India, its SDG pledge goal, and the strategy to apply | 1st May 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the present status of India’s progress towards achieving the SDGs and offers some suggestions in this regard.


  • GS3: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment;
  • Essay;
  • Prelims


  • Recently, the PM expressed concern that “progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) seems to be slowing down”.
  • Regardless of the global progress that has been made to date, the sheer population size of India means that realising Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a global scale is intrinsically tied to the success of India.
  • There is considerable confidence in India becoming the third largest economy in the world over the next decade. However, translating this growth into progress on social and human development must be equally valued.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

  • The SDGs were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 with a vision to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
  • The SDGs, officially known as ‘Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ is a set of 17 Global Goals with 169 targets between them.
  • The SDGs follow, and expand on, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were agreed by governments in 2000, and ended on 2015.
  • India is one of the signatory countries that has committed to achieving these goals by 2030.
  • India is trailing behind in achieving more than 50% of indicators under Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seven years before the 2030 deadline.

Global Sustainable Development Report, 2022:

  • IT is a global assessment of countries' progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • It is published by a group of independent experts at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).
  • India was ranked 121 out of the 163 countries. It was ranked 117 in 2020 and 120 in 2021.
  • The 2022 SDG Index is topped by Finland, followed by three Nordic countries –Denmark, Sweden and Norway.


India’s present progress:

  • India’s progress on 33 welfare indicators, covering nine SDGs and providing a mixed picture of positive and concerning trends.
  • India is ‘On-Target’ to meeting 14 of the 33 SDGs, including indicators for neonatal and under-five mortality, full vaccination, improved sanitation, and electricity access.
  • Unfortunately, the national ‘On-Target’ designation does not apply equally across all districts. While neonatal and under-five mortality are currently both ‘On-Target’ for the country, 286 and 208 districts (out of 707 districts), respectively, are not.
  • Of concern, for 19 of the 33 SDG indicators, the current pace of improvement is not enough to meet SDG targets. Despite a national policy push for clean fuel for cooking, more than two-thirds (479) of districts remain ‘Off-Target’. Similarly, some 415 and 278 districts are ‘Off-Target’ for improved water and handwashing facilities, respectively.
  • Of heightened concern are SDG indicators for women’s well-being and gender inequality. No district in India has yet succeeded in eliminating the practice of girl child marriage before the legal age of 18 years.
    • At the current pace, more than three-fourths (539) of districts will not be able to reduce the prevalence of girl child marriage to the SDG target of 0.5% by 2030.
    • Unsurprisingly, other critical and related indicators such as teenage pregnancy (15-19 years) and partner violence (physical and sexual) that may be tracked back to child marriage are issues that India needs to escalate as priorities.
  • Despite the overall expansion of mobile phone access in India (93% of households), only 56% women report owning a mobile phone, with 567 districts remaining ‘Off-Target’.

Lessons from the COVID-19 approach:

  • The approach followed during the crisis can be helpful here. If we are able to replicate some of these approaches, we can surely reach the SDGs in time.
  • These lessons are:
    • First, strong and sustained political leadership supported by a responsive administrative structure at all levels, from national to the district level, was critical to the success both of India’s COVID-19 vaccination programme and its efficient rollout of a comprehensive relief package.
    • Second, India’s success with COVID-19 was largely possible both because of the existing digital infrastructure, as well as new, indigenous initiatives such as the Co-WIN data platform, and the Aarogya Setu application.
    • Finally, a targeted SDG strategy delivered at scale must be executed with the same timeliness of India’s COVID-19 relief package. As early as March 2020, the Government of India had put in place the ₹1.70 lakh crore Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, later augmented to nearly ₹6.29 lakh crore, which included the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (₹3.91 lakh crore until December 2022) covering 800 million people.

Way Forward:

  • India needs to innovate a new policy path in order to meet the aspirations of its people in the decade ahead — there is no historical precedence for a democratic and economically open nation on how to deliver development to a billion-plus people in a manner that is healthy and sustainable.
  • In successfully delivering a real-time response to the COVID-19 pandemic, India has proved that it is possible to deliver at scale in such an ambitious and comprehensive manner.
  • To succeed in meeting its SDG targets, especially those related to population health and well-being, basic quality infrastructure, and gender equality, a similar concerted, pioneering, nation-wide effort would be the need of the hour.

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