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India planning own democracy index, after global downgrades

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After India’s democratic credentials faced a series of downgrades by various international agencies, the Narendra Modi administration is planning to develop a homegrown democracy ratings index to counter the Western narrative, Al Jazeera reports.

Though the Indian government has been publicly dismissive of these reports, it is keen to retain the country’s long-standing image of being the ‘world’s largest democracy’.

The Indian government has approached a major Indian think – Observer Research Foundation, to formulate a rating framework as it also fears the recent downgrades could affect the country’s credit rating.

The foundation is expected to release democracy rankings soon, but it is not clear whether it will happen before the seven-phase India’s general elections, scheduled to kick off on April 19.

Last June, The Guardian reported of the Indian government working to keep its reputation of being a democracy alive after being called out by researchers for serious democratic backsliding.

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Some of the recent downgrades include US-based non-profit Freedom House reducing India’s status from a free democracy to a “partially free democracy” in 2021.

Later Sweden’s V-Dem Institute classified India as an “electoral autocracy”.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranked India 53rd in its 2020 Democracy Index, labelling it a “flawed democracy”, citing factors such as the Citizenship Amendment Act and the revocation of special status in Indian-administered Kashmir.

In addition, India’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index has been consistently on the decline.

It fell from 150 in 2022 to 161 this year out of 180 countries, according to the global media watchdog RSF.

India’s hardline Hindu nationalism and action against global charity organisations like Amnesty International and Greenpeace have not gone down well within the international community.

Foreign minister S Jaishankar has often been quick to condemn these reports saying Delhi does not need their sermons on democracy.

However senior Indian officials claim the government is giving importance to these reports and want India’s ranking to improve.

The Indian Law Ministry had tried to seek details from the EIU on its assessment of India, but its request was turned down.

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