Kerala tops states in progress towards UN Sustainable Development Goals, while Bihar is at the bottom of Niti Aayog’s SDG Index. Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim have joined all the southern states in the top tier of front runners who scored more than 65 points, out of a possible 100.
Ending hunger and achieving gender equality are the areas where most states fall far short, with the all-India scores for these goals at 35 and 42 points respectively. On the other hand, Niti Aayog has given India an overall score of 60 points, driven mostly by progress in clean energy and sanitation (88); peace, justice and strong institutions (72); and affordable and clean energy (70).
What are SDGs?
The SDGs are a set of 17 broad-based global goals adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, and intended to be achieved by 2030. With one-sixth of the world’s population, India is key to the achievement of the goals.
How do the States fare?
The UN has developed 232 indicators to measure compliance on the part of member nations. Niti Aayog has adapted its monitoring approach to the Indian context, with a set of 100 indicators of its own for the purposes of this Index. Only 40% of these indicators were also used for last year’s baseline index, meaning that the two are not directly comparable. However, it is still interesting to note that Kerala has retained its top spot from last year, while Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim have shown the most improvement.
The second SDG – zero hunger – shows sharp divergence in the performance of states, with little middle ground. Kerala, Goa and parts of the north-east — including Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim – have scored above 65, with Goa at 75 points. However, 22 of the states and union territories have scored below 50, with the central Indian states of Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Chhattisgarh scoring below 30, showing abysmal levels of hunger and malnutrition. The chosen indicators are related to child stunting, obesity and anaemia, as well as agricultural production and subsidised food distribution.
On the fifth SDG – gender equality – almost all states fare poorly. Only Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala have managed to cross 50 points. The indicators considered include crimes against women, eradicating sex selection and discrimination against daughters, and access to reproductive health schemes, as well as indicators showing women’s economic and political empowerment and leadership. A sex ratio of 896 females per 1000 males, a 17.5% female labour participation rate, and the fact that one in three women experience spousal violence all contribute to a low score countrywide.
The Swachh Bharat Mission has contributed largely to the high scores on the sixth SDG – clean water and sanitation – although that was helped by the fact that four out of seven indicators dealt with toilets and sanitation, while only one indicator was related to safe and affordable drinking water. All states and union territories except for Delhi have scored above 65, with the national capital scoring poorly on the percentage of urban households with individual household toilets (less than one percent) and, oddly, providing no data on districts verified to be open defecation free. Delhi also has 81% of blocks with overexploited groundwater, vastly higher than any other state.
Government schemes to provide electricity and cooking gas connections to rural India contributed to progress in the seventh SDG – affordable and clean energy – although there were no indicators looking at other important areas such as renewable energy and energy efficiency. To a certain extent, the indicators chosen for the sixth and seventh SDGs seem to align closely with the aims of flagship Central schemes.
Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper III; Environment