New Delhi: US-based Freedom House’s ‘Freedom in the World Report 2021‘ downgraded India’s status from a ‘free’ country to a ‘partly free’ country for the first time, giving it a score of 67/100. India has fallen by four points since last year when it was still in the ‘free’ category.
India’s score has consistently declined over the last few years: In 2020 it was 71, while it got 75 in 2019 and 77 in 2018 and 2017, respectively.
In episode 696 of ‘Cut the Clutter’, Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta dissected the report and the reasons why India’s score has fallen.
How Freedom House scores countries
Freedom House, the US think tank, assesses every country with the help of about 125 analysts and more than 40 consultants, said Gupta.
Freedom House assesses each country or territory on the basis of two main parametres: political rights and civil liberties, which are then further divided into various categories.
The categories are further divided into questions and a country is then given a score out of four on each question, based on its performance. The political rights category has 10 such questions, while civil liberties carries 15.
It also assesses disputed categories separately, said Gupta. For example, it assesses Kashmir and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, separately — Kashmir got a rating of 27/100 while POK got 28.
India scored 34 out of 40 points in the political rights section, which Gupta said is “brilliant”, but scored a dismal 33 out of 60 on civil liberties.
Electoral process and political pluralism
Breaking the report down further, Gupta talked about India’s scores on each question in different categories. India scored 12/12 on electoral process and 13/16 on political pluralism and participation.
On a question on political pluralism that asked if all segments in the country are ensured full political rights, India scores 2/4. “If you look at the reasoning that Freedom House analysts have given for a two out of four score, they say it’s mainly because of the Citizenship Amendment Act that denies Indian citizenship to some minorities, and gives citizenship selectively to others,” Gupta said.
Functioning of govt, freedom of expression
India also scored 9/12 on functioning of the government where the report took note of corruption in the country and declining transparency in how the government functions. India scored only 9/16 on freedom of expression and belief.
Here, the report notes that the freedom of press is compromised because of added government pressure on journalists, and there’s rising “activity” on campuses intent to disturb academic freedom. “The report says that RSS and forces close to the government have been indulging in activities or activism that is disturbing academic freedoms on India’s campuses. You can explain that all with three letters — JNU,” Gupta said.
At 7/12, India also scored poorly on associational and organisational rights to individuals. Under this category, the report took note of the frequent internet shutdowns, the imposition of curfews and the strengthening of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, which led to the closure of Amnesty International’s operations in India.
Rule of Law and individual rights
On Rule of Law, India scored only 8 out of 16. According to the report, India fared poorly on the independence of judiciary in the country. “Among the reasons mentioned for this is the elevation of former chief justice Ranjan Gogoi to Raja Sabha, and also the transfer of another judge, who they do not name, but (they) could possibly be talking about is the transfer of Justice S. Muralidhar from Delhi High Court to Punjab and Haryana High Court,” Gupta said.
The report also says numerous judgments, especially in the Supreme Court, tend to favour the government.
India scored only 9/16 in the personal autonomy category. One of the reasons the report attributes to India’s poor performance in this category is its poor handling of migrant workers at the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown last summer, revealed Gupta.
Where other countries stand
New Zealand received an impressive 99/100 score in World Freedom rankings, and was among the highest ranked, followed by Canada at 98 and UK at 93. The USA received a score of 83 on 100.
Russia got a score of 20/100 under the ‘not free’ category while China received a score of only 9/100. Saudi Arabia’s score was 7/100 while Iran got 16. Israel scored 76 on 100.
In the South Asia region, both Nepal and Sri Lanka scored 56/100.
Watch the full episode here: