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Why northern states must take NITI Aayog’s SDG Index seriously

The northern states have fared poorly in the rankings. This uneven progress and development imbalance within the country will not only affect India’s SDG ranking but also pose challenges to global efforts of meeting the stiff targets because the sheer size of these under-performing states of India.

editorials Updated: Dec 27, 2018 09:06 IST
Hindustan Times
This lack of investment in the building blocks of human development flows from not just bad governance but complete lack of political will to mainstream these issues in political discourse and prioritise investments in them. (Getty Images)

Last week, NITI Aayog, the institution mandated to oversee India’s progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the Agenda 2030, released its first-ever ranking of states based on their performance on key development parameters. The SDGs are a set of 17 goals and 169 targets to streamline actions for achieving human development by 2030. According to NITI Aayog’s report, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu are the front runners in the race to achieve key goals such as removal of poverty and inequality, while Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are the laggards.

While a new set of data on performances of states is a good step (the report mentions that this need to measure progress has actually rekindled an interest in the quality and availability of data for measuring performance, scheme design and management which are very uneven across India), the Aayog report again reconfirms an existing problem: while states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (part of the BIMARU legacy) are still struggling to move up the development ladder, the front runners (mostly the southern states) are continuing to do well. This uneven progress and development imbalance within the country will not only affect India’s SDG ranking but also pose challenges to global efforts of meeting the stiff targets because of the sheer size of these under-performing states of India.

One of the key reasons for the failure of the northern states to move up the development chart is bad governance. In 2016, Bengaluru-based NGO Public Affairs Centre ranked states based on 10 equal parameters including human development, law and order, and basic infrastructure. It divided the states into two categories, large states with populations over 20 million , and small states with a population below that number. The result: In category 1, Uttar Pradesh was ranked at 12, MP at 13 and Bihar at 17 out of 17 large states. The leaders were: Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Kerala’s sustained success in such development ranking is not surprising: the political establishment there continues to invest in health and education, both of which has inter-generational gains. For example, on SDG goal 3, good health and wellbeing, Kerala has a score of 92 and Uttar Pradesh, 25. In education, Kerala’s score is 87, while Bihar’s is 36 (NITI Aayog report). This lack of investment in the building blocks of human development flows from not just bad governance but complete lack of political will to mainstream these issues in political discourse and prioritise investments in them.

First Published: Dec 26, 2018 17:34 IST