EIU  Declines to Provide the official data used for “Democracy Index” Rankings

According to the document from the EIA, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, and the state-backed blackout of the internet in Jammu & Kashmir that may have led to a downgrade.

democracy

In Feb 2021, according to a Democracy Index published by The Economist Intelligence Unit  (EIU) where in India was on 53rd position and was described as a “flawed democracy”. The EIU Democracy Index provides a snapshot of the state of world democracy for 165 independent states and two territories.

Series of such rankings and reports have rattled Mr Modi’s government and cast a shadow on the global image of India’s democracy. Foreign ministry has gone ahead with dismissing these reports and declared them “inaccurate and distorted”.

Some months ago Indian government officials reached out to EIU to seek clarifications regarding the Democracy Index. Indian officials sought details on the sample size; the other aspects of the methodology; the details of agencies/authors or contributor; and consultations with government agencies, if any.

According to a report by Hindustan Times, the Union government asked the High Commission of India (HC) in London to understand from the EIU based in London, “the assessment mechanism of the Democracy Index (DI)” and the “methodology, sample size, consultations with government agencies, details of authors and agencies that were used to curate this index”.

According to documents reviewed by HT, the Union government asked the High Commission of India (HC) in London to understand from the EIU based in London, “the assessment mechanism of the Democracy Index (DI)” and the “methodology, sample size, details of authors and agencies that were used to curate this index”.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has declined the offer from the Indian government to provide official data for its “Democracy Index” rankings.

EIU has released a statement which says-

“EIU relies on the annual reports of US based think-tanks like Freedom House and Pew Research, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters without Borders). For example, the action of RSF to recently downgrade India from completely free to partially free in terms of press freedom will definitely resonate in EU country forecasts.

PC: RSF

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 or authoritarian regime.

The rankings blame Mr Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP government for the backsliding of democracy. Under Mr Modi’s watch, they say, there has been increased pressure on human rights groups, intimidation of journalists and activists, and a spate of attacks, especially against Muslims. This, they add, has led to a deterioration of political and civil liberties in the country.

This, the documents suggested, include political opposition to certain new laws, and mentioned issues such as the Land Report Bill, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, and the state-backed blackout of the internet in Jammu & Kashmir that may have led to a downgrade.

What is EIU?

EIU are the research and analysis division of The Economist Group, the sister company to The Economist newspaper. It was Created in 1946.

The EIU released the Democracy Index in 2008 (with updates in 2008, 2010 and every year since), which is an index compiled by examining the state of democracy in 167 countries (of which 166 are sovereign states and 164 are UN member states).

The Economist’s Democracy Index is based on measuring electoral process and pluralism, the functioning of government, political participation, political culture and civil liberties”.

According to EIU, almost 70% of countries covered by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index recorded a decline in their overall score, as country after country locked down to protect lives from a novel coronavirus. The global average score fell to its lowest level since the index began in 2006.

Reaction of India Government?

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s ‘Democracy Index’ was one of rankings that showed backsliding of democracy in India.

In March 2020, US-based non-profit Freedom House downgraded India from a free democracy to a “partially free democracy” in its annual report on global political rights and liberties.

Same month, Sweden-based V-Dem Institute was harsher in its latest report on democracy. It said India had become an “electoral autocracy”.

India government response has been especially prickly over these reports. 

On the Freedom House report, the foreign ministry said that India had “robust institutions and well established democratic practices” and did not “need sermons especially from those who cannot get their basics right.” The political judgements of the report were “inaccurate and distorted”, it said. In parliament, the chairman of the upper house, Venkaiah Naidu, did not allow an opposition MP to pose a question related to the V-Dem report saying: “All countries which are commenting on India should first look inward and then comment on India.”

Foreign Minister S Jaishankar came out with the strongest denunciation of these reports.

“You use the dichotomy of democracy and autocracy. You want the truthful answer…it is called hypocrisy. Because you have a set of self-appointed custodians of the world, who find it very difficult to stomach that somebody in India is not looking for their approval, is not willing to play the game they want to be played,” Mr Jaishankar told a news network.

“So they invent their rules, their parameters, they pass their judgements and then make out as though this is some kind of global exercise”.

These rankings are global exercises that are done regularly on more than 165 countries and on multiple parameters.

V-Dem has been making the global dataset on democracy involving 202 countries from 1789 to 2020. EIU has been doing the democracy index since 2008.

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