By Anand Kumar
While India continues to maintain a leadership position among the fastest-growing large economies in the world in terms of its rapid GDP expansion, its performance on the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN continues to suffer because of its poor rankings.
The SDG Index and Dashboards report, brought out recently by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative for the UN, and Bertelsmann Stiftung, an independent German foundation, ranks India 116 out of a total of 157 countries.
A comparison with other development metrics indicated poor performance in most of them: GDP per capita, PPP (2015) — 105 out of 153; Subjective Wellbeing (2016) — 110/133; Environmental Performance Index (2016) — 126/157; Human Development Index (2016) – 110/157; Global Competitiveness Index (2016-17) — 37/134; and Global Peace Index (2016) — 132/149.
India scored 58.1 out of 100 on the SDG Index and its ranking slipped to 116 from 110 last year. It did slightly better on the regional average score, getting 63.3.
The UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which covers 17 goals, was adopted by head of states and governments in September 2015. The 2030 Agenda “is a new plan of action for people, planet and prosperity, with 17 SDGs and 169 associated targets at its core.”
The 17 SDGs include aspects such as ‘No poverty,’ ‘Zero hunger,’ ‘Good health and well-being,’ ‘Quality education,’ and ‘Gender equality.’
India scored 58.1 out of 100 on the SDG Index and its ranking slipped to 116 from 110 last year. It did slightly better on the regional average score, getting 63.3
Aart De Geus, Chairman, Bertelsmann Stiftung, who released the report in Hamburg — coinciding with the July 7 G20 summit — warned that the recent surge in populism and unilateralism leads to 1930 than to fulfilling the 2030 Agenda.
According to him, low-income countries need support from rich countries, with assistance by way of foreign direct investment, global tax reform to enable the poor countries to fight tax evasion by international investors, technology sharing, capacity development, and more Official Development Assistance.
Another report reflecting India’s relatively poor track record vis a vis the UN’s SDGs, was brought out earlier this month by the Global Burden of Disease, which is based out of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington and is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Global Burden of Disease also provides an analysis of health-related SDG indicators. Its report was published by the medical journal, Lancet. The study ranks countries on an overall, health-related SDG Index.
It ranked India poorly — 128th in terms of meeting health-related goals: India scored low on air pollution, sanitation, hepatitis B and wasting (or acute malnutrition).
According to the report, over six million Indians died of non-communicable diseases last year. Ischemic heart disease was the top killer. The report was also concerned about the large number of deaths of children below five — it added up to 900,000 in 2016.
“The contribution of Non-Communicable Diseases to death and disability in India continues to grow at an alarming rate — a ticking time bomb that is increasingly affecting not just our health but our economy as well,” remarks Dr Vivekanand Jha, executive director, the George Institute for Global Health, India, a top-ranking medical research institute, with offices around the world.
Not only has the Indian government been vociferously expressing its support for the SDGs, it also recently presented a voluntary review report to the UN
The two largest increases were seen in diabetes and chronic kidney disease. “The report points out the value of knowing these cause-specific mortality data in framing action to meet SDG, and highlights the continued neglect by the SDG agenda to some important causes of health burden, of whom chronic kidney disease is particularly relevant to India, having risen to 9th place in the rank of causes of death,” he adds. “There is an urgent need to pay attention to the healthcare and monitoring needs of these conditions.”
THE Indian government, however, has been vociferously expressing its support for the SDGs and recently presented a voluntary review report to the UN.
It focuses on the goals of ending poverty and hunger, ensuring healthy lives and achieving gender equality. The report, prepared by the National Institution for Transforming India (Niti Aayog), also focuses on some of the projects of the Narendra Modi government, including the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Clean India campaign and the Aadhaar Act.
“As the fastest growing major economy of the world today, India is uniquely placed to deliver on its commitments to inclusive and sustainable development,” said the report on the implementation of SDG to the UN.
“Externally, the country has played a key role in shaping the SDGs and ensuring balance among its three pillars — economic, social and environmental. Internally, it has launched many programmes to make progress towards these goals.”
Arvind Panagriya, who quit last month as vice-chairman of Niti Aayog, had earlier presented the national review report on implementation of the SDGs to the UN forum on sustainable development.
The report said India would work towards ensuring a greater flow of finances and technology from developed countries to developing and least developed nations, in alignment with their explicit commitment in the context of the 2030 Agenda.
“India believes that with combined and sustained efforts at the national and global levels, it will indeed be possible to eradicate poverty and ensure a prosperous world for all,” said the report.
But last week, a group of academicians and activists, both from India and abroad, released a signed, 25-point statement, calling on the government to ensure effective implementation of labour laws “to eliminate modern slavery and forced labour” and in line with the SDGs.
“A multi-pronged strategy that responds to the needs of all affected constituencies, including bonded labourers, contract workers, domestic workers, intra- and inter-state as well as international migrant workers, and sex workers is necessary in order to achieve SDG 8.7,” the informal group said.
The group included activists from the Self-Employed Women’s Association, National Network of Sex Workers and academics from the Jawaharlal Nehru University and National Law School of India, besides the King’s College London and the California State University.
It said the current targets and indicators proposed by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation for the realisation of SDG 8.7 “are wholly inadequate.”
Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, September 25th, 2017