With elections starting today in India, this should be a good time for all of us to review our state’s (and country’s) performance on some very important measures: the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

What are SDGs?

Back in 2015, a 193 countries came together to build a path towards greater human development. They put together 17 ambitious goals to be achieved by 2030. These are the Sustainable Development Goals that seek greater human development, leaving no-one behind.

What goals are important for human development?

The images below represent icons for the 17 goals that have been accepted as critical for human development. The goals will need two conditions in any country:

  • The will of a government to prioritise these goals over greed, corruption and short-sightedness
  • The ability of governments to collect and measure valid data

How is India tracking the SDGs?

India tracks a set of 62 “priority” indicators from a larger set of indicators that make up the National Indicator Framework (NIF). The NIF has been developed and is maintained by the MoSPI (Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation). The data is taken from various state/UT-level ministries.

These 62 indicators get aggregated for each goal, to build state-wise & country-level index of overall achievement of sustainability goals. In Dec 2018, the Niti Ayog released the first Baseline Report on Sustainability Goal Index.

So, how did we do?

Expect no surprises- India overall gives itself an index score of 57, slightly above the halfway mark and hopefully on the right track.

As expected, overall 3 states stand out as Top Performers (Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu), while Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are below-par (diplomatically these are called out as Aspirants in the report).

Apart from the top-line status, the report also has deep-dive sections into each goal, which states are doing well there, and further what Priority Indicators are driving these performances.

Some call-outs

There are some glaring indicators where India seems to be failing across the board- goals like Gender Equality is below par for all states & UT except for Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Sikkim and Kerala.

Another shaky goal for the country is the building of Infrastructure, and leading Innovation– a critical foundation for economic growth. While the usual suspects of economic growth (Delhi/Maharashtra/Haryana/ Karnataka) in the country feature as top performers, the rest of the country seems to be having a tough time keeping up. That could be problematic from so many different perspectives- for instance the stress on public resources in the cities etc. No wonder that Sustainable Cities & Communities is yet another stumbling block for the country.

How does it matter?

India, with our population, matters substantially to the global achievement of these goals. Apart from helping the global community achieve its goals- the importance of sustainable development is evident every single day of our lives when we read about worsening air quality in Delhi, the lack of safety for women and minority groups in some parts of the country, the corruption and break-down of institutes across the country etc.

Must we despair?

Never. While this index has been built with considerable lack of data availability it is still a highly appreciable step towards some form of evaluation and tracking of government policies. But we also need more members of civil society to actively follow these goals. Read the report here, and deep dive into your own states and try to connect with what’s happening around you.

Citations/ Sources: All of the information is based on information from the UN website. I will not be putting up unsubstantiated information on my blog :). Images have been used in accordance to Guidelines for non-UN entities. 
Posted by:Dechen

Hi! I write on sustainability, books and simply lying fallow. I've worked for 14 years in various industries, but nothing will mean as much as making a real difference through the advocacy of Sustainability. This is a topic that I think is critical in developing economies like India/South Asia.