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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Bharat planning its own democracy index?

Bharat is planning its own homegrown democracy index, as per various media reports. This development was first reported by Al-Jazeera which claimed that the government of Bharat had approached the country’s renowned think tank Observer Research Foundation to develop its own democracy ratings index.

In its report, Al-Jazeera claimed to obtain this information from top government officials, however refusing to name them, saying they spoke on the condition of anonymity. The news outlet also claimed to have access to emails and the minutes of meetings held between government agencies over the past 3 years. Al-Jazeera further claims that it reviewed the official correspondence which pointed to a “growing urgency within the Modi administration on challenging setbacks to India’s democracy credentials, including through a report prepared by India”, says the media outlet.

How appropriate is it for the likes of Al-Jazeera who have a history of peddling anti-Bharat propaganda in the garb of news, to snoop on the Bharatiya government’s official communication, and how this trespasses the terrain of journalism and enter the arena of spying, is a matter that needs an altogether separate space for discussion. But here, let’s confine ourselves to discussing the topic of Bharat perhaps planning its own democracy index.

Whether Bharat is planning its own democracy index or is it just speculative stuff, only time will tell. Since the government hasn’t come out in the open and announced anything as such, we cannot verify the claims of these media reports. But one thing is sure: it’s high time Bharat comes up with its own indexes and rankings – not just the Democracy Index but also various other global indexes such as the World Happiness Index, World Press Freedom Index, etc. Perhaps, Bharat should also come up with its own unique indexes on specific topics such as the World Hinduphobia Index (which country is the most Hinduphobic and which is the least). We should also come up with our own Global Human Rights Index taking into account the human rights violations of western countries which they conveniently ignore in their own reports.

All these global indexes with fancy names have become a joke. These are taken out by NGOs and think tanks that claim to be global, but which are almost exclusively headquartered in Europe or the US. They enjoy considerable global clout and wield a lot of influence within the international media framework. Therefore, any index they publish gets mammoth publicity. Every mainstream media organization virtually parrots whatever these “index” claim. Over time, they have become so powerful that businesses base their decisions on where to invest, and where not to invest based on these rankings. Tourists look at these indexes to assess which country they should visit and which country they shouldn’t.

That’s why these indexes are used as a geopolitical tool by the west to keep the rising power of countries like Bharat in check. These fancy indexes are an elaborate blackmailing apparatus of the former colonizers, at best. The research methodology of these indexes is not known. If experts are to be believed, they take a ridiculously small sample of the country’s population, for example, in the context of Bharat, they would take a sample of 1,000 people or something. Sampling 1,000 people to conduct a study the findings of which claim to represent the entire country is nothing short of a joke. Yet, these think tanks seem to get away with these sloppy research studies since they enjoy considerable global clout and nobody questions what they are doing.

Bharat ranked 104th in the recent V-dem Liberal Democracy Index released recently. The index which reviewed a total of 179 countries called Bharat an autocracy claiming the country’s democracy has been sharply deteriorating since 2013, when the Modi government first came to power. According to a report on the Liberal Democracy Index by The Wire, “It calls out the sharp autocratisation in India from 2013, putting it at one of the top ten autocratisers in recent times, with pulling down democracy at levels as it was in 1975”.

In the report, Bharat has been classified as an electoral autocracy along with countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Russia, Phillipines, and Turkiye. It’s indeed incredible that the report puts the largest democracy in the world with a thriving multi-party tradition on the list of countries where democracy and elections are a joke. The so-called index doesn’t see any difference between Bharat and countries that don’t have a democratic system at all. In the index, Bharat’s rankings fall between Niger and Ivory Coast. This itself is enough to gauge the motivation behind such indexes. Such indexes taken out by western think tanks cater to the geopolitical interests of the west and are highly biased against rising economies like Bharat. The idea is to strategically control the business and politics of countries like Bharat and with a powerful government in place, since the west can no longer do that as easily as they could before, their frustration is out in the open for all to see in the form of these ridiculously biased indexes.

“The report finds “South and Central Asia is now the second most autocratic region in the world”. More than nine out of ten people, or 93% of the population reside in electoral autocracies like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Kazakhstan. Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are closed autocracies, accounting for 4% of the regional population”, says The Wire. The US and other western countries have long preferred a relatively destabilized South Asia. It suits their strategic and geopolitical interests. That’s precisely why the west entertains countries like Pakistan and while paying lip service to condemnation of terrorism, subtly supports the likes of Pakistan by not taking any strict action against their terrorism infrastructure, simply because terrorism originating from Pakistan doesn’t directly affect them. Also, as I said, it suits the west’s strategic interests to keep south Asia in a state if perpetual conflict.

Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Maldives, and Sri Lanka, all these countries are characterized by extreme political instability. Bharat as the only country in south Asia that enjoys unprecedented political stability at the moment and is emerging as a strong regional leader in South Asia, naturally is a threat to western hegemony in the region. That’s why the west is ramping up pressure on Bharat through these fancy indices. With elections just around the corner, the idea is to influence public opinion and create a climate of political instability in Bharat at any cost. Thus, we would see even more such global indices coming out from left, right, and center, denigrating Bharat on various parameters in the run-up to the elections.

In the World Press Freedom Index 2023, Bharat was ranked 161st out of 180 countries. Interestingly, Pakistan ranked above Bharat at the 150th spot in the index. Sri Lanka at 135th also ranked above us. An index ranking Bharat’s press freedom more than 10 places beneath Pakistan is nothing short of a joke. If Bharat indeed had such abysmal press freedom, these western indices shaming Bharat on every front wouldn’t have ever made it to the Bharatiya media. The very fact that these so-called think tanks can conveniently peddle their propaganda through mainstream Bharatiya media shows that press freedom in Bharat is thriving.

If the independent media of Bharat has a threat from anybody, it is from the global woke leftist lobby peddling anti-Bharat propaganda and not the country’s democratically elected government. This lobby is the one that threatens press freedom in Bharat as it has defined our media agenda (especially English media) in a way that only certain kinds of news reports and analyses are published. Clearly, as with the Modi government coming to power, alternative media or non-leftist media is making its presence felt in Bharat, thus the representatives of the woke lobby feel threatened as Bharat’s press is getting truly independent. Thus, they feel compelled to peddle such propaganda.

Perhaps the most ridiculous of the lot is the World Happiness Index in which Bharat is consistently placed at a low rank. According to the World Happiness Index 2024, Finland is the happiest country in the world. This itself is nothing short of a joke as Nordic countries have one of the highest depression and suicide rates in the world. Bharat ranks 126th in the list of 143 nations surveyed even behind countries like Pakistan, Iraq, and Palestine. For such rankings, even the world joke seems insufficient.

The so-called findings of this index surpass all common sense. To any lay foreigner, Bharat would seem one of the happiest countries in the world. Bharatiyas with their hard-working nature, exuberance, optimism, and family values, are still nowhere near western citizens when it comes to mental illnesses like depression. The country’s robust family structure and the traditional value system offer a strong system of care and support for elderly, unlike western nations wherein the elderly have to fend for themselves or live off state care.

Yet, the so-called World Happiness Index ranks Bharat below a country like Pakistan which is perpetually in a state of virtual civil war and where acute economic inequalities and poverty have surpassed all records. The very idea of placing Bharat below Gaza, a state that doesn’t even have its own geographical territory, is beyond ridiculous.

It is precisely why Bharat needs to start its own system of indices. As we come out of the shadows of the west and are developing our own media and think tank ecosystem, the next logical step would be to increase our foothold in the global information ecosystem by proactively creating the narrative when it comes to these social, political, and economic categories. First, we were in the phase where we were passively accepting these “global rankings” that are no longer more than vestiges of colonial hangover. Now, we are in the stage where we are retorting back and telling the west these rankings are biased and motivated. Now, it’s high time we move on to the 3rd stage where we no longer owe any explanation to the west and create our own robust intellectual ecosystem.

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Rati Agnihotri
Rati Agnihotri
Rati Agnihotri is an independent journalist and writer currently based in Dehradun (Uttarakhand). Rati has extensive experience in broadcast journalism having worked as a Correspondent for Xinhua Media for 8 years. She was based at their New Delhi bureau. She has also worked across radio and digital media and was a Fellow with Radio Deutsche Welle in Bonn. She is now based in Dehradun and pursuing independent work regularly contributing news analysis videos to a nationalist news portal (India Speaks Daily) with a considerable youtube presence. Rati regularly contributes articles and opinion pieces to various esteemed newspapers, journals, and magazines. Her articles have been recently published in "The Sunday Guardian", "Organizer", "Opindia", and "Garhwal Post". She has completed a MA (International Journalism) from the University of Leeds, U.K., and a BA (Hons) in English Literature from Miranda House, Delhi University.


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