India’s Sustainable Development Goals | SDGs – Performance So Far – Explained, pointwise

For 7PM Editorial Archives click HERE


Recently, the Lancet journal published a report titled “Progress on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators in 707 districts of India: A quantitative mid-line assessment using the National Family Health Surveys, 2016 and 2021″. The reporthas highlighted India’s SDGs performanceis not up to the mark and mentioned that India may not be able to achieve at least 19 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. 

What are SDGs?

The SDGs are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity. There is a total of 17 interlinked goals; interlinked because they recognize that action in one area will affect outcomes in others and that development must balance social, economic, and environmental sustainability.

Sustainable Development Goals SDGs UPSC
Source: UNDP

They were adopted by a UN General Assembly Resolution in September 2015 (Agenda 2030). Through the resolution, the global leaders pledged to set the world on a new trajectory to deliver meaningful progress for people and the planet through domestic actions in the next 15 years.

Must read: Need for Public-private partnerships in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

About the Lancet survey

The study was conducted by collecting data on children and adults from two rounds of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) conducted in 2016 and 2021. It identified 33 indicators that cover 9 of the 17 official SDGs.  

It used the goals and targets outlined by the Global Indicator Framework, Government of India and World Health Organisation (WHO) to determine SDG targets to be met by 2030.” 

What is the status of India’s SDG performance according to the Lancet study?

  • India is not on-target for 19 of the 33 SDGs indicators (Sustainable Development Goals) of the United Nations, which is more than 50% of the indicators. 
  • Among the 19 off-target indicators, the situation has worsened for three of the off-target goals including those relating to anaemia among women, pregnant and non-pregnant women, between 2016 and 2021. 
  • The critical off-target indicators include access to basic services, wasting and overweight children, anaemia, child marriage, partner violence, tobacco use, and modern contraceptives.
  • Off-target districts are concentrated in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, and Odisha, 
  • The performance of aspirational districts is also not satisfactory.
  • Many districts will never meet the targets on the SDGs even after 2030 due to a worsening trend observed between 2016 and 2021.

What are the positive aspects of India’s SDG performance highlighted in the Lancet survey?

The study found some good things about India’s SDG performance. These include 

  • At the all-India level, the one SDG indicator that has already been achieved is related to adolescent pregnancy in the age group of 10–14 years.  
  • India is also On-Target to meet 13 out of the 33 indicators, including Internet use, women havingbank account, full vaccination (card), improved sanitation, multidimensional poverty, birth registration, skilled birth attendants, electricity access, tobacco use (women), child marriage of girls less than 15 years of age, under 5 mortality, teenage sexual violence, and neonatal mortality. 
  • If efforts continue, India may meet the target of improved water access by 2031, clean fuel for cooking by 2035, lowering teenage pregnancy age by 2039, and partner sexual violence by 2040.
  • Another 11 off-target indicators, including access to basic services and partner violence (physical and sexual), may be met between 2041 and 2062. 
Read more: [Yojana May Summary] Sustainable Economic Growth – Explained, pointwise

What is the reason for India’s poor SDG performance?

General reasons responsible for India’s poor SDG performance

Slow world growth rate: To reach the SDGs, the world needs to grow by 2.5 percentage points every year. But the world has only grown by 0.36 percentage points up to 2021. This is almost seven times slower than the United States.  

The covid pandemic stopped all progress around the world from 2019 to 2021.   

Linear extrapolation: To illustrate the gap between expectations and delivery, one can use linear extrapolation to project a future date when the world will achieve perfection. This is merely a generalisation since countries that are getting near completion will probably start focusing on and funding other goals.  

Unrealistic promises: Some of the promises, such as ending the war, poverty, climate change, hunger, and disease, are unrealistic.  

Impossible to focus: Having 169 aims is like having no priorities, so promising everything makes it impossible to focus. Most countries are either not able or not willing to set aside enough money to keep all their promises. 

India-specific reasons:

Worsening period: According to the Lancet report many districts will never meet the targets on the SDGs even after 2030 due to a worsening trend observed between 2016 and 2021.

Financing SDGs: SDG targets like zero hunger, poverty, etc requires significant investments to eliminate them. Being home to one-third of the world’s 1.2 billion extremely poor, the Indian government alone cannot fund these SDG targets.

Monitoring & Ownership of Implementation Process: Although NITI Aayog is expected to play an important role, the members of the Aayog have expressed their concerns time and again about the limited manpower they have to handle such a Herculean task.

What are the initiatives taken by India to achieve SDG Targets?

  • JAM trinity: Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and mobile proved to be helpful in forming the Digital Public Goods (DPGs) and Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) which would be helpful in driving financial inclusion and helping improve benefits targeting which have been crucial to India’s progress on SDG 1, namely No Poverty. 
  • The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) is being used to give unskilled workers jobs and raise their standard of living.  
  • The National Food Security Act is being used to make sure that food grains are subsidised.  
  • Healthcare sector initiatives which are helpful in achieving sustainable development goals are The Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram, Ayushman Bharat, National digital health mission (NDHM), etc. 
  • The government of India has taken several steps to mitigate the effects of climate change, like National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project (NCRMP), The Net Zero Commitment.
  • The government also supports the 10-Year Framework Programme on Sustainable Consumption and Production. For that the Ministry has published a draft notification of regulation on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for Waste Tyre for receiving comments from the public and Guidelines on the EPR for Plastic Packaging under Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 has been notified. 
  • Apart from the above-mentioned initiative, other initiatives include the Swachh Bharat mission, Beti Bacho Beti Padhao, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Smart Cities, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, among others. 
  • NITI Aayog “SDG India Index”: It is the world’s first government-led sub-national measure of SDG development. It was launched in 2018 and has been developed to capture the progress of all states and union territories (UTs) in their journey towards achieving the SDGs. This index is based on the idea of cooperative and competitive federalism, which says that action needs to be taken at all levels. The index shows how the Global Goals of the 2030 Agenda cover a wide range of issues while also taking into account national priorities.
Must read: India’s efforts to achieve SDGs

What can be done to improve India’s SDG performance?

This Lancet report has suggested the following steps to improve India’s performance on the SDGs: 

Appraisal of the policies and programs: India needs to urgently conduct an appraisal of the policies and programs that relate to SDGs, especially those that relate to four SDG targets relating to no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being and gender equality.  

Identifying and prioritizing districts: On critical indicators of health and social determinants of health, there is a need for a greater degree of precision in identifying and prioritizing districts for intervention. Meeting these goals will require prioritising and targeting specific areas within India 

Inter-ministerial initiatives: Since the different SDGs fall under tightly organised ministries, there is a need to establish inter-ministerial initiatives, with clear governance structures under the Prime Minister’s Office. Similar structures could be developed at the state level under the respective chief minister’s office. 

Conduct economic cost-benefit analysis: This will aid in setting priorities and directing more resources to the policy that offers the greatest return for each additional rupee spent. 

Along with other initiatives, India should also create a strategic road map that will help make sure that the SDGs are met successfully. 

Print Friendly and PDF