The Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs) are an important benchmark to measure progress of
nations on various pressing issues. How is India tracking progress of SDGs?
Here is an explainer.

With the objective to alleviate poverty, ensure peace and prosperity, tackle environmental issues and protect the planet, the member nations of the United Nations adopted seventeen ambitious goals in 2015 known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 17 goals are interlinked and each goal has targets that countries need to meet in order to achieve the goal. For each target, there are measurable indicators so that countries can regularly evaluate their performance and take necessary actions after identifying the shortcomings. What are these sustainable development goals? Why are they necessary? How does India measure these SDGs? We look into these questions in this story.

What are the Sustainable Development Goals
(SDGs)?

The current
geological age has been termed as ‘Anthropocene’, meaning ‘age of human
beings’, by many scientists since human activities have a profound impact on
the environment and climate. This has resulted in myriad of pressing
environmental, political and economic challenges across the planet
which need to be resolved immediately.

In the United
Nations Conference on Sustainable Development at Rio de Janeiro in 2012, world
leaders came together and arrived at the idea of a plan of action to deal with
the problems. It was in 2015 that the Agenda 30 and SDGs were
finally devised after a lot of consultations and negotiations. 193 member
countries accepted the goals which are to be achieved by 2030. The goals come
with 169 specific targets and 232 measurable indicators. The Millennium
Development Goals
(MDGs) came to an end in 2015 following which
SDGs were adopted. (To know more about MDGs and India’s performance, you can
read Factly’s article here).

Sustainable Development Goals_UNGA

What is the need for SDGs? Why are they
important?

SDGs are universal in
nature and not made exclusively for developing countries. Moreover, they address
majority of the issues that people are faced with in the present and includes
all, leaving no section behind. It acts as a blueprint for ensuring a
sustainable future for all by promoting sustainable development. The goals are
interlinked and integrated in nature. This means that actions taken in any one
sector will have impact on other sectors as well. Goal based planning with
measurable indicators will help in evaluating the progress made over time by a
country or a state which is implementing measures to attain the goals and also
see whether it is on par with other nations. It also helps in identifying &
determining areas to improve.  

Sustainable Development Goals_SDG

How is India’s performance in the international
level?

According to
United Nation’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network, in 2019, India has been ranked
115 out of 162 countries in terms of SDG Index with a score of 61.1. Denmark
ranks first with a score of 85.2 and Central African Republic ranks the lowest
(162) with a score of 39.1. In the South and East Asia region, India is at the
16th position out of the total 18 countries in this region. Only
neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh stand behind India. Among the
BRICS nations, India is at the bottom. In 2018, India was ranked
112 with a score of 59.1.

India still has a long way to go to attain
goals of gender equality and poverty eradication

India has been scored the least for SDG 9, (Industry, Innovation
and Infrastructure) which is crucial for economic development. Antecedent to
this, is gender equality (SDG 5) and zero hunger
(SDG 2 which deals with
nourishment). Trends in SDG 1, 8 and 13 suggest India is on track to attaining
the 2030 target for these three goals. SDG 1 deals with
poverty eradication, SDG 8 is based on
employment and economic growth and SDG 13 covers the
actions taken to combat the drastic effects of climate change.

Thirteen states are performing below the national
average

A glance at the
performance of states with respect to SDGs indicates that Kerala, Tamil Nadu
and Himachal Pradesh are the best performing states as per NITI Aayog’s 2018 report. Assam, Bihar and
Uttar Pradesh were identified as the worst performing states. Among the Union
Territories, Chandigarh and Puducherry were the best performers. The
performance of 13 states was below the national average.

Sustainable Development Goals_Performance of state and ut SDG

Who is responsible for implementation in India?

In India, NITI Aayog is the nodal
implementation institution which has to coordinate and supervise the
implementation of Agenda 30 and SDGs. The role of Ministry of Statistics and
Programme Implementation (MoSPI) is to monitor the indicators. MoSPI also maintains a dashboard which shows SDG
Index of India as well as of each state and union territory. The Ministry has
developed a National Indicator
Framework
for monitoring the progress of SDGs.

The  Comptroller and
Audit General of India
is responsible for auditing the preparedness
to achieve SDGs. NITI Aayog has mapped each
goal to the existent Central Sector Schemes, Ministries and other initiatives
of the government. Certain state governments have also setup dedicated centres
to co-ordinate & facilitate with departments regarding SDG action plan.

National Indicator Framework developed by MoSPI
helps track performance of India

The National Indicator
Framework
(NIF) comprises of 306 statistical
indicators
which help in tracking India’s SDG
performance. The indicators used are those which are accepted nation-wide. The
periodicity in evaluating the indicators and source of data have also been
added in the largest monitoring framework of India. Similarly, states were also
asked to develop State Indicator Framework and map the data sources like NIF.  SDG 17: which is to be
realised through global partnerships and cooperation does not have any
indicator under NIF.  

Responsibility for implementation of SDGs at
state level falls under the purview of Planning Department and its equivalent

At the state
level, Office of the Chief Secretary of State provides guidance and oversees
the implementation. Planning Department coordinates implementation while
Directorate of Economics and Statistics works with required data. Panchayati Raj institutions in
rural areas and urban local bodies play an important role at the district
level.

In 2018, the
government launched restructured Centrally sponsored scheme of Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (RGSA),
implementation of which will be between 2018 to 2022 with a total of Rs. 7255.5
crores allocated for the entire
process. Through this scheme, government’s aim was to strengthen the Panchayati
Raj Institutions to achieve the SDGs.

With just a decade
left for all countries around the globe to realise the goals, urgent action
need to be called for before it becomes too late. Schemes & Strategies
should be modified so that they align with the larger SDGs while keeping in
mind the local & regional challenges specific to India.  

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