Do MDGs remain an unfinished agenda for India?

The adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the beginning of this millennium was a culmination of the people-centred development discourse that poverty reduction and freedom from other deprivations at the top of the global development agenda and influenced governments including India towards more inclusive development.  The implementation period for the MDGs ended on 31 December 2015, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to follow them have been adopted by world leaders at the United Nations Summit in September 2015.1 In order to draw lessons from the MDGs for better implementing the SDGs, an assessment of the success of India’s efforts including that of individual states on the MDGs is therefore crucial at this juncture.

A summary assessment in 2015 (UNESCAP, 2015) showed notable but uneven achievement across goals and targets. An article from the Indian Economic Journal analyses India’s performance on the MDGs in greater depth, focusing particularly on assessing the performance of individual Indian states. It has been observed that some states did better in making more rapid improvements than others, all did generally improve on their absolute levels of achievement. This is best illustrated in the article by looking at what is considered the most poorly performing state on the MDGs—Bihar. The state ranked at the bottom in the baseline year as well as in the latest standings. But it too made improvements—only other states improved more. It has also been observed that while India has made major gains in poverty reduction, access to water, combating deadly diseases and halting deforestation and biodiversity loss, its performance on crucial education, health and sanitation indicators has been weak which has serious consequences for its human development and future growth. Thus, the MDGs have remained an unfinished agenda for India.

The MDGs have now been replaced by the SDGs which cover 17 goals to be achieved by 2030. They seek to ensure that the momentum generated by the MDGs is carried forward beyond 2015 to provide a life of dignity to all. Building on the MDGs, the SDGs propose to end poverty and deprivation in all forms, leaving no one behind, while making development economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. The lessons from MDG experience need to be learned that will help guide the implementation of the SDGs in the coming years.

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