Given the kind of attention the Union Budget gets, it is not surprising that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) India Country Report 2015, brought out by the ministry of statistics and programme implementation, has failed to raise the concern it should have had.
With 2015 being the terminal year, this report outlining India’s progress and the challenges in achieving the goals and targets set at the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000 by 189 heads of States, including India, to adopt measures—to fight against poverty, hunger, illiteracy, gender inequality, disease and environmental degradation—can be a guide for the NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in designing the post-2015 development scenario.
While 200 countries have committed themselves to the eight goals fixed as MDGs, India’s progress is also critical to the overall improvement globally because of its size and population, but the results have been far from satisfactory. (Read full report)
The Chief Statistician of India, TCA Anant, has tried to sum it up in the report: “Despite the resilience shown by the Indian economy in the face of global economic crisis, its impact on the development process has resulted in less than desirable progress in some economic and social areas. There are impressive achievements in several sectors but all the MDGs are unlikely to be met.”
The accompanying table shows that the results, at best, can be described as mixed and the government will have to strive hard and make the achievement of the MDGs an integral part of the cooperative federalism model of development that it is talking about.
It has succeeded in achieving the target of halving the poverty headcount ratio, has eliminated gender inequality in primary and secondary education, has achieved the required trend reversal in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and has met the target of providing drinking water facility and improving telephone and internet penetration.
But the report points out that “the country is moderately on track, while considering the targets of achieving universal education, reducing child mortality as the sharp decline in the recent years in infant mortality and under-five mortality are likely to take us near to the target, trend reversal has been achieved in the fight against malaria and TB, though there were some fluctuations in between, measures have been taken to reverse the loss of environmental resources, progress has been achieved in improving the environment by improving the coverage of forest area, protected areas, reducing CFC emissions, though there are still areas of concern like carbon dioxide emission and energy intensity.”
The most worrying part in the report is that hunger still remains a tough challenge in India and achieving the desired target for ensuring the sanitation facility is lagging behind—PM Modi has got a shot in the arm now to push the government schemes targeting this.
The decline in the proportion of underweight children below 3 years is expected to go down from 52% in 1990 to 33% by 2015, but is still far from the target of reducing it by half, and the percentage of households without sanitation facility is likely to be 47.31% in 2015 against the target of 38.09%.
It is also a matter of concern that despite all the attention given by the successive governments, the country needs to strive more to reduce maternal mortality to reach the desired level.
However, it is interesting to note that the list of schemes to address the individual MDGs in the 12th Plan (2012-17) also includes several new schemes launched by the NDA government.
The schemes to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger are the National Rural Employment Scheme (MGNREGA), Indira Awaas Yojana, Aajeevika-National Rural Livelihood Mission, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, National Urban Livelihood Mission, National Food Security Mission and Integrated Child Development Services. The MGNREGA is also part of the government plan to promote gender equality and empower women and the list includes the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” scheme launched by Modi in January this year.
Similarly, the Swachh Bharat Mission and Nirmal Gram Puraskar would help in meeting the target of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
The NITI Aayog has to take this exercise to the next level now given the government has entrusted the body with the responsibility of formulating a new development roadmap in consultation with the states. It would do well by embedding the MDGs in the whole plan.