In the fourth annual Human Freedom Index (HFI-2018), India ranks 110th out of 162 countries. Neighbors, China is at the 135th position and Pakistan at 140. For personal freedom, India was ranked 112th and 96th for economic freedom. Factors determining personal freedom included movement, rule of law, security and safety, religious freedom, association, assembly and civil society, expression and information, and identity and relationships. The HFI is collaboration by Cato Institute, the Fraser Institute and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.
Related Article:CIC asks Air India to disclose lease income from assets abroad
Experts categorise this HFI as important because it measures freedom or the lack of coercive constraint by 79 different indicators. Moreover, it has brought to fore ‘religious freedom’ which has now become an acute concern worldwide. India is the birthplace of four major world religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. The Indian Constitution explicitly protects and upholds religious freedom. Over the past four years, religious discrimination and intolerance of social dissent has been at its peak. There is no denying the fact that since 2014, according to ‘India: Religious Freedom Issues’, a report by the Congressional Research Service, indicators of increasing Hindu chauvinism and bigotry are more common in India. Furthermore, US government reports and international human rights watch dogs continue to highlight the mounting repression that India’s minority communities face. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its 2018 annual report stated “conditions for religious minorities have deteriorated over the decade due to a multifaceted campaign by Hindu-nationalist groups. Religious minorities face challenges ranging from acts of violence or intimidation, to the loss of political power, to increasing feelings of disenfranchisement and ‘otherness’.” The Human Rights Watch in 2017 said Indian witnessed vigilante violence aimed at religious minorities, marginalized communities and critics of the government. The international human rights report noted that “the government failed to promptly or credibly investigate the attacks, while many senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders publicly promoted Hindu supremacy and ultra-nationalism, which encouraged further violence. Dissenters were labelled as anti-national, and activists, journalists and academics were targeted for their views, and free expression.” The report also stated that foreign funding regulations were used to target non-governmental organizations critical of government actions and policies.
Related Article:India pledges Rs 4,500 crore financial assistance to Bhutan
According to HFI, freedom plays an important role in human well-being. It offers opportunities for further research into the complex ways in which freedom influences and can be influenced by political regimes and economic development.