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India's progress on MDGs found tardy

Despite some progress in primary education, assured rural employment and access to potable water, India continues to lag behind in realising the Millennium Development Goals set for 2015 by the United Nations, says a new report

With just five years to the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), India is not on track to meeting a majority of targets, including health, unless a concerted national effort is made by government and all sections of civil society, according to the third ‘Millennium Development Goals -– India Country Report 2009’, prepared by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.  

“Health is a major challenge -- the very survival of India’s women and children is threatened. In 2006, on average, 254 women died giving birth to a child for every 100,000 live births, down from 327 in 1990. The states of Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal had the highest numbers ranging from 480 to 312. Kerala, at 95, Tamil Nadu, at 111, and West Bengal, at 141, have the best figures,” the report says. 

“The all-India trend of the proportion of underweight (severe and moderate) children below three years of age shows India is going slow in eliminating the effects of malnourishment. The estimate of the proportion has declined only marginally during 1998-99 to 2005-06, from about 47% to about 46%, and at this rate of decline is expected to come down to about 40% only by 2015,” it adds. 

Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation Secretary Professor T C A Anant, while reiterating the government’s commitment to accelerating progress on the MDGs, said: “The stakes are high. With five years to the 2015 deadline we have a narrow window of opportunity to generate renewed momentum. For us, programme implementation is the major challenge -- and to make every tier of administration accountable to the people.”  

Persistent inequalities, ineffective delivery of public services, weak accountability systems, and gaps in implementing pro-poor policies are major bottlenecks to progress. It is possible poverty will be halved by 2015, but by no means certain, says the report, adding that states in India’s heartland like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Uttarakhand are unlikely to achieve the targets if it remains business-as-usual. 

“The proportion of poor in these states is currently at 64% of the country’s poor, and this is likely to increase to 71% by 2015. The number of poor in 2015 is likely to be 279 million at an all-India level,” the report states. 

Key recommendations include greater devolution of power to local governments in rural areas, streamlining of funds flow, and use of information technology to reach the ‘unreached’ and stop leakages.  

The report, however, acknowledges the role of India’s various rights-based laws and flagship programmes “in improving the lives of its citizens,” with access to amenities like adequate food and income, basic education, health services, clean water, sanitation and women’s empowerment. 

“The government recognises these challenges. Its commitment is evident from various rights-based laws in place, like the law on guarantee to work, the right to information and the education, besides the right to food which is currently on the anvil,” said UNDP Resident Representative Coeur-Bizot. 

Source: AFP, September 10, 2010
   , September 10, 2010
             The Economic Times, September 8, 2010