A group of former civil servants, who have worked with the central and state governments, has expressed concern that India’s rank has been slipping in different international indices. The Constitutional Conduct Group (CCG) also underlined that the government has been attacking the reports and surveys instead of expressing concern at the nation’s decline in these indices.
The Global Hunger Index, 2021, is the latest report showing a fall in India’s ranking among other countries is. The Global Hunger Index is prepared by European NGOs who compare hunger in different countries of the world. According to the report, India has slipped from 55th position in 2015 to 101th in 2021, with only 15 nations ranking lower.
The CCG said the government’s argument that the index was “devoid of ground reality” and based on “unscientific methodology” was “misplaced” even though the index has some limitations. Supporting its claim, the CCG further said that the government’s own data from the National Family Health Survey, the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, and academic studies largely confirm the statistics indicated by the Global Hunger Index.
The CCG, which has no affiliation with any political party, said in a public statement on Monday, “… the rankings, when taken cumulatively, show that the socio-economic situation in India has been steadily deteriorating, but also because the very things that make India an important democracy are slowly getting extinguished.”
The CCG shared several instances of international rankings where India’s positions have nosedived. For instance, the Human Development Report of the UNDP, which measures education, life expectancy and per capita income, put India at rank 131 out of 189 countries in 2020, having slipped two spots from 2018. Moreover, India’s position had not improved since 2014, when the country ranked at 131 as well.
The 2021 Global Gender Gap Report placed India at 140, slipping 28 spots, whereas its neighbour Bangladesh is at 65th rank. Further, the World Happiness Report published by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network that measures subjective wellbeing placed India very low. It ranked India at 139 out of 149 countries, wherein Pakistan (rank 105) is measured as a happier country than India.
The March last year, ‘Democracy Report’ published by the noted V-Dem Institute in Sweden observed the increasing challenges for the media, civil society and the opposition to function freely under the current regime and said that “India has continued on a path of steep decline, to the extent it has almost lost its status as a democracy.” In an unflattering grouping of India with Hungary, Poland and Brazil, the report argues that the “first steps of autocratisation involve eliminating media freedom and curtailing civil society.” The report explicitly said, “…the dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India (is) associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi”.
The Democracy Index of the Economist Intelligence Unit also noted a precipitous decline in India’s position, which fell by 26 places from rank 27 out of 167 countries in 2014 to rank 53 in 2020. However, the Modi government did not partake in a discussion in Parliament on the Democracy Index’s findings claiming that the issue was both trivial and too sensitive, the CCG said.
“India has become known internationally for criminalizing dissent and using laws relating to sedition and terrorism against those activists, media persons and opposition politicians who stand up against the ruling dispensation. Human rights violations continue apace and constitutional institutions like the Election Commission and the judiciary are undermined and eviscerated by all manner of means including the lure of post-retirement sinecures, intimidation and threats,” the CCG said in its statement.
Saying that there has to be vigorous pushback to these situations indicating a grave danger, the CCG said these challenges should be met by a vigilant civil society, the media, political opposition, people’s movements and revitalised Constitutional institutions like the Election Commission and the judiciary. “What is at stake is no less than the life and liberty of the poor and the disadvantaged and the hard won rights of the people of India under the Constitution,” the former civil servants said.
Read full letter here