Mahesh Chander Sudan
We, the people of India, chose democratic form of Government on attaining Independence from British Empire in order to achieve maximum participation of people in the formation of Government through ballots without any discrimination based on caste, creed and sex. We therefore formed constituent assembly to study various constitutions of the democratic countries so that a body of laws is framed to establish furtherance of Indian democracy through rule of law. The intent of the leaders of our country focused beyond doubt on the general welfare of the Indian masses. Democracy is the Government of people, by the people and for the people and to achieve this in true sense we adopted a republic form of governance where people directly elect their representatives to ensure absolute participation in the day to day functioning of the Government so formed. The democratic journey of our nation for more than seven decades encountered many critical phases where either the public mandate exercised was fractured or absolute giving birth to coalition Governments and single party majority Governments with weak opposition to provide required check and balances. In both the situations, the larger interest of the nation suffered. A close study of Democracy Index compiled by Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) a United Kingdom based company intended to measure the state of democracy of 167 countries across the globe shows the health of these democracies based on 60 indicators grouped in five different categories measuring pluralism, civil liberties and political culture. The Index was first published in year 2006, 2008, 2010 and later years. In addition to numeric score and a ranking, the index categories these countries into four regime types: Full democracies, Flawed democracies, Hybrid regime and Authoritarian regime. Without going into the nitty gritty of the questions, it is seen that questions are grouped under five categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation and political culture.
Based on the performance of nations under above quoted five categories, four classifications of the democracies are drawn. Full democracies are the nations where civil liberties and basic political freedom are not only respected but also reinforced by a political culture conducive to the thriving of democratic principles. These nations have valid system of Governmental check and balances, independent judiciary whose decisions are enforced, government that functions adequately, and diverse and independent media. These countries have only limited problems in democratic functioning. Flawed democracies are nations where elections are held fair and free and civil liberties are honored but may have limited issues like media freedom infringement. These nations have significant faults in other democratic aspects, including under developed political culture and low level of participation in the politics, and issues in the functioning of governance. Hybrid regimes are nations with regular electoral frauds, preventing them from fair and free democracy. These nations commonly have Government that pressurizes its political opponents, non-independent judiciaries, widespread corruption, harassment and pressure placed on the media, anemic rule of law, and more pronounced faults than flawed democracies in the realm of underdeveloped political culture, low level of participation in the politics, and issues in the functioning of governance. Authoritarian Regimes are nations where political pluralism has vanished or is extremely low. These nations are absolute monarchies or dictatorship, may have some conventional institutions of democracy but with meagre significance, infringement and abuses of civil liberties are common place, elections are not fair and free, the media is often state owned or groups associated with the ruling regime, judiciary is not independent and there is omnipresent censorship and suppression of governmental criticism.
The latest index published in the year 2018 shows 20 countries in the category of Full Democracy, 55 countries as Flawed Democracies, 39 countries as Hybrid Regimes and 53 as Authoritarian regimes based their numerical scores. Norway leads the list of nations as Full Democracies with United Kingdom at 14 and Costa Rica at 20. We the people of India may note with surprise that our democracy stand at 41 ranks in the list of nations as Flawed Democracy on account of poor score in two groups namely functioning of government and Political Culture.
However, it is noteworthy to mention that our democracy scored well in other three groups namely Electoral Process and Pluralism, Political Participation and Civil Liberties. Looking at this Index, it is evident that the government of our country during the period of survey failed to live up to the expectations by ensuring proper check and balances in its governance, allowing our judiciary to function with complete independence and media to function free without any infringement on its independence. Recent developments at the national level especially post formation of Government by NDA-II and subsequent political environment of the nation, causing more infringement on freedom of media and destabilizing age old political culture would further hurt the status of Indian democracy. It is a critical juncture when a large chunk of Indian population is compelled to live in suspension of right to liberty, causing a sense of helplessness and raising the sentiments of affected people against the establishment that would not only hurt the larger interest of the nation but affect our position in the Index of democracies in the times to come.
(The views of the author are personal)
(The author is WgCdr (Retd)
Mahesh Chander Sudan