SDG India Index and India’s Sustainable development – Explained, pointwise


Recently the NITI Aayog has released SDG India Index 2020-21. In that, India’s overall SDG score improved by 6 points — from 60 in 2019 to 66 in 2020-21. Areas such as Industry, innovation and infrastructure showed a considerable decline in the current index. The report also points out socioeconomic and governance gaps in India.

India’s progress in SDGs is crucial for the world as India is home to about 17% of the world population. With the advent of the global Pandemic, India might face a huge challenge in fulfilling its sustainable development goals.

Sustainable Development Goals and SDG India Index
  • The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted in September 2015 as a part of the resolution, ‘Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. India is committed to achieving the 17 SDGs and the 169 associated targets. These comprehensively cover social, economic and environmental dimensions of development and focus on ending poverty and hunger in all its forms and dimensions.
  • At the Central level, NITI Aayog has been assigned the role of overseeing the implementation of SDGs in the country.
  • Under this mandate, the SDG India Index was launched in 2018 by NITI Aayog in collaboration with the United Nations.
  • The SDG India Index acts as a bridge between India’s SDG Progress and aligning India’s SDG with the global SDGs.
About the SDG India Index
  • Aim: As the States, progress will determine India’s progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The index aims to instil competition among States to improve their performance across social indices.
  • Indicators Covered: The third edition of the index covered 16 SDG Goals on 115 quantitative indicators.
    • In 2018, around 13 SDG goals with 62 indicators were covered.
  • Scoring: A composite score for SDG Index is computed in the range of 0–100 for each State/UT based on its aggregate performance across 16 SDGs.
    • The higher the score of a State/UT, the closer it is towards achieving the 2030 national targets.
  • Classification: States/UTs are classified based on the SDG India Index Score as follows:
    • Aspirant: 0–49
    • Performer: 50–64
    • Front Runner: 65–99
    • Achiever: 100
Key Findings of the SDG India Index 2020-21
  • India’s overall SDG score improved by 6 points — from 60 in 2019 to 66 in 2020-21.
    • This is due to improvement in providing facilities including clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy among others.
  • Categories: Currently, there are no states in the aspirant and achiever category. Around 15 states/UTs are in the performer category and 22 states/UTs in the front runner category.

SDG India Index 2020-21

Source: The Hindu

  • States:
    • Kerala has topped the index with a score of 75.
    • It was followed by Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu with a score of 74.
  • UTs: Chandigarh maintained its top spot among the UTs with a score of 79, followed by Delhi (68).
  • Areas showed improvements in the index: Following categories of SDGs showed developments in many States and Union Territories,
    • Abolition of poverty and hunger
    • Steps related to the availability of affordable, clean energy. The campaign to improve the access of households to electricity and clean cooking fuel has been an important factor in this regard.
  • Areas showed a decline in the index: The Index also mentions the following areas as worse due to the lockdowns imposed by the governments.
    • Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  • Inter-state inequality: There was a stark difference between the southern- western States and the north-central and eastern States in their performance on the SDGs. This points to socioeconomic and governance gaps. This will result in federal challenges if left unaddressed
Significance of SDG India Index
  • The index tracks the progress of all states and UTs on 115 indicators aligned with the National Indicator Framework (NIF) of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
  • The SDG India Index will also help in highlighting the crucial gaps related to tracking SDGs.
  • Further, the index will aid India to develop its statistical systems at the National & State/UT levels. This shall lead to the index evolving and becoming more comprehensive over the coming years.
Methodological changes and their impacts on SDG India Index 2020-21

The Index has made the following methodological changes:

  • Change in indicators: The 2020-21 Index drops several economic indicators, like:
    • Gini Coefficient: This year the index dropped the well-recognized Gini coefficient.
    • The index did not use the growth rate for household expenses per capita among 40% of rural and urban populations (instead, only the percentage of the population in the lowest two wealth quintiles is used)
      • Impact: Dropping of these indicators means that the SDG score on inequality may have missed out on assessing the impact of the pandemic on wealth inequality.
  • Greater weightage to certain indicators: The index gives greater weightage to social equality indicators such as the representation of women and people from marginalized communities in legislatures and local governance institutions, and crimes against SC/ST communities
  • The increasing indicators might lead to confusion: The number of quantitative indicators used in the index is getting increased every year. In 2018, the index used 62 indicators. But this year index used 115 quantitative indicators.
Challenges in achieving Sustainable development in India

There are few major challenges that hinder India from achieving SDGs. They are,

  1. Financing Sustainable Development Goals: A new study estimates that implementing SDGs in India by 2030 will cost around US$14.4 billion. According to the available statistics, India has only 5% of the required funding to implement SDGs. Further, India’s budgetary spending is also less in essential sectors. India spends around 1.5% on health and around 4% on education. This is far below the required levels to see improvement
  2. High growth and redistribution of wealth alone is not enough to achieve SDG. For example, According to the United Nations MDG 2014 report, despite high economic growth, in 2010, one-third of the world’s 1.2 billion extreme poor lived in India alone.
  3. Resource consumption and behavioural change: Achieving SDGs also require behavioural change among individual. For example, using water effectively, reducing food wastage and sharing the remaining food with others, etc.
  4. Increasing population: The United Nations estimates that India’s population will reach 1.7 billion by 2050. In that case, the country is likely to face a widening ecological deficit even if its current per-capita levels of resource consumption remain the same.
  5. Pandemic induced impacts: Many research studies have pointed out that India’s progress in essential sectors was reduced during the pandemic. For example, Oxfam International released a report that highlighted increasing inequalities in India during the time of the Covid pandemic.
Suggestions to improve SDG India index and India’s performance towards SDGs
  1. Changes required in the Index: The index has to include the well known necessary indicators such as GINI coefficient, etc.
    • Simplification of the Index: Instead of counting too many indicators, India can try recognition of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is simple and can demand reforms in governance and create more accountability. 
  2. Infusing behavioural change and reducing resource consumption: This is one of the important intervention the government need to do. Like Swachh Bharat Mission, India needs to launch mission mode programs to infuse behavioural change among the population. This will reduce the ecological exploitation of resources.
  3. Increasing adequate budgetary spending: The government has to increase the spending on health and education to an adequate level.

Indian states need to improve their performance in the SDG India index by addressing persistent issues such as increased inequality, reducing poverty and hunger, improving the environment, etc. Similarly, NITI Aayog also has to make certain changes for transforming the index simple and reliable. If this is done, then Indian States/UTs will improve not only in SDG India Index but on the global parameters also.

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