Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – India’s Readiness & Challenges

In 2015, the UNGA adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 193 nations, including India, are committed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. It broadly involves the eradication of poverty of all forms, fighting inequality and tackling climate change through inclusiveness. India has played a significant role in past years to achieve these goals and its achievement is critical for the global community as it is consists of about 17% of the world population. As per the SDG Index released by the NITI Aayog and the UN showed the nation has scored 58 – almost more the halfway mark in meeting the target set for 2030.

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What are the SDG goals?

  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by all UN member nations in 2015.
  • It is a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.
  • The objective of SDG to produce a set of universal goals that meet the urgent environmental, economic and political challenges faced by the global community.
  • It is the successor of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that existed between 2000 and 2015.
  • It is a non-binding document, formed as the result of Rio+20 Conference – “Future we want”.
  • There are a total of 17 goals with 169 targets and 304 indicators as proposed by the UN General Assembly’s Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.
  • In India, the duty for supervising the SDG implementation rests in the hands of the NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India), which is chaired by the Prime Minister of India.
  • The 17 goals are as follows:
  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-being
  4. Quality education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  10. Reducing Inequality
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life on Land
  16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnership for Goals

Why do we need Sustainable Development?

  • Sustainable development is the development that satisfies present needs without compromising future generations’ capability to meet its own needs and aspirations.
  • From the meaning, in itself, it is evident that sustainable development is the key to the human race’s survival.
  • This does not only mean the protection of the environment but also ensuring a strong, healthy and fair society.
  • However, this is proving to be a highly difficult feat to achieve in the current situation due to various multidimensional problems that are faced by the global community.

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What is SDG India Index – Baseline Report, 2018?

  • NITI Aayog had undertaken an all-encompassing exercise in measuring India and its states’ progress towards SDGs.
  • This was published in the first SDG India Index – Baseline Report 2018.
  • The SDG India Index aims to provide a holistic view of the social, economic and environmental status of the nation at large.
  • In other words, it is designed to provide an aggregate assessment of the performance of all Indian states and UTs to help the policymakers assess the performance of the government policies on the social, economic and environmental spheres.
  • The index includes 13 of the 17 SDGs. It leaves out Goals 12, 13, 14 and 17.
  • It tracks the progress made by the states and UTs on a set of 62 National Indicators.
  • It also measures the progress and outcomes of government interventions and schemes.
  • The SDG Index score for the SDG 2030 ranges between 42 and 69 for States and between 57 and 68 for the UTs.
  • It is beneficial for the states/UTs in assessing their schemes and policies related to the SDGs.
  • It is also helpful in analysing the reasons behind differential performance and devise a better strategy to achieve SDGs by 2030 deadline.
  • Also, it can be used by the States/UTs in identifying the priority areas in which that need to invest and improvement to ensure the achievement of SDGs.

How did the states perform as per the SDG India Index – Baseline Report, 2018?

  • Amongst the states, Kerala and Himachal Pradesh top the list with an SDG India index score of 69.
  • Among the UTs, Chandigarh holds the top spot with a score of 68.
  • Kerala’s top rank is due to its admirable performance in providing good health, reducing hunger, achieving gender equality and providing quality education.
  • Himachal Pradesh holds top position in providing clean water and sanitation, reducing inequality and preserving mountain ecosystem.
  • Chandigarh is the front-runner due to its exemplary performance in providing clean water and sanitation.
  • In contrast, states like Assam, Bihar and UP have performed badly in the index and their score is below 49.

What are the commitments made by India with regard to SDG?

  • India is committed to shifting towards cleaner fuel:
  • India introduces Bharat Stage-VI (BS-VI) petrol and diesel.
  • Delhi became the first to jump from BS-IV to BS-VI.
  • The rest of the nation will make the change from April 2020.
  • Zero Plastics:
  • India has pledged to abolish single-use plastic by 2022.
  • International Solar Alliance (ISA):
  • ISA is an international organisation with 121 nations that are located either on or between the tropics.
  • It aims to deploy over 1000 GW of solar energy and mobilize more than $1000 billion into solar power by 2030.
  • Climate change:
  • To reduce the emission intensity of its GDP by 33-35% by 2030 from 2005 level.
  • To achieve about 40% of cumulated electric power from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030. This is to be done with the help of the transfer of technology and cheap international-finance, including those from the Green Climate Fund.
  • To create additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.

Is India ready to meet SDG?

  • The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) highlighted several concerns over the country’s preparedness to achieve the UN-mandated SDGs.
  • The CAG had prepared a report on the activities in 17 central ministries, including NITI Aayog.
  • It had also reviewed the activities in 7 states Assam, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Kerala, Maharashtra, UP and West Bengal.
  • This report brought out the impact of key initiatives by the Centre and states for achieving SDGs and suggested ways to improve them.
  • The CAG report specifically chose Goal 3 for a detailed examination.
  • It was found that the mapping in respect of goal 3 was not comprehensive in the selected states.
  • It also raised concerns over the data that certain health indicators were not regularly and uniformly available to the public.
  • There are no clear budgetary projections regarding the agenda to meet the goals by 2030.
  • The Ministry of Finance and the State governments are yet to integrate SDG-related financial resources in national budgeting for implementation of the SDGs.
  • This report also found deficiency regarding the adaption of the 2030 agenda and stressed upon the need to develop a roadmap to be aligned with definite milestones that can be achieved in 2020, 2025 and 2030. This has not been attempted yet.
  • There is also the concern over the vision document that is still under preparation and the states did not complete the exercise to prepare policy documents.
  • They may need to strengthen institutional arrangements to identify the supportive departments and defining the roles and responsibilities.
  • It was also found that the initiatives in the select states to raise awareness about SDGs were not comprehensive, focussed or sustained.
  • Furthermore, the CAG report also blamed the Union Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation for its failure to finalise the National Indicator Framework (NIF).
  • The delay in the approval of NIF had held up the finalisation of the monitoring and reporting framework on the implementation of the SDGs.
  • As per the report, of the 306 indicators of NIF, data for 137 were not available.
  • The audit highlighted that 3 crucial ministries – AYUSH, tribal affairs, and home affairs – were not involved in the national consultation on transitioning from MDGs to SDGs.
  • Also, the report stated that there is a need to augment budgetary allocation on public health and that the central allocation for health for 2019-2020 was not sufficient.

What are the broad challenges?

  • Indicators: The past records have shown that there was a failure in setting up relevant indicators to measure the outcomes. This was seen in the case of MDGs.
  • Funding SDGs:
  • A new study estimated that implementing SDGs in India by 2030 would cost around $14.4 billion.
  • However, India has only 5% of the required funding to implement SDGs.
  • Furthermore, given the recent cut in the social sector schemes by the Central Government, unless the states devote a large portion of their resources to the social sector, they may face shortages in the funding of the SDG.
  • The fast-paced economic growth and redistribution alone are not enough.
  • According to the UN MDG 2014 report, despite the high economic growth, in 2010, one-third of the world’s 1.2 billion extreme poor lived in India alone.
  • Measurement: According to the Indian government, the non-availability of data (especially in respect to sub-national levels), periodicity issues and incomplete coverage of administrative data, has made the accuracy of the measuring progress of even the MDGs impossible.
  • Constraints in policymaking: India lacks reliable data in important fields. This is a major hindrance in the policymaking process.
  • Cultural barriers: Social practices like the preference for the male child, gender inequality in education, etc., are deep-rooted and have cultural constraints.
  • Limited budget allocation: India spends less than 1.5% on health and around 4% on education. This is less than the required levels.
  • Inadequate source of funding: There have been rising trends of protectionism in recent times. Hence, the channelling of funds from developed nations to the developing nations currently seems impossible.

What can be the way forward?

  • SDGs have provided the necessary directions in which the national and state policies should focus on.
  • These goals, in the long-run, can help India become a superpower.
  • Therefore, India should strive to not only initiate the necessary policies to achieve these goals but also efficiently implement them through proper monitoring and evaluation.
  • The SDGs only provide broad goals. It is up to the individual nations to identify the priorities, decide the relevance of the policies at the local level and harness innovation to ensure the betterment of all.
  • It is not only the responsibility of the government. The people, society, NGOs, media should also help in achieving the SDGs.
  • NGOs and CSOs can play a significant role in underlining the plight of the vulnerable at the local, national and international levels.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility can be used as a tool to achieve SDGs.
  • Collaborations and interactions amongst experts in various fields like medical, law, finance, etc., can be used to boost the efficiency of the policies.
  • Efforts can be taken to give effect to international treaties like Paris Agreement, GCF etc.
  • An increase in the budget on health and education is a need of the hour.
  • An increase in the central funding to the social sector can greatly enhance India’s potential to achieve the SDGs.
  • Creating job opportunities and skill development in the fields that promote SDGs will not only address the unemployment crisis but also help in accomplishing the SDGs.


The 17 SDGs are integrated, multidimensional and interconnected. It is well-known that action in one area will have at least some impact on the others. Thus, all-encompassing measures can be taken to ensure the simultaneous achievement of these goals for the betterment of all.

Model Question:

Enumerate the principal goals and targets of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and critically evaluate India’s readiness to meet SDG goals and the key challenges associated therein.

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