How India is pursuing progress, sustainably

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When world leaders met in September 2015 during the Paris Climate Change Conference, a lot of time was spent deliberating on what the new global goals should be. They finally drafted a series of universal objectives that we know today as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These cover a broad range of interconnected issues, from economic growth to social issues. The implementation of SDGs needs every country to judiciously prioritise and adapt the goals and targets in accordance with local challenges, capacities and resources available, in order to make this world a better place.

Engaging a nation

India as a nation is young, entrepreneurial and at the cusp of change. With India being the world’s youngest country in terms of the average population, our youth needs to be engaged in early education and skill development to create and sustain long-term momentum. However, this development agenda needs to be pursued in a holistic, sustainable manner, by being in tune with the needs of the environment we exist in and utilising the resources at our disposal to create the world we want. Doing so will require all of us to work in tandem and act on the things that matter most to people everywhere. 

Thus, there is a need for a continuous series of action-oriented initiatives to empower the efforts of our change-makers and match their innovation with our existing expertise. As of 2020, India has played an important role in shaping Sustainable Development Goals, and we have done it in such a way that the country’s national development goals are mirrored in the SDGs. 

As one of the countries that has volunteered to take part in the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), India appreciates the world’s focus on ‘Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world’. The memorable phrase delivered by the Prime Minister ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’, translated as “Collective Effort, Inclusive Development”, forms the cornerstone of India’s national development plan. And to fast-track this goal, NITI Aayog, the official think tank of the Indian Government, is said to be working on a 15-Year and 7-year strategy to help India realise her SDG goals.

Important Sustainable Development Goals that India is pursuing

The nature of SDGs is that the advancement of one global goal may lead to progress in other areas as well. Which is why India bringing impactful changes in one area will automatically help other areas of development, and ultimately make this world cleaner, greener and healthier. 

Here are some of the SDGs that India is currently working hard to achieve.

1. Ending poverty in all its forms everywhere 

Thanks to the economic reforms initiated in 1991, India has seen a significant reduction in poverty rates. Poverty has fallen across all economic, social and religious groups nationally and across all states. Sustained economic growth over the last two decades has created gainful employment and helped raise wages thereby directly empowering the poor. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, for instance, has generated over 2 billion person-days of employment during 2016-17 alone, largely for the disadvantaged sections of society. Additionally, initiatives have been launched for providing pension and insurance to workers in the unorganised sector, widows and the differently-abled. 

2. End hunger and achieve food security.

Significant progress has been made in improving food and nutrition security. To tackle hunger, more than 800 million people are provided food grains at affordable prices through the Public Distribution System. The Mid-Day-Meal Programme is successfully providing nutritious cooked meals to 100 million children in primary schools. 

Also, sustainable and climate-friendly agriculture has been encouraged by promoting organic farming and the issuance of Soil Health Cards to farmers. A comprehensive plan is also being implemented for doubling farmers’ income by 2024. All these initiatives will hopefully put an end to hunger by the end of this decade.

3. Ensure healthy lives

The country’s strategy in health is focused on providing essential services to the entire population, with a special emphasis on the poor and vulnerable groups. The National Health Policy of 2017 has specified targets for universalising primary health care, achieving further reductions in infant mortality, preventing premature deaths, and increasing government expenditure on health. The government is aiming to immunise all children against vaccine-preventable diseases by 2025. And taking a step towards universal health care, a health insurance cover of INR 100,000 is being extended to all poor families.

Our country has successfully managed to reduce its Infant Mortality Rate by almost half over the last decade. This was made possible by a significant improvement in vaccination coverage for children between 12-23 months of age. 

4. Achieve gender equality and empower women

While much progress remains to be made, several indicators that relate to the status of women in India have moved in the right direction over the last decade. For instance, the literacy rate of women has increased significantly, and so has the number of women having their own savings bank accounts. Additionally, the government’s Beti Bachao Beti Padhao initiative focuses on the upliftment of a girl child in areas of education and security. Also, there is a Maternity Benefit Programme in place that protects women from wage loss during the first six months after childbirth. 

5. Promote sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation

All forms of transportation – roads, railways, aviation, and waterways – are being rapidly expanded in our country. Road connectivity and electricity are being brought to almost all villages and towns. The Bharat Broadband Network Ltd. initiative aims to provide high-speed broadband connectivity to the rural parts of the country. There has also been a consistent growth in electricity generation capacity of our country. The energy generated by non-renewable sources has reduced while the energy produced by the renewable energy sector has doubled over the last decade.

India is making efforts to become an Information Technology and manufacturing hub through its ‘Make in India’ campaign. Employment-intensive manufacturing segments are being supported by providing easy credit (Mudra Loans) to small-scale business entrepreneurs. Additionally, the ‘Start-up India’ programme promotes entrepreneurship and labour-intensive economic growth.

6. Conservation and sustainable use of seas and marine resources

A ‘Blue Revolution’ is underway in India and I will explain how. For tracking the levels of marine pollution along the coastline, India has developed the Coastal Ocean Monitoring and Prediction System. Additionally, an oil spill management system has been put in place for responding to emergencies arising out of oil spills. Furthermore, the Integrated National Fisheries Action Plan has been implemented to promote the livelihoods of fishing communities as well as to preserve the ecological integrity of the marine environment. The Sagarmala programme launched by the central government is improving port connectivity and coastal community development across India. These initiatives will go a long way in preserving and sustaining the water bodies around our country, and at the same time improve connectivity.

7. Global partnership for sustainable development

Despite significant efforts for domestic resource mobilisation, India is unlikely to gather sufficient revenues for achieving the SDGs. Therefore, India reiterates that the developed countries have an essential obligation to provide financial assistance to the developing countries so that we can fully achieve the SDGs. Efforts are also underway for finalising the indicators that will enable monitoring of the progress made by our country on the SDGs, and the data will be made available for other nations to plan and strategise their SDGs accordingly.

Other areas of progress

There are many programmes in place that directly contribute to the advancement of the SDG plan. A noteworthy example is the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) which is the world’s largest financial inclusion programme. By leveraging PMJDY, Aadhaar (biometric identity system) and internet telephony, the Government has disbursed a cumulative amount of INR 1.6 trillion to more than 300 million beneficiaries through direct bank transfers – a move that has helped to improve the efficiency of Government programmes. 

Today’s youth, tomorrow’s promise.

India’s philosophy of ‘One World’ and the steps taken by us to ensure SDG cooperation among nations speaks volumes of our civilisational values. India recognises that the promotion of global wellbeing requires the implementation of the concept of ‘one world’ through partnerships based on solidarity, equity and sharing. 

In alignment with this philosophy, Prime Minister Modi launched the International Solar Alliance at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015. The Alliance promotes cooperation among 121 countries with the objective of reducing the price of solar energy. This is to be accomplished through standardisation of solar technologies and encouraging research and development. 

As a growing democracy with a complex and diverse society, I believe that these long-term goals will give a better foundation for our younger generation, who, by using their energy, passion and creativity, can make a deeper impact on our society and eventually create a world we can be proud to call our home.

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