India achievements towards the Millennium Development Goals


    This report looks in particular to India and at the lessons learned that can be incorporated into the design and implementation of the sustainable development goals to build upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) agenda. It is an opportune moment to take stock of their achievement as the previous MDGs reached their deadline in December 2015, and a new set of transformative and universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been adopted by world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015.

    What are the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals?

      The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are the eight international development goals that were established following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000, following the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration. These represent a core people-oriented development agenda.

      The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) propose to end poverty and deprivation in all forms, leaving no one behind, while making development economically, socially and environmentally sustainable spur progress towards completing the MDGs, and outline policy directions to accelerate performance in lagging areas.

      The 8 Millenium Development Goals (MDGs)

      • Goal 1 Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
      • Goal 2 Achieve universal primary education
      • Goal 3 Promote gender equality and empower women
      • Goal 4 Reduce child mortality
      • Goal 5 Improve maternal health
      • Goal 6 Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
      • Goal 7 Ensure environmental sustainability
      • Goal 8 Develop a global partnership for development

      What are the objectives of this report?

        This report has two main objectives: reviewing achievements and specific gaps of India at the national level regarding the previous MDGs, as well as identifying priorities and key cross-cutting factors or “drivers” that helped, and will help in the future. Looking ahead, the analysis reflects on the main development concerns that India will have to confront in the post-2015 period to achieve a better, more inclusive and sustainable future.

        The Indian Government is simultaneously prioritizing improving environmental development with respect to water, air, soil and the biosphere, by treating the challenge of climate change adaptation as an opportunity rather than a problem.

        What are globally the achievements and misses in India regarding the 2015 objectives of the MDGs?

          India has made notable progress towards reaching the MDGs but achievement across the goals varies, and can improve performance by helping the weaker states emulate the good performers. In particular, India has already achieved:

          • the target for reducing poverty by half (Goal 1) according to official estimates – and is close to doing so by international estimates.
          • gender parity in primary school enrolment (Goal 3), and is likely to reach parity in secondary and tertiary education also by 2015.
          • the MDG water target, but faces a much bigger challenge on sanitation

          India has also increased forest cover and has halved the proportion of population without access to clean drinking water (Goal 7). However, India’s forests have changed from multi-product and multi-layer to timber oriented, limiting gathering of non-timber forest products by forest-dependent communities.

          In controlling greenhouse gas emissions, India’s progress can be considered satisfactory if the carbon intensity of GDP is taken as an indicator, but not if CO2 emissions per head is considered.

          India is also set:

          • to achieve reducing hunger by half (Goal 1);
          • to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters (Goal 5);
          • to control the spread of deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis (Goal 6);

          But India is lagging behind for:

          • achieving universal primary school enrolment and completion, and achieving universal youth literacy by 2015 (Goal 2);
          • empowering women through wage employment and political participation (Goal 3);
          • reducing child and infant mortality (Goal 4);
          • improving access to adequate sanitation to eliminate the massive open defecation problem (Goal 7).

          Besides, India faces major infrastructure gaps: one third of Indian households do not have access to electricity, and close to 70% lack clean and affordable energy for cooking. However, although infrastructure is a key “driver” of the MDGs and other development outcomes the MDGs did not focus much on access to sustainable energy and other basic infrastructure. This omission has been rectified in the SDGs where these drivers have now been emphasized.

          What were the 2015 MDGs results and remaining needs of India for health?

            India has achieved the poverty reduction target, but progress is uneven. Divergent growth experiences and rising inequality have led to poverty becoming increasingly concentrated in poorer states. The incidence of poverty in rural India is twice that of urban areas, and higher among excluded groups — Scheduled tribes, scheduled castes, female-headed households, and religious minorities such as muslims.

            Faster reduction in poverty since the mid-2000s helped India halve the incidence of poverty from the 1990 level. This was a result both of economic growth (including in agriculture) as well as increased social spending on interventions such as the Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREGA) and the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

            Nevertheless, over 270 million Indians in 2012 still remained trapped in extreme poverty. This makes the post-2015 goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 challenging, but still feasible.

            The three immediate tasks that could contribute to further reduce poverty include:

            • To widen implementation of poverty alleviation programs and focus greater attention on rural development, states falling behind, and socially excluded groups (including the urban poor).
            • To guarantee more inclusive growth through universalization of the Government’s financial inclusion program across the nation, and integrate it with expanded micro-finance and micro-insurance schemes.
            • Over the medium term, continue emphasis on both increasing growth and social spending on poverty eradication programs, as essential elements to reduce inequality across income, geographical regions and between socially advantaged and disadvantaged groups.

            Has India achieved the goal of reducing hunger?

              India was considered on-track to achieve halving hunger just after the 2015 deadline. Nevertheless, India remains home to one quarter of the world’s undernourished population, over a third of the world’s underweight children, and nearly a third of the world’s food-insecure people. Hunger responds sluggishly to growth and requires complementary interventions in several other areas and faster-changing cultural practices to promote nurturing physical and mental environments for development of children and adolescent girls.

              The four immediate actions to take to ensure India accelerates progress on hunger are:

              1. to step up and incorporate improvements into targeted child nutrition programs ;
              2. to implement the National Food Security Act by completing targeting and identification of intended beneficiaries to ensure that poor people get affordable access to healthy and nutritious food.
              3. to address in the medium term the major challenge of food production, distribution and access to both cereals and non-cereal food by people living in poverty by doubling agricultural productivity by 2030 through a new green revolution based on sustainable agriculture.
              4. to improve mothers’ feeding and caring behavior, ensuring clean household water and adequate sanitation; strengthening access to the health system; and ensure better access to local nutritious diets to meet calorie, protein and micro-nutrient requirements.

              What were the 2015 MDGs results and remaining needs of India for health?

                India has achieved success on maternal health and on priority diseases but is off-track on child health although recent trends show an acceleration towards achieving this goal. The control of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and polio has been a major success for India.

                Better use of existing resources by more effective implementation and management of programs, and appropriate and transparent accountability over health facilities should be ensured.

                More vigorous and sustained efforts on improving child and maternal health will be needed, especially to meet the new global targets of zero preventable child deaths and a much sharper reduction in maternal deaths by 2030.

                India needs also to implement Universal Health Coverage and to consider targeting a reduction by one third of premature mortality from new non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by 2030. In addition, road accidents are on the rise and they place a significant additional burden on India’s already overstretched health services.

                What were the Indian 2015 MDG results and remaining needs for employment?

                  There was limited employment creation despite high growth and this has slowed down India’s poverty reduction. The factors responsible for low employment growth include insufficient absorption of surplus labor from agriculture in industry, particularly manufacturing and services, and also a drop in female labor force participation, which is affecting the overall labor force participation rate.

                  India needs to step up efforts to expand youth employment and as the working age group expands, greater efforts are needed to take full advantage of India’s demographic “bulge” by creating decent productive jobs in order to reinforce and underpin India’s sustainable growth.

                  The six priority actions to bolster employment include:

                  1. effective implementation of the Skill India program announced by the Government for vocational education, and training focused on target groups, especially youth and women ;
                  2. Expanding productive jobs in manufacturing and services sectors including through promotion of small and medium enterprises;
                  3. Vigorously implementing the ‘Make in India’ program by leveraging the large domestic market through infrastructure development, credit provision, a competitive exchange rate, land and labor reforms;
                  4. Stimulating domestic enterprise development, and enhancing ease of doing business to stimulate domestic investment and foreign direct investment (FDI);
                  5. Examining alternative policies and measures to make informal employment more productive and inclusive;
                  6. Focusing on employment of women, especially in the unorganized sector; and placing greater emphasis on creating decent jobs.

                  What were the Indian 2015 MDGs results and remaining needs for education ?

                    Latest data suggest that India is off-track on the targets to achieve universal enrolment and completion. Large numbers of children still remain out of school and fail to complete primary education. The quality of education is also a major concern. Direct testing of primary school students indicates very poor learning achievements in core areas of reading and mathematics with little improvement. Far greater effort is needed not only to achieve quality universal primary education, but also to achieve the SDG target of universal secondary education.

                    In the short term, achieving universal primary education will require:

                    1. scaling up efforts to reach the most excluded groups such as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, among other vulnerable segments of populations;
                    2. to provide instruction in the mother tongue of students;
                    3. to ensure that children are enrolled at the official age of entry to primary school;
                    4. to encourage early childhood education;
                    5. to improve accountability of teachers, and accord priority to improving learning outcomes.

                    Other interventions over the medium term will require:

                    1. stepping up resources to basic education, which remain low by international norms;
                    2. supporting states with insufficient funds; and improving efficiency in use of public resources.
                    3. regular assessment of teachers’ performance and providing them incentives linked to improvement in students’ learning.
                    4. To increase the teacher-pupil ratio, particularly in remote and disadvantaged areas.
                    5. To prioritize participation of non-public players, such as civil society and the private sector, parents and communities.

                    Did the status of Indian women improved under the 2015 MDGs ?

                      Empowering women remains a major development challenge. High priority must be accorded to changing discriminatory social norms and behaviors against women. Particularly distressing is discrimination against women, which begins with sex selection before birth.

                      Women in India lack economic, political and social empowerment. The proportion of women working in decent jobs outside agriculture remains low. Their participation in the overall labor force is also low and declining in rural areas; women in farming are constrained by lack of land ownership, and women are poorly represented in parliament.

                      Actually, the MDGs focused only on a limited set of empowerment measures and interventions must be widened. Priority empowerment measures should:

                      • provide women vocational education;
                      • promote parity in wages;
                      • implement laws poviding women with property and land rights;
                      • promote more employment of women including providing more than 100 days of work .

                      In the medium term, efforts must also be continued to change social norms through education and by scaling up campaigns involving the private sector and NGOs to bring about attitudinal changes. Other measures include making workplaces safe and attractive for women; regulating informal and domestic work and promoting women’s entrepreneurship with specialized capacity-building programs, exclusive credit provision, and self-help groups.

                      What were the main drivers for India to reach the 2015 MDGs targets?

                        The Indian States that performed better on the MDGs focused on the following overall “drivers”:

                        • Accelerated broad-based employment creating economic growth as these are closely related to MDGs performance due to indirect impacts on governments’ expanding revenues and direct impacts on increased incomes for poor households to invest in nutrition, health and education.
                        • Channeled resources into human development. Across India, states spending more on health and education in per capita terms have indeed seen their human development surpass others;
                        • Promoted good governance and effective delivery of public services. States with better, more accountable and responsive service delivery have also performed better on the MDGs;
                        • Extended basic infrastructure networks. States that have extended roads and transports and promoted access to electricity have seen more improvement in MDGs such as health and education than other states;
                        • Promoted gender equality and empowerment of women. It helps achieve the MDGs by reducing fertility, population growth, and child mortality; States that have empowered women more than others have also performed better on the MDGs.
                        • Improved nutrition, hygiene and health of households, children’s performance in schools, allocation of household resources, and economic growth in general.

                        Some of these overall “drivers” of MDGs performance have been explicitly incorporated in the proposed sustainable development goals, such as inclusive growth, employment creation and infrastructure, recognizing their critical role.

                        What are among the main Indian challenges remaining for the future?

                          India’s achievement of the SDGs will require a focus on the acceleration of inclusive economic growth, a guaranteed access to comprehensive social services and vast investment in basic infrastructure and women’s empowerment. This requires the formulation and implementation of effective and responsive development policies and programs essential to fulfil development for all.

                          Indeed, sixty-eight years after it gained independence, India is still engaged in a struggle for freedom from many deprivations: poverty, hunger, illiteracy, ill health, disease and many others which the MDGs sought to overcome but many remain unfulfilled.

                          On top of this, India will face major environmental challenges due to rapid urbanization, which include pollution of its inland rivers and waters; depleting fresh water sources through melting of Himalayan glaciers and depleting groundwater; land degradation, estimated at 20% of land area; and damage to coastal and marine ecosystems with loss of 34% of mangroves between 1950–2000.

                          Cities also face other environment related problems such as air pollution with pollutants far exceeding norms in an increasing number of Indian cities, excessive congestion, unhygienic conditions, poor waste disposal, and lack of green spaces for recreation.

                          The goal of sustainable development cannot be achieved globally without India. This increased convergence in development priorities provides a basis for an enhanced partnership between the United Nations and India as the country develops.

                          In the context of continued high concentration of technology generation in developed countries and increased privatization of technology, steps need also to be taken to facilitate access to sustainable technologies through strengthening of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement provisions for transfer of technology.

                          Further, India should take steps to further strengthen cooperation in South Asia covering regional trade, transport connectivity and trade facilitation. Regional cooperation for enhancing energy and food security may also be deepened. India has much to contribute to and benefit from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) of East Asia covering ASEAN+6 (Japan, China, Republic of Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand) countries as it moves ahead with ‘Make in India’. Finally, India should continue to harness the partnerships with other emerging economies.

                          What are some of the Indian Government actions put in place to face these challenges?

                            A vigorous pursuit of a sustainable development agenda presents to India valuable opportunities to not only end deprivations and provide a more dignified existence to its people but also adopt growth paths that are more sustainable and that will enable it to close the development gaps with its Asian peers.

                            The Government’s plan to develop “100 Smart Cities”, that are based on low carbon pathways is very timely and should be pursued vigorously including through win-win financial models for leveraging public-private partnerships.

                            Government is also putting heavy emphasis on renewable energy by focusing on solar, wind, geothermal and small hydroelectric plants, including through quintupling the target under National Solar Mission to 100,000 megawatts (MW) by 2022. However, as coal will continue to be a dominant source of energy for many years, access to advanced technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) would be critical.

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