It has been a rough few days for India when it comes to global surveys and associated criticism. Over the last week, the world's largest democracy lost it's ranking as a 'free' country on the 2021 Freedom in the World index, and led the world leaderboard for internet shutdowns.
According to a report by non profit organisation Access Now, they had documented at least 155 internet shutdowns in 29 countries during 2020. And while the report notes that the overall number is less than 2019, it mentions that India has topped the list in both years.
"Like it did in previous years, India once again topped the list of internet shutdowns with at least 109 in 2020, followed by Yemen with at least six shutdowns, Ethiopia with four, and Jordan three. India, Yemen, and Ethiopia had been among the worst disruptors of the internet in 2019," the report explains.
The report cites a slew of network restrictions that were imposed on the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir for the poor ranking. "In Jammu and Kashmir, the administration, which is directly supervised by India’s federal government as a union territory, issued internet shutdown orders every two weeks in 2020 despite concerns from doctors, journalist associations, and other residents on the additional challenges it posed to COVID response," the report alleged.
In a section about the official reasons cited by various governments to justify internet shutdowns, the report also contended that "India has a history of ordering shutdowns targeting political demonstrations". As per the report, "actual cause" of a large number of the shutdowns that make up the 2020 ranking is political instability, followed by elections and protests.
Needless to say, Opposition leaders and critics in India have latched onto the report to criticise the BJP-led government.
"Digital India! Yeah Right," jibed Congress leader Karti Chidambaram.
"Wow! India ahead more internet shutdowns last year than the rest of the world together! 109 for India Vs 46 for the rest of the World. Modi certainly brought India to the top!" added activist and lawyer Prashant Bhushan.