Tardy Focus in Critical Sectors at the Root of Low SDG Rating

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Tardy Focus in Critical Sectors at the Root of Low SDG Rating 

The Root of our Problem 

India’s rank has slipped from 117 last year to 120 on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted as a part of the 2030 agenda by 193 United Nations member states in 2015. Although the composite score has improved from 59.69 to 60.1 in 2021. China is 48th and even a war torn country like Iraq is ahead of India. While we may be ahead of many countries in GDP terms, the acid test of a country’s inherent strength lies in the well-being of its people. The overall SDG score of India is 60.1 out of 100. Finland is at the top spot with a score of 85.90. What is even more embarrassing for India is that it ranks even below four South Asian countries, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.  Myanmar, which more often than not is ruled by a military dispensation, is ahead of India. A snapshot of the SDG report of some of the selected countries is given in Table 1 below.

Table 1 : Extracts of UN SDG Ranking 

S.No

Country

Score

Rank

1

Finland

85.90

1

2

Germany

82.48

4

3

US

76.01

32

4

Israel

75.04

38

5

Russia

73.75

46

6

China

72.06

52

7

Iran

70.01

74

8

Bhutan

69.98

75

9

Sri Lanka

68.10

87

10

Nepal

66.52

96

11

Myanmar

64.95

101

12

Iraq

63.82

105

13

Bangladesh

63.45

109

14

India

60.07

120

15

Pakistan

57.72

129

16

Central African Republic

38.27

165

Note : 27 Countries were not ranked

India’s Performance an Analysis 

India’s performance when compared to its GDP ranking which is 7th in the world and due to which it finds place in G7 and G20 Forums is a cause of major worry. Sustainable development of a country is the key to a country’s comprehensive national security. Therefore, it is important for us to analyse the indicators which are pulling back India from the path of development and suggest some short term measures at the national level and also for the most populous state of the country, Uttar Pradesh. The reason to select UP is based on the fact that UP being the largest state of the country in terms of population is able to find a sustainable way ahead for sustainable development then others would automatically be able to make way for themselves. The table 2 below shows the comparative performance of the country, leading state, UP and the last state of the country on the SDG index as rated by the Niti Ayog.

Table 2 : Comparative Table of Performance of India Overall and Leading / Trailing States of India

Ser

S1

S2

S3

S4

S5

S6

S7

S8

S9

S10

S11

S12

S13

S14

S15

S16

Composite

India

60

47

74

57

48

83

92

61

55

67

79

74

54

66

74

66

Kerala

83

80

72

80

63

89

100

62

60

69

75

65

69

53

77

80

75

Punjab

69

73

77

60

45

66

100

57

69

68

91

71

51

48

76

68

UP

44

41

60

51

50

83

100

53

42

41

77

79

39

61

79

60

MP

44

43

62

45

55

88

86

60

37

51

81

78

49

84

66

62

Raj

63

53

70

60

39

54

100

57

45

45

81

74

49

43

73

60

Bihar

32

31

66

29

48

91

78

50

24

48

67

59

16

62

73

52

Index 1 : Aspirant State (0-49) –  2.  Performer – (50 – 64) –  3. Front runner – (65 to 99)- 4. Achiever – 100 –  

Index 2 : S1 – No Poverty, S2 – Zero Hunger, S3 – Good Health and Well being, S4- Quality Education, S5-Gender Equality, S6 – Clean Water and Sanitation, S7 – Affordable and Clean Energy, S8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth, S9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure (I3), S10-Reduced Inequality, S11- Sustainable cities and communities, S12- Responsible consumption and production, S13-Climate Action, S14- Life Below Water, S15 – Life on Land, S16 – Peace Justice and Strong Institutions, S17- Partnership Goals. Composite is the overall score.

Analysis of SDG

Salient deductions from the above data that stand out very clearly are firstly, India ranks 120th in the world slipping three places below from last year’s standing. How much should we blame this on COVID and how much on  performance of the country’s central and state governments and private sector is a matter of separate debate. Suffice to say this trend if extended over a long term does not augur well for the country. Second, Kerala (75), HP(74) and TN (74),  if they were independent countries, would be amongst the top 38 countries in the world and qualify as countries well on their way to be termed as developed countries. Thirdly, these three States are closely followed by AP (72), Goa(72), Karnataka(72), Uttarakhand (72),  Sikkim (71), Maharashtra (70),  Gujarat (69) and  Telangana (69) and would qualify to be called states aspiring towards becoming developed states. The Neeti Ayog has also included Mizoram (68), Punjab (68), Haryana(67) and Tripura (65) as frontrunner states. For the sake of encouragement in my opinion rest of the states have been brought up to Performer states. However, these states have a long way to go before they can hope to reach the levels achieved by the top three states in the country. Fourthly, amongst the UTs Chandigarh finds itself ahead of even Kerala at a composite score of 79. Other UTs less Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman Diu are frontrunners. Fifthly, if we look at the SDG pattern on the map of India it clearly indicates that Hindi Heartland, East and the NE regions depicted by the yellow colour on the Map in Figure 1 below are impeding India’s well being and progress. This region also contains the BIMARU states (Bihar, MP, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) which has gone out of the lexicons of current discussions pertaining to India.  However, the way India’s position is slipping in the SDG index there is an urgent need to focus on five states Bihar, UP, Rajasthan, MP and West Bengal) as their combined population comprises half of the country’s population and all of them are in the lower half of the inter state SDG rating index. Other statistics that may be of interest are that ten most populated states of India contribute 74% of India’s population. The 12 least populous states/UTs contribute only 1 % of India’s population and 21 lowest constitute only 10 % of the total (130 crore). So the problem lies in raising the performance of Bihar (28,28), UP (25/28), Rajasthan(24/28), MP (17) and WB(18). These states are lagging significantly behind the rest of the country in parameters clubbed under the group aspirant states shown in the table 2 below.

Figure 1: Map Showing Performance Pattern of Various States on SDG Index

Source: Dashboard Niti Aayog SDG Report

Table 3 : Comparison of Individual  Aspirant SDG scores of Five Laggard States with top two States of the Country

CRITICAL SDG GOALS

BIHAR

UP

RAJASTHAN

MP

WB

Kerala

Himachal

S1 – No Poverty

32

44

61

44

59

83

80

S2- No Hunger

31

41

53

43

46

80

52

S4 – Quality Education

29

51

60

45

54

80

74

S5- Gender Equality

48

50

39

55

41

63

62

S9- I-3

24

42

45

37

53

60

61

S 10-Reduced Inequality

48

41

45

51

71

69

78

S11-Sustainable Cities

67

77

81

81

45

75

77

S13- Climate Action

16

39

49

49

39

69

62

S14 – Life on Land

62

61

43

84

53

77

68

Above table conveys the message in no uncertain terms that solution to India’s comprehensive long term growth lies in improving the some of the SDG parameters of the five states i.e. Bihar, UP, Rajasthan, MP and WB as half of India resides in these states. Improvement in these states will automatically make an exponential growth in the well being of the country as a whole. Of the nine parameters identified above S1 (No Poverty), S2 (No Hunger), S4 (Quality Education), S5 (Gender Equality), S9 (I3) and S13 (Climate Action) are the biggest impediments to growth.  The top states are mostly front runners in these SDGs. 

Way Ahead 

While each state will have its own specific solutions to improve their performance due to the constraints of space, UP is being selected as the state to identify measures to enhance its performance in SDG Index. If any government is able to take the level of performance UP into a front Runner State it will not only secure good will for its own survival but enhance the survival probability of the Central Government besides raising the classification of the country on SDG indices to the level of a country well on its way to being nominated as a developed country in times to come. The solution being offered is at two levels first at the structural level and then at the individual SDG category level. 

Macro Level Initiative

Formation of Smaller States. At the structural level if we look at UP it has a large population and a large geographical spread. UP the way it is located can be distinctly separated into four distinct regions See map below. First is Poorvanchal comprising the eastern districts around Gorakhpur – Azamgarh – Varanasi. The Second is Madhyanchal comprising the Central Districts around Ayodhya – Lucknow – Kanpur essentially the Awadh Region. The third is Bundelkhand – Baghelkhand – Lower Doab Region including Jahansi and fourth is the Western UP comprising the regions of Upper Doab, Rohilkhand and Middle Doab. It has been seen in the past that the smaller states are easy to manage and fare better on SDG and human index parameters. For example HP, Uttarakhand, Goa, Sikkim etc. It is not a new idea but given the way UP consistently fares low in the SDG index, there is a need to seriously look at dividing the state into smaller states based on similar culture, history and geography. By doing so we may just witness a closer and intimate addressing og problems of the people at the ground level. The suggestion to split the state beyond these four regions into eight states (see map above) is not advisable as a number of these states may end up losing scope for revenue generation, loss of industrial base and inadequate educational facilities.This idea was first given by Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar ji in his book “Thoughts on Linguistic States. As per his idea In 1955, Ambedkar proposed the idea of UP being split into three states with the Western Region having Meerut as its capital, the Eastern Region having Allahabad at its capital and the Central region with Kanpur as its Capital. However, it is felt that dividing the state into four would be better given the extent and the population of the State. Capital of Purvanchal could be Gorakhpur or Varanasi.Capital of Awadh would be ideally located at Lucknow. Capital of South UP could be Jhansi and that of Western UP as Meerut. 

Figure 2: Map Showing Proposed Carving of Smaller States

Population Control. India and UP in particular has a large young population. While a large youth bulge is a demographic dividend, it is becoming a liability primarily due to a number of reasons. Firstly, lack of employable skills and limited job opportunities leads to large scale unemployment. Secondly, limited resources and a large population directly contributes to hunger and poverty. Thirdly, ballooning population and lack of consolidation process of land in many parts of the state has resulted in partitioning of agricultural land. This coupled with unscientific agricultural processes in certain pockets of the state has resulted in inadequate production of agricultural produce in the state especially in Purvanchal. Fourthly, a large population leads to overburdening of the already poor health infrastructure in the state which almost collapsed in the recent second wave of the COVID 19. Therefore there is a need to address this problem with drastic measures. Some of the suggested measures are first, incentivize the two child parents for example subsidise education irrespective of gender of the child, triple the allowances to people following small family norms whether someone is a state government employee or not provided they are from economically weaker sections of the society. Second, time has come to now decentivize people not adhering to the small norms irrespective of whether they belong to weaker sections of the society or caste or class or religion. Third, there is a need to undertake family planning campaigns on a war footing and extend it to remotest areas of the state and the country through compelling motivational campaigns. 

Individual SDG level Interventions

S1 – SDG No 1 : No Poverty. As per UN SDG index anybody above a daily earning of $1.90 / day are considered to be above the Poverty line. However, $1.90 is an extremely low amount to sustain an individual. There is a need to increase this figure to atleast to $ 4 / day. The government of UP needs to work on priority to mobilise resources to end poverty and the establishment of poverty eradication policy. Focus must be made to extend the poverty eradication programmes to the villages and remote areas. Pradhanmantri Gram Sadak Yojna and MNREGA needs to be pushed forward. 

S2: SDG 2 : No hunger. As per SDG this index is a measure of firstly, prevalence of undernourishment; secondly, stunting in Children under five years of age; thirdly, wasting of children under five years of age; fourthly, obesity with BMI more than 30; fifthly, human trophic level; sixthly, cereal yield and seventhly, sustainable nitrogen management index. Clearly, with a score of 41 UP is a laggard in this field. Any improvement in this sector would also lead to enhancement in the index and public support to the government of the day. The situation has further deteriorated in this sector due to the onslaught of COVID because of which people have lost jobs, especially the daily wagers. What should it do? In the short term there is a need to reopen at least the industrial and construction sector to absorb as many daily wagers as possible. The Vaccination units must reach out to such people to administer vaccines as it has been seen that such people are extremely apprehensive of undergoing vaccination. A door to door programme has to be launched to administer vaccines to the weaker sections of the society. Also if feasible the grant of rations and money directly into the accounts for the entire duration of the financial year upto 31st March 2021. In the long term, the State needs to focus on industrial growth especially in the MSME sector for employment generation. Tourism in UP has not been adequately exploited, there is ample scope to do so. Also it has been seen that Purvanchal has not even undertaken consolidation of farming land in many districts. This needs to be undertaken on a war footing to introduce modern farming. If we look at the GDP of the eight regions of UP,  Purvanchal has the lowest GDP and hence poverty, lack of education, lack of health infrastructure etc. See graph at Infrastructure development is being rightly focussed upon and will go a long way in helping overcome hunger and poverty. Finally, UP needs to prepare its manpower and facilitate its migration not only in other states of India but also abroad. This will besides bringing revenue will also ease the pressure on local resources.  

SDG 4: Quality Education. Education is the root cause of our social and economic problems. Education is a major deficiency in states like UP and Bihar. Lack of quality education leads to gender discrimination, lack of employment, unscientific agricultural activities and even improper health workforce. UP has been a laggard in education primarily due to improper quality of teaching staff in villages and weak infrastructure including sports infrastructure at the primary and the middle school levels. If the very foundation of our education system is weak then higher education will always be poor. Two steps that need immediate attention to improve the quality of education and make the Children of UP competitive at the national and international levels are firstly, improving the quality of teaching staff and secondly, improving the primary and middle school infrastructure. Actions that can be taken to ensure this are firstly, depute teachers from a different region to a primary or middle school with considerable dislocation allowance or remote locality allowance. Teaching should be a sought after profession at the Primary level to attract the best talent. Second, open one school in every district modelled on the lines of Sainik Schools. Sainik Schools bring into the children a sense of discipline and motivate them to give their best. This would also help the youth to perform better in life and thus contribute towards overall growth of the State. 

SDG 9 : Industries, Innovation and Infrastructure (I – 3). The state has taken a number of initiatives in this direction but due to COVID satisfactory progress has not been made for example the Defence Corridor initiative needs a major push as this will generate large employment, However, the effort may become counter productive if local skilled manpower is not available and that comes from creation of skill development centres. A industry – state partnership is needed to ensure that skilled manpower is recruited from the state itself for which the industry must create the necessary skill development centres in consultation with ITIs and other educational institutions. Similarly, any individual coming up with innovative ideas must be facilitated by the state proactively to spread the footprint of industries in the state. Similarly new sectors need to be identified such as rural tourism, revival of cottage industries. If FabIndia and Ramdev can penetrate the remotest areas of the country why not the government with much more resources and power. Privatisation, ably supported by public administration, is the way ahead to do so. Each of these areas need detailed study for implementation and need to be taken up on priority by the State and the Central Governments.

SDG 13: Climate Action. UP has a major problem at hand as far as Climate Action is concerned with a SDG score of only 39. It has a long way to go. Burgeoning population, unplanned old cities, polluted rivers, concentration of industries in limited parts of the state and reducing green cover are a few of the factors that are leading to irreversible damage to the environment. Solution lies in taking help from the UNEP which assists national and local governments by raising awareness, organizing workshops and training, developing evaluation tools and involving cities in international meetings on climate change. One of these collaborations is a Joint Work Programme between UNEP, the World Bank, UN-Habitat, under the facilitating role of Cities Alliance to address cities and climate change. With a focus on developing countries, this partnership aims to support local and national governments in urban adaptation and mitigation processes. One of the main outputs of this cooperation is an online knowledge centre which provides information on cities and climate change.

Conclusion

Growth or vikas is the only way ahead to push India up in the comity of nations. For this well being of the people of the country is a must. The SDG index acts as an eyeopener to the public administrators and political leaders to focus in the right areas. In our country and UP and Bihar in particular as per the SDG index four areas stand out as the biggest impediments in Vikas. These are firstly, poverty which results in hunger and deplorable standard of living. Secondly, lack of strong basic education which leads to plethora of related problems such as unemployment, gender discrimination and rising crime rates. Providing quality education will lead to a domino effect and improve the performance of the state and country in other sectors as well. Although this initiative will show results in the long term. Thirdly, demographic dividend is now turning into a demographic liability and unless we significantly incentivize small family norms and decentivize large families irrespective of class, caste, religion and economic classification we are unlikely to witness Vikas. Fourthly, growth without sustainable environment protection measures will lead to catastrophe hence environment protection must remain at the centre of all our development initiatives especially those related to industries and infrastructure development. Surgical surgery is required in governance and society to progress India on the path of sustained progress.

2 thoughts on “Tardy Focus in Critical Sectors at the Root of Low SDG Rating

  • June 26, 2021 at 8:59 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks For Your Comments sir hope people that matter take cognisance of it.

  • June 25, 2021 at 12:08 pm
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    A very comprehensive analysis of what ails Indian growth story. Being behind Nepal and Bangladesh is unpardonable. India needs to work very hard to come up the ladder. I fully endorse your view that the states need to take the lead. Particularly if bigger states like UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Assam, MP and West Bengal work with a focused approach we will be able to address the sorry state.

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