NSSO survey shows India’s progress on UN's Sustainable Development Goals

By, New Delhi
Mar 08, 2023 06:45 AM IST

Adopted by the UN in 2015, SDGs are a set of 17 inter-related goals on developmental issues.

95.7% people were living in households with an improved drinking water source, 63.1% (92% in urban areas) households had access to clean fuel for cooking, and 82% people had access handwashing facility with soap or detergent within the household’s premises and an improved toilet.

95.7% people were living with an improved drinking water source in the MIS. (HT Archive)
95.7% people were living with an improved drinking water source in the MIS. (HT Archive)

These findings, all related to Sustainable Development Goals are from a new Multiple Indicator Survey (MIS) conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) in 2020-21, the report for which was released on March 7. The data shows how close or far India is from achieving select Sustainable Development Goals. Adopted by the UN in 2015, SDGs are a set of 17 inter-related goals on developmental issues.

While this particular survey does not show progress over time, the level of achievement of different indicators that the NSSO survey shows is comparable to other surveys, which have shown progress. The survey also collected data on some miscellaneous indicators, such as migration and working knowledge of using computers.

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The MIS was conducted by the NSSO across 2,76,409 households between January 2020 and August 2021. It has collected data on only select indicators of SDGs. Four key indicators on which data was collected are: access to improved source of drinking water, access to latrine, access to handwashing facility with soap and water within the household’s premises, and access to clean fuel for cooking.

The four key indicators covered by the MIS are similar to those covered by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS). The numbers reported by MIS for 2020-21 are also similar to the numbers reported by the 2019-21 NFHS for two of these indicators. For example, 95.7% people were living in households with an improved drinking water source in the MIS, compared to 95.9% in the 2019-21 NFHS. Similarly, 63.1% (92% in urban areas) households had access to clean fuel for cooking in MIS, compared to 58.6% (89.7% in urban areas) in the NFHS.

The access handwashing facility with soap or detergent within the household’s premises and an improved latrine diverges more across these two surveys. MIS data shows 82% people had access to the former compared to 71% in NFHS. The difference between the two surveys is largely on account of the difference in the access reported by rural areas: 77% in MIS compared to 64% in the NFHS. The divergence in access to improved sanitation shown by the two surveys is bigger. The MIS reports 83% access to improved sanitation facility compared to 70% in the NFHS. The difference in this indicator is also not very lopsided. The MIS numbers are bigger than NFHS numbers by 15 and 12 percentage points in urban and rural areas.

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To be sure, some of the differences in the access to sanitation reported by the two surveys could be due to definitions, the method of sampling, or the sample itself, which need to examined closely. For example, accurate rural-urban classification has become difficult because a census has not been conducted, Himanshu, an associate professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University told HT earlier. However, because the MIS data’s estimates are either close to higher than the NFHS for all these indicators, it is safe to assume that the progress shown on these indicators in the NFHS is not because of faulty data.

Apart from the data on SDGs, the MIS has also collected data on other miscellaneous indicators that are not usually collected by the NSSO or other large government surveys. For example, the MIS survey found that 29.1% of Indians are migrants. While this is similar to the number reported by the 2020-21 PLFS (28.9%), MIS additionally asked working migrants how their income changed after migration: 56% such people reported an increase while 22% each reported a decrease and no change. To be sure, migrants to urban areas reported an increase more than the average migrant. 68% of urban migrants reported an increase in income, while incomes decreased and remained the same for 12% and 20% of such migrants.

Data from the MIS report also shows that country, including a large share of the relatively young, is ill prepared to completely shift work and education online. Only 15.6% of those in the 15 years and above age group could send emails with attached files. This number improved to only 27.5% among the younger 15-25 years age group. Even if education was to be conducted through compact discs (CD) or other removable drives, not all students might be able to pursue such an education easily. Only 43% people in the 15-25 age group (35% in rural areas) could copy or move a file or folder.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Abhishek Jha is a data journalist. He analyses public data for finding news, with a focus on the environment, Indian politics and economy, and Covid-19.

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