INDIA is slipping — economically, socially and politically. The world’s most populous democracy has dropped 10 places to be ranked 51st on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2019 Democracy Index. The leading research and analysis organisation has cited the ‘erosion of civil liberties’ in the country as the main reason for the slide. The prolonged physical as well as digital restrictions and the detention of former CMs and other senior leaders in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370, coupled with the enactment of the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act and the use of brute force to quell consequent protests, have cast a shadow on India’s democratic credentials. Coming at a time when the government is projecting itself as a champion of certain minorities persecuted in certain countries, the fall in ranking — which was as high as 27th in 2014 — calls for introspection and course correction. The development has undermined the emphatic mandate received by the ruling party in last year’s Lok Sabha elections. The authoritarian streak is all-pervasive, notwithstanding the fact that India’s neighbours are ranked even worse.
Earlier in the week, the World Economic Forum ranked India 76th out of 82 nations on the Global Social Mobility Index, an indicator of the stark inequalities in Indian society. In another setback, the International Monetary Fund has lowered India’s economic growth estimate for the current fiscal to 4.8 per cent and red-flagged the country’s underwhelming GDP numbers as the biggest impediment to its global growth forecast for two years. Putting on a brave face, the government says that the upcoming Union Budget would have a plan of action to revive the economy, but not many are hopeful of an early turnaround.
A flawed democracy, a limping economy, an unequal society — such unenviable tags are a drag on India’s growth engine. The country also runs the risk of losing its clout in the international arena unless it sets its own house in order. It’s time to walk the talk on ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ — rather than the other way round.
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