SDG Index: A Long Way To Go

SDG Index: A Long Way To Go

Recently released NITI Aayog’s SDG index exhibits that the development outcomes are limited to the rich states, debarring the mineral-rich-tribal-dominated states. The index gauges the progress of Sustainable Development Goals in different states based on comparisons of different indicators laid down for all the 17 goals.

On a positive note, the index shows that more number of states are added in the category of ‘front runner’ whereas number of states in the ‘aspiring’ category has become nil during the current index.  Over the last three editions of index, it is found that many of the states position and index numbers are improving. However, due to limitations in availability of data, the number and types of indicators vary in different editions and this raises the question of comparability of states performance in the three editions.

In goal 1—No Poverty—there were five indicators used to calculate the index for the first and second edition, in the third edition head count ratio as per the Multidimensional Poverty Index has been added to the indicators list. Rate of poverty in different states is also one of the vital indicators for the calculation of index however the lack of data updation in poverty rate means the numbers are same in all the three editions. This poverty rate was estimated as per Tendulkar methodology in 2011-12. So, a decade old data cannot be appropriate for calculation of the progress of this vital goal.

States like Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh with tribal population of 22.8, 30.6, 26.2 and 21.1 percent respectively have shown slow progress in the ranking in all three editions. Except Chhattisgarh, all three states slipped into lower position in the third edition of the index. This indicates that though there is progress of SDG indicators observed at the country level, outcomes are percolating to few states. Poorer states with high marginalized population may not be able to realise the target mandated in the SDG by 2030.

Given the pandemic, let’s focus on Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-being) which is one of the vital factors to achieve quality human development. Of the four states, Odisha and Chhattisgarh have slipped from their previous position. Madhya Pradesh has moved only one step ahead in the rank. Jharkhand shows some progress from 19th to 11th Position.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed weak health infrastructure in India. As per National Health Profile 2019, one Government Allopathic Doctor caters to the need of 10926 persons. 713986 beds are available in government hospitals in India which amounts to 0.55 beds per 1000 population. Some states like Jharkhand, Assam, Haryana, Bihar, Gujarat, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Manipur which is home to more than 70% of the total Indian population has the population to bed ratio even lower than the national average but some states like Kerala, Sikkim, and Tami Nadu has the better population to bed ratio.

Availability of paramedics and physicians is one of the indicators for measuring goal 3. Striking disparity was observed among the states of the India in terms of availability of health personnel. In 2019, Number of governmental physicians, nurses and midwives per 10,000 populations was 112 which increased to 115 during the year 2020. But there are states such as Nagaland and Jharkhand have 1 and 4 medical personnel per 10000 populations, while on the other hand Kerala has 25 times more availability of health personnel than the state of Jharkhand and 100 times more than that of Nagaland. This state of inequality in the availability of health personnel among the states is detrimental to manage COVID like health emergencies. Further, out of 4 tribal states, the number of medical personnel has declined for 2 states (Odisha and Chhattisgarh) and unchanged in remaining two states.

Making the SDG equally realised by all requires special drive for these states through micro level SDG monitoring effort by the sub-national and local governments. NITI Aayog had tried to capture success stories on localisation from the states but efforts to set up institutional framework and mechanism to monitor the SDGs at the local level is missing. In the remaining nine years to achieve the goals, NITI Aayog should facilitate different states through providing them technical support to formulate area and context appropriate indicators, build the capacity of the functionaries and institutionalise the monitoring of SDGs at the ground level. This can be a building block to achieve the commitments of the SDGs equally for all regions of our country.

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