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India moving dangerously away from democracy: report

By Shubham

Tokyo, July 2: Even though India's citizens are happy with the direction the country has taken, it is "veering dangerously away from democracy", a Datawatch report in Nikkei Asian Review, published from Japan, has said.

Narendra Modi

Datawatch is a series which is jointly produced by Nikkei Asian Review and Financial Times (FT) Confidential Research.

According to it, India's economic growth rate reached 7.9 per cent in 2016 from 6.4 per cent when Narendra Modi's rise towards the premiership started but since his election in May 2014, an index tracking liberal democratic qualities of countries around the world has shown a drastic fall for India.

The index has been compiled by V-Dem Institute, which is run by Professor Staffin Lindberg of Sweden's University of Gothenburg, and as per the professor and other experts, India has begun the system that provides the freedom to live under conditions of one's own choosing - something that falls under Lindberg's definition of "democracy".

As per the index which spans from 0 to 100, India dropped below 50 in 2015, something that hasn't happened in the past 40 years and it has dropped further over the last two years, reaching between 42 and 44 points, prompting the question: "Could this be a bitter foretaste of a second "Emergency" -- a sequel to the period of rule by decree and restricted civil liberties in the 1970s?" the Nikkei Asian Review article said.

Modi's popularity goes up even as India falls in democracy index

However, while India slipped in the liberal democracy index, the percentage of Indians who felt satisfied with the country's direction went up to touch 70 per cent in 2017.

What are the criteria of measuring the index? According to Lindberg, V-Dem used nearly 400 indicators, like legal transparency, respect for private property rights and access to justice system for the common people. He said most of the 48 indicators measuring liberal democracy deteriorated in India even as the corruption index went up to a level which was never measured earlier, the Nikkei Asian Review article said.

The corruption index also showed that Prime Minister Modi's approval rating went up steeply between 2015 and 2017 (to between 85 and 90 per cent now)

What is the reason for such decline in India's index? According to the Nikkei article, the country's legislature has turned "increasingly lame" and is unable to check Modi, whose BJP has a big majority in the Lower House and also controls the Upper House of the parliament.

Professor Lindberg said the shift away from democracy could lead to a "chain reaction" making other nations having close ties with India "to follow its lead away from democracy".

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