Achieving the SDGs in India: Rhetoric and reality

The Government of India presented its first Voluntary National Review (VNR) report on Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to United Nations in 2017. Despite VNR guidelines urging countries to inform on “progress and status of all SDGs”, India reported on only seven goals. This is surprising as India’s VNR claimed its national development goals are “mirrored in the SDGs” and as Government had asserted 11 of 17 SDGs were already being worked on even before the SDGs were adopted. Given the consensus that SDGs’ success largely depends on India’s achieving them, an appraisal of its performance in critical social sectors, including those associated with the SDGs left out of VNR, becomes necessary.

The thrust of India’s VNR is that rapid economic growth has sharply reduced poverty. A 2018 study backs this claim saying extreme poverty is declining in India at rate of 44 people per minute as a result of which, since May 2018, India no longer has largest number of poor people. Despite this dramatic poverty reduction, over 73 million Indians still live below the international poverty line. Most of these people subsisting on less than US$1.90 a day are in rural areas. Even as the absolute numbers of poor fall there is rapid rise in inequality. Be it income, consumption, or assets, India ranks among countries with highest inequality.

Source: India National Report 2018.