democratic regression (in) erosion of civil liberties" as a major reason in awarding India a score of 6.9 on 10 - its lowest since the index was first published in 2006

'Erosion Of Liberties': India Slips 10 Places In Democracy Index 2019

The Economist's Democracy Index 2019 ranks nearly 170 countries on the state of democracy

New Delhi:

India has dropped 10 places to be ranked 51st of 165 nations and two territories in the Democracy Index 2019 - a list of the most and least democratic countries in the world - said The Economist Intelligence Unit, a news and general affairs publication, in its annual report. Expressing concern over the "discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act", the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the controversial NRC (national register of citizens) , the Economist cited "democratic regression (in) erosion of civil liberties" as a major reason in awarding a score of 6.9 on 10 - its lowest since the index was first published in 2006.

In 2017 and 2018 India received a score of 7.23, down from 7.81 in 2016. The country recorded its highest score - 7.91 - in 2014. As per the list the global average score is 5.44 on 10, which is the lowest ever recorded, reflecting the fact that over a third of the world's population lives under "authoritarian" rule.

"The primary cause of the democratic regression was an erosion of civil liberties in the country," the Economist said in its report, adding, "The passage by Parliament in December of the discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act suggests India's decline will continue in the 2020 index".

In its observations on India the Economist's report referred to the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, where key opposition politicians, including three former Chief Ministers, continued to be detained more than five months after the centre withdrew Article 370.

Jammu and Kashmir has also been hit by a stringent security lockdown that included deployment of large numbers of soldiers and suspension of mobile and broadband internet for over 100 days.

Earlier this month the Supreme Court reprimanded the government over the blocking of internet, saying that access to the same was a part of the fundamental right to freedom of speech.

The top court also pulled up the government over repeated use of Section 144 - a colonial-era law banning large gatherings used by the government to break up protests.

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Section 144 used across Jammu and Kashmir to quell backlash against withdrawal of Article 370 (File)

The second and third points raised by the Economist in its report were the widespread protests against the citizenship law, or CAA, which makes religion a test of citizenship for the first time in India's history, and the NRC, which was carried out in Assam last year and excluded 19 lakh people.

The Economist's report said: "The new citizenship law has enraged the large Muslim population, stoked communal tensions and generated large protests in major cities".

The government says the CAA will help non-Muslim refugees fleeing religious persecution from three Muslim-dominated neighbours. However, opposition parties and activists say it discriminates against Muslims and violates secular tenets of the Constitution.

Activists also fear that the CAA, used in conjunction with the NRC, will target Muslims.

Several states, including Bengal and Kerala, have either moved resolutions against the CAA and/or stopped all work on the NPR (national population register), which is seen as a precursor to the NRC.

According to the Economist, the Democracy Index measures the state of democracy based on five factors - electoral process and pluralism, the functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties.

The list is topped by Norway, with Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand and Finland rounding out the top 5 and North Korea in last place. Pakistan is ranked 108 with a score of 4.25 and China received 2.26 for a ranking of 153.

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