Skip to main content

India's 'lag'? How govt is making little effort to achieve Sustainable Development Goals

By Dr Gurinder Kaur* 

According to the United Nations Sustainable Development Report released on 5 June 5, 2021, India slipped down by two ranks to 117 from 2020’s 115th rank in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The 193 countries of the United Nations set 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The United Nations ranks Sustainable Development out of 100 points in the Social Development Goals (SDGs). India scored 61.9 out of 100 points while its seven neighbors -China (73.9), Bhutan (69.3), Maldives (67.6), Sri Lanka (66.9), Nepal (65.9), Myanmar (64.6), and Bangladesh (63.5) got more points than India. Sweden has the highest score of 84.7 in Sustainable Development.
The report attributes India's decline in Sustainable Development to the challenges of eradicating hunger and hindering food security goals. In addition, gender equality, building resilient infrastructure, sustainable industrialization and the absence of innovation are some of the reasons why India's ranking has slipped.
According to the report, India also ranks very low in terms of Environment Performance Index (EPI), ranking at 168 out of 180 countries. According to the Yale University's EPI report, India is 21 ranks behind Pakistan in terms of biodiversity and habitat. Environmental Health Indicator is another criterion that shows the ability of any country to deal with the health problems of its people due to environmental health risks.
Out of 180 countries, India ranks 172nd in environmental health. In the case of environmental health, Pakistan is ranked 127th while India is 148th. The rankings are based on indicators such as climate, air and water pollution, sanitation, drinking water supply, ecosystem services, biodiversity etc. The first goal of Sustainable Development is to eradicate hunger in all countries of the world. 
Four indicators are used to understand the state of hunger. The first indicator is the share of population that is undernourished (whose calorific intake is insufficient), the second child wasting (the share of children under five who have low weight for their height) and third child stunting (the share of children under five who have low height for their age) and the fourth is the mortality rate of children below five years.
In the first round of the 5th National Family Health Survey (2019-20) of 22 States and Union Territories it was clear that the rate of malnutrition among children in India is higher than the National Family 4th Health Survey conducted in 2015-2016. Data collected before the Covid-19 pandemic shows that the number of people in India who do not get enough to eat is constantly increasing. The rising rate of child malnutrition is also pointing to a bleak future for the country.
Another reason for the decline in Sustainable Development is the lack of food security. According to the August 2020 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report, food insecurity in India has increased by 3.8 per cent between 2014 and 2019. 
According to the report, during the period 2014-2016, 27.8 per cent of India's population suffered from moderate to severe food insecurity, but during 2017-19, the population increased to 31.6 per cent. The number of food insecure people increased to 48.96 crore in 2017-2019 from 42.65 crore in 2014-16. According to the above report, India accounts for 22 per cent of the world's food insecurity.
The issue of gender inequality in India is neither new nor surprising. In our country discrimination against girls starts even before they are born and it stays with them till their death. The birth of girls is still not celebrated at home, as evidenced by the declining number of girls compared to boys in every population survey census from 1991. In addition, there are increasing incidents of violence against women on a daily basis, ranging from domestic violence to gang rape.
According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2021 released by the World Economic Forum, India is down 28 ranks from 2020 in terms of gender inequality. India is ranked 140th out of 156 countries. Out of the South Asian countries, only two countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan, lag behind India in this regard. The report identifies four indicators for measuring women's inequality: women's economic participation and opportunities in economic activity; education, health and survival; political empowerment; and the pace of development of reducing gender inequality.
On an average women's income is one-fifth that of men, which is due to rising unemployment among women due to declining employment opportunities. At the same time, there is wage discrimination against women. Although there is a lot of talk about the political empowerment of women in our country, the 33 per cent reservation bill for women in the Parliament and the Legislative Assemblies, which has been pending for almost three decades, has yet to be passed.
The number of women in the cabinet was 23.1 per cent in 2019, which has come down to 9.1 per cent in 2021. The literacy rate of women is also lower than that of men. Inequality of women is an important indicator of Sustainable Development which our country is not paying attention to.
Decline of public institutions is a clear indication of the government's irresponsible attitude towards Sustainable Development
India is increasingly lagging behind in terms of sustainable infrastructure. Institutions related to government education and health services in rural and urban areas have declined significantly in recent decades. Vacancies of teachers in government educational institutions (schools, colleges, and universities) are not being filled and the percentage of grants to these institutions has been gradually reduced. 
The poor condition of government hospitals has been exposed in the first and second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Thus, the decline of public institutions is a clear indication of the government's irresponsible attitude towards Sustainable Development.
Sustainable industrialization, another goal of Sustainable Development, means that industrialization which will increase the growth rate as well as provide employment to the people of the area and raise their standard of living and the industries will meet the environmental norms so that they can absorb the environmental elements (air, water and soil) and do not harm the health of the people. 
India, in the race for economic growth, entangled in the web of corporations, is flouting environmental norms, giving numerous relaxations to industrial enterprises, leading to a steady increase in air and water pollution in the country's cities.
According to the World Air Quality Report 2020, India's capital Delhi has been the most polluted capital in the world for the third year in a row and 22 of the 30 most polluted cities are in India while China, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have only two cities each. Every year millions of people die in our country due to air pollution. Indian government continues to plan to increase the number of industrial enterprises and benefit the corporate world instead of Sustainable Development.
The Central Government has made a number of changes to the 2006 Environmental Impact Assessment and released a draft of Environmental Impact Assessment in 2020, according to which existing good or bad, illegal occupants or on their own land, whether operating without obeying, environmental protection regulations, provision was made to regularize all the projects with deficiencies from their date of establishment by taking some fine.
Making such changes in the 2006 Environmental Impact Assessment would also allow projects like LG Polymer in Visakhapatnam to continue with payment of fines even if it has a detrimental effect on the health of the people in the area or the environment there. Toxic gas leaked from the project killed scores of people in May 2020 and affected thousands more.
According to the UN report on Sustainable Development, India also has a very low environmental rank. Natural disasters have also hit India hard due to rising temperatures. According to the United Nations Disaster Risk Reduction Report, in the period 2000-2019, India was hit by 321 natural disasters in which 80,000 people died and 100 million people were affected.
The year 2020 has been the 8th warmest year on record so far and last year five terrible cyclonic storms also took a heavy toll on the country. Highly populated and economically backward states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh have been hit hardest by natural disasters due to climate change.
About 70 per cent of the country's water resources are polluted. According to a report by the NITI Aayog, by 2030, 40 per cent of the country's population will suffer from shortage of drinking water. According to a report by the Global Water Quality Index, India ranks 120th out of 122 countries in terms of water purity. 
According to a 2018 report by the NITI Aayog, more than 60 per cent of the country's sewage and industrial effluents are discharged into rivers and streams without treatment. Diseases caused by drinking contaminated water kill 1.5 million children every year.
Our government claims to have met the Sustainable Development Goals, but makes little effort to reach them. India ranks 172nd in environmental health. Environmental health status is an indication of how well a country is protecting its population from disasters caused by environmental degradation. The Covid-19 pandemic was a catastrophe that led governments around the world to provide unemployment benefits to the unemployed during the lockdown, as well as to make the vaccine available to their own people on a priority basis. 
In our country, there was no concrete plan to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic in the early days without a lockdown. Lack of basic health services, medicines, and oxygen in the country has killed millions of people in the second wave of Covid-19 and continues to do so. The bodies of some people have been found floating in the river Ganga even after their death.
For sustainable development, the present generation should use natural resources in such a way that the needs of future generations can be easily met. The government of our country needs to strengthen the infrastructure for sustainable development of the country. The planning in the country should be such that educational and health services are available to every citizen.
The government should ensure education and employment for girls and women to reduce gender inequality in society. Environmental regulations for the protection of the environment should not be relaxed, but should be enforced strictly and seriously so that the health of the people as well as the health of the earth and the environment is maintained.
---
* Professor, Department of Geography, Punjabi University, Patiala

Comments

Unknown said…
Very informative and interesting article Ma'am....Congrats 👍ji
Unknown said…
Good One.... Ma'am
Congratulations ji

TRENDING

Whither Govt of India strategy to reduce import dependence on crude oil, natural gas?

By NS Venkataraman*  India presently imports around 80% of it’s crude oil requirement and around 50% of its natural gas requirements . As the domestic production of crude oil and natural gas are virtually stagnant and the domestic demand is increasing at around 7% per annum, India’s steadily increasing dependence on import of the vital energy source is a matter of high energy security concern. This is particularly so, since the price of crude oil and natural gas are considerably fluctuating / increasing in the global market due to geo political factors, which are beyond the control of India. India has promised to achieve zero emission by the year 2070, which mean that the level of emission has to start declining at slow and steady rate from now onwards. It is now well recognized that global emission is caused largely due to use of coal as fuel and natural gas as fuel and feedstock. While burning of coal as fuel cause emission of global warming carbon dioxide gas and sulphur

Fascism on prowl? Religious meet 'deeply pained' at silence of Church, bishops, priests

Counterview Desk  The ‘Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace’which held its 17th National Convention at the Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad, Telangana from 22 to 24 September 2022 on the theme “Deepening our Identity as Religious: Responding to the Signs of the Times”, has expressed concern “at the deteriorating situation of our nation on every front”, especially stating, “Fascism seems to have come to stay” in India. At the same time, the convention, which took place with the participation of 60 persons from 16 states representing 20 religious congregations, in its unanimously-adopted statement added, “We have reached abysmal depths on every parameter: be it social, economic and political”, underlining, “The poor in India become poorer every day; the rich and powerful continue to profiteer at their expense and amass scandalous amounts of wealth.” Text: We, members (63 women and men Religious, from 16 states representing 20 Congregations) of the Forum of Religious for Justice

Muslim intellectuals met Bhagwat, extra-constitutional authority 'like Sanjay Gandhi'

By Shamsul Islam*  In a significant development a delegation of five Muslim intellectuals namely former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi; former senior bureaucrat Najeeb Jung; former AMU vice-chancellor and Lt Gen (retd) Zameer U Shah; politician-cum-journalist Shahid Siddiqui (presently with RLD); and businessman Saeed Shervani [Samajvadi Party] met RSS Supremo Mohan Bhagwat at RSS Delhi headquarters. The meeting was kept secret for reasons known to the participants and was held in August. According to the Muslim intellectuals the meeting held in “a very cordial” atmosphere continued for 75 minutes whereas time allotted was 30 minutes! In a post-meeting justification of the parleys Quraishi stated that their main concern was “the insecurity being increasingly felt by the Muslim community in the wake of recurring incidents of lynching of innocents, calls by Hindutva hotheads for genocide and the marginalisation of the community in almost every sphere”. This delegation consistin

'Massive concern for people': Modi seeking to turn India into global manufacturing hub

By Shankar Sharma*  The news item quoting Narendra Modi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet, "Want to turn India into a manufacturing hub: PM Modi at SCO Summit" should be of massive concern to our people. One can only continue to be shocked by such policies, which can be termed as ill-conceived to say the least. Without objectively considering the environmental and social impacts on our communities in the medium to long term, such policies will also result in massive economic impacts because a lack of environmental and social perspective cannot be economically attractive either. In order to become the global manufacturing hub, India will have to meet an enormous demand for energy of various kinds, and in order to meet this much energy demand the economy has to manufacture enormous number of appliances/ gadgets/ machineries (to generate and distribute commercial forms of energy such as coal, nuclear, gas, hydro, and renewable energy (RE) sources such as so

Why Bose's India Gate statue suggests RSS, BJP need violence-loving ‘Hindu’ Netaji

By Prem Singh*  In a TV channel debate, a BJP spokesperson and anchor shared and served a lie that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's daughter in her letter to the Prime Minister has alleged that the Congress kept devaluing Netaji to further Gandhi's non-violence; because Netaji had taken the path of liberating the country through violence mode by forming the Azad Hind Fauj (INA). They also praised the Bombay Royal Naval Mutiny of 1946 to confirm that the country got its independence through a violent route. I stated that I have read the letter of Netaji's daughter, and there is no such allegation in it. But a lie told in the intoxication of power is bound to be blatant. Netaji's daughter Anita Bose Pfaff, even in the past, has already requested some earlier prime ministers of the country to bring back the mortal remains of her father from Japan to India. In none of the letters she has spoken about devaluation of her father’s role in the freedom movement on the basis of Gandh

Pesticide companies' lobbying 'seriously impairing' basics of governance, regulation

Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi*  The Indian agricultural sector is grappling with low incomes, shortage of natural resources, increasing pest incidence and low public investments in research and extension. Pest attacks are increasing. Previously unknown pests are attacking crops. Farmers, indebted as they are due to various market mechanisms, are finding it hard to protect their crop investments. Thus, farmers are pushed into the conundrum of pesticide usage by pesticide markets and companies. Pesticide usage in India is increasingly becoming a regulatory problem. Regulation has not been effective in the face of such challenges. Scientific expertise on pesticides is often subsumed in the policy tradeoffs that, in the ultimate scenario, encourage production and marketing of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs). Expert Committee reports, which are recommending withdrawal of certain HHPs, are not being acted upon. Lobbying by pesticide companies has seriously impaired the basics of governance an

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

How Gandhian values have become 'casualty' in India under majoritarian BJP rule

By Sandeep Pandey*  A Muslim youth was beaten recently when he tried to witness the famous garba performance during the Hindu religious nine days festival of Navratri in Gujarat. There was a time when Muslims could easily participate in Garbha events in an atmosphere of cordiality. Bilkis Bano was gang raped in 2002 Gujarat communal violence, her 3 years old daughter, the child in womb and a total of 14 family members were killed. 11 accused were awarded life term. However, recently a District level committee has decided to release all the culprits. A ruling Bhartiya Janata Party leader has described some of these criminals as virtuous Brahmins, the highest among the Hindu hierarchical caste system. In a communally polarized Gujarat today most Muslims feel offended by the decision of the government and BJP supporters either justify the release of rapists and murderers or just ignore the ignominious decision. Mahatma Gandhi came from the Guj

Is coal import dependence of more than 50% by 2047 of any relevance to India?

By Shankar Sharma*  I have read the article " Building Resilience in India’s Power Sector " by N Vedachalam, released by the Observer Research Foundation, with a lot of interest. I expected it to provide few useful recommendations to our authorities in charting out a sustainable pathway to green energy transition much before the climate catastrophe push our communities to the precipice. But I am sorry to say that the overall discussions or the message implied in the article disappointed me. I was expecting the article, coming from an engineer with past experience in the power sector, to discuss the much needed recommendations to put the power sector on a sustainable developmental pathway. But I could notice mostly technical jargon and a lot of statistical information, which may already be available in the public domain.   The article also seems to have simply accepted what some of the official agencies seem to have indicated as inevitable for the power sector in our country;

'True decolonisation move': Demand to name new Parliament building after Ambedkar

By Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd*  In recent weeks, there has been a demand for the new Parliament building being constructed on the revamped Central Vista in New Delhi to be named after the architect of the Constitution and anti-caste leader BR Ambedkar. On September 14, the Telangana Assembly passed a resolution urging the Centre to name the new Parliament building after Ambedkar. The Bharatiya Janata Party was absent during the debate about the resolution. The next day, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi-led government declared that the new secretariat in the centre of Hyderabad would be named after Ambedkar. Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao added that he would write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to name the new Parliament building in Delhi “Ambedkar Parliament”. The demand is finding resonance among civil society groups too and has led to social media discussions as well as public mobilisation.  But two questions arise: Should a Parliament that makes laws for a nation over a