The Nehru Centre in London recently held an online lecture with Salvatore Babones, a sociologist and an Associate Professor at the University of Sydney. The lecture was hosted by Amish Tripathi, director of Nehru Centre, and aimed to explain the ins and outs of various Democracy and Freedom indexes and their portrayal of India.
While we often hear terms like ‘Indian Democracy Index’ or ‘Press Freedom Index,’ the intricate details of what exactly these terms mean or how they are measured continues to elude many. Babones’ research focuses on the political economy of the Indo-Pacific region, and he has authored many books and research articles on the same.
Babones highlighted that India has a population of 1.4 billion people, and it is an “amateur statistical error not to adjust for the size of population.”
The most baffling factor, however, is that those who follow Indian media and politics closely know that India is not an “electoral autocracy” which deserves to be ranked at almost the same level as present-day Myanmar – as rated by the respected Rise of Democracy Institute – but is rather a well-functioning electorate which upholds its democratic integrity. What is it, then, that causes esteemed journals and institutions to hand out rankings this low to India?
“Most of these institutions do not send in research teams to find out the exact situations in each country. Their rankings are based on surveys sent to institutional academics such as university professors, journalists and think tankers,” he shared.
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It is clear, therefore, that the rankings reflect the opinions of the academic sphere which believes that press freedom in India is on the decline post the 2014 General Elections where the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) won a majority mandate to form the government.
“India is the only post-colonial state that has remained a democracy through its entire post-colonial history,” stated Babones, describing India as an “exceptionally successful democracy” when one considers mitigating factors like comparatively smaller GDP than other major democracies or being surrounded by neighbours who have a history of military interventions, political coups and dictatorial regimes.
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The key to India’s success, Babones believes, lies is the fact that it is an “indigenous democracy.” Where most post-colonial states continue to be plagued with insurgencies and political turmoil, India stands strong despite the mitigating factors as the world’s largest and most successful democracy.
*Info: Nehru Centre