The Niti Aayog’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Index for 2019, released this week, presents a mixed picture: there is some achievement, but there is much more to be done. The SDG India Index 2019 is more robust than the first edition on account of wider coverage of goals, targets, and indicators with greater alignment with the NIF. The Index spans 16 out of 17 SDGs with a qualitative assessment on Goal 17. This marks an improvement over the 2018 Index, which covered only 13 goals. The index is a measure of the progress made in achieving the UN-mandated development goals for 2030. It is based on as many as 100 social, economic and environmental parameters relating to health, education, nutrition, gender equality and other indicators of development. The index has presented an overall national ranking and the relative positions of states and union territories. It has shown that the national composite score has improved from 57 in 2018 to 60 in 2019, but the states’ performances have widely varied. A climb of three ranks is not good enough, considering that the goal is a score of 100 by 2030. This is the first year in which all the states have risen above the lowest category, but the country as a whole has remained in the same category of performance as it was in last year. There are wide variations among states in their overall performance and in their performance in the individual areas that make up the index.
It is no surprise that the southern states are the best performers, but they are joined this year by Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Goa. Kerala has retained its top position with a score of 70, and Himachal Pradesh is just behind it with 69. Karnataka is in the seventh position. Though the state had a good record in health and education, it fared badly in poverty alleviation and reduction of inequalities. The scores of all top states, including Kerala, show that they too have a long way to go to achieve all the 17 development goals by 2030. States in the North and North-East, which are traditionally laggards, continue to be on the lower rungs, with Bihar at the bottom. UP, Orissa and Sikkim showed the maximum improvement in scores but there are states like Gujarat which did not show any improvement.
UP improved its ranking mainly on account of its performance in affordable and clean energy. The state, and others with low rankings, will have to pay more attention to areas like health, education, eradication of poverty and governance. Better performance in areas like provision of clean water and sanitation and some other facilities have helped in pushing up the composite score, but the major challenges are about health, nutrition, gender and infrastructure. All states have to work more and adopt better and more innovative strategies to move forward and achieve the goals. The Niti Aayog’s suggestion to further decentralise development programmes to district and block levels deserves to be considered.