In data that does not bode well for the world's largest democracy, the 2021 Freedom in the World index no longer ranks India as a 'free' country. Laying the blame on the BJP-led government, the report says that the country is being propelled towards authoritarianism. As such, the country's ranking has been downgraded from 'free' to 'partly free'.
Now, with India being moved to the latter category, the report contends that less than 20 percent of the world’s population now lives in a 'free' nation. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic raged across the world, the last year saw dictatorial takeovers, crackdowns, waves of fake information and more. A report on the Freedom in the World website contends that this time of crisis also saw governments across the democratic spectrum resort to "excessive surveillance" and "discriminatory restrictions on freedoms" and even enforcement of such restrictions by the police and nonstate actors.
"Waves of false and misleading information, generated deliberately by political leaders in some cases, flooded many countries’ communication systems, obscuring reliable data and jeopardizing lives," the report adds.
As per the 2021 scores, India has been given a total global freedom score of 67. The country has been given a score of 34 when it comes to political rights (out of 40) and a score of 33 (out of 60) for civil liberties. Last year India has been ranked as 'free' with a total score of 71 out of 100. From the Delhi riots and sanctions against journalists to the migrant crisis caused in the aftermath of the COVID-19 lockdown - the report cites several reasons for the change in score. Not only that, the report also alleges that judicial independence has now "come under strain".
"India’s status declined from Free to Partly Free due to a multiyear pattern in which the Hindu nationalist government and its allies have presided over rising violence and discriminatory policies affecting the Muslim population and pursued a crackdown on expressions of dissent by the media, academics, civil society groups, and protesters," the report alleges.
The report appears to lay the blame squarely with Prime Minister Modi and the BJP led government as well as its state-level allies. "Rather than serving as a champion of democratic practice and a counterweight to authoritarian influence from countries such as China, Modi and his party are tragically driving India itself toward authoritarianism," adds an article on the website.
This is however not the only report to suggest a similar decline. Earlier, in February this year, The Economist Intelligence Unit had downgraded India by two places to put it on the 53rd position in the 2020 Democracy Index. According to reports, they cite "democratic backsliding" by authorities and "crackdowns" on civil liberties for the decline.
In 2020, India has also dropped a few rungs on the World Press Freedom Index.