Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Progress in India

While addressing the first meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors under India’s G20 Presidency, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed concern about the slowing of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Given India’s large population, achieving these objectives is critical for global progress. While India has made progress towards meeting some of the SDGs, there are concerns about others.

India’s progress on SDG’s

  • Neonatal and under-five mortality progress in India: India is on track to meet the SDG indicators for neonatal and under-five mortality. Both indicators have significantly improved over the last five years.
  • Full immunisation: India is on track to meet the SDG benchmark for immunisation.
  • SDG indicator for improved sanitation: India is on track to meet the SDG indicator for improved sanitation. In the last five years, the country has achieved great progress in this area.
  • Access to power: India is on track to reach the SDG indicator for access to electricity.
  • Access to banking: Between 2016 and 2021, the number of women with bank accounts increased in the vast majority of districts.
  • Adolescent pregnancy: Between 2016 and 2021, the SDG indicator for eradicating adolescent pregnancy improved in the vast majority of districts.
  • Multidimensional poverty: Between 2016 and 2021, the SDG indicator for decreasing multidimensional poverty improved in the vast majority of districts.
  • Women’s well-being and gender equality: India has made strides in increasing mobile phone access, with 93% of households now owning one. However, only 56% of females own a mobile phone.

Lessons from COVID-19 Approach

  • Strong political leadership and a responsive administrative structure are key to success, and India’s COVID-19 reaction revealed the urgent need for a mission-oriented mindset that offers appropriate support for achieving district-level SDGs.
  • Infrastructure and Coordination: India’s achievement with COVID-19 was made possible in large part by both existing digital infrastructure and new, indigenous efforts such as the Co-WIN data platform and the Aarogya Setu application. Following in the footsteps of these precedents, India must establish a coordinated, public data platform for population health management.
  • Targeted delivery: A scaled-up SDG plan must be implemented with the same zeal as India’s COVID-19 relief package. A combination of spending to provide direct in-kind and economic assistance, as well as initiatives to revitalise the economy, small enterprises, and agriculture, was central to this relief programme.

Concerns about India’s progress towards reaching the SDGs

  • Disparities in advancement among districts: While India is on track to meet 14 of the 33 SDG indicators, progress is not uniform across the country.
  • For example, the country’s newborn and under-five death rates are on goal, but many districts are not on course to fulfil these benchmarks.
  • The current rate of improvement is insufficient to reach the SDG targets for 19 of the 33 indicators.
  • For example, despite a national policy push for clean cooking fuel, more than two-thirds of districts continue to fall short of this metric.
  • Gender inequality: India faces considerable obstacles in meeting SDG targets relating to gender.
  • For example, no district in India has yet succeeded in abolishing girl child marriage before the legal age of 18. In addition, despite the overall development of mobile phone availability in India, only 56% of women report owning a mobile phone, with several districts still falling short of this metric.
  • Although India has made progress in reducing multidimensional poverty, many districts are still falling short of meeting this SDG indicator.
  • Environmental sustainability: India has achieved strides in several environmental sustainability sectors, such as improved cleanliness and access to power. However, the country is still falling short on indicators such as clean cooking fuel, water and handwashing facilities, and greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

Way ahead

  • Implement targeted SDG-aligned policies and programmes, particularly in areas where development has been poor or non-existent.
  • Enhance digital infrastructure and provide a public data platform for population health management.
  • Ensure strong and consistent political leadership, backed up by a responsive administrative structure at all levels.
  • Prioritise and expedite measures to alleviate gender inequity and the well-being of women.
  • Strengthen implementation and monitoring procedures to ensure that SDG policies and programmes are delivered on time and effectively.
  • Encourage collaboration among government, civil society, and the commercial sector to mobilise resources and skills to meet SDG targets.
  • Create a decadal strategy including concrete strategies and targets for meeting SDG goals over the next ten years.

@the end

To meet its SDG targets, India must devise a new policy route, particularly in the areas of population health and well-being, basic quality infrastructure, and gender equality. India’s effective COVID-19 reaction demonstrated that such an ambitious and comprehensive response can be delivered at scale. To meet SDG ambitions, India will need a similarly coordinated, pioneering, and countrywide effort.

And get notified everytime we publish a new blog post.