Debates on Sustainable Development in India in Comparison with the G-20

April 4, 2019 India , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

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Dr. Keshab Chandra Mandal





William H. Draper III, the premier administrator of the United Nations Development Program, wrote in the Foreword of the UNDP Report that, “We live in stirring times.” Almost three decades later a similar view was expressed by his present successor Achim Steiner. He pointed out that, “We are living in a complex world. People, nations and economies are more connected than ever, and so are the global development issues we are facing.”1 What we need today is to search for a better world for the people, because the pivot of all development programs is people. Draper earlier pointed out the purpose of human development in a very lucid way. He considered that, “The purpose of development is to offer people more options. One of their options is access to income – not as an end in itself but as a means to acquiring human wellbeing. But there are other options as well, including long life, knowledge, political freedom, personal security, community participation and guaranteed human rights.”2


When we look to India, we find that the largest democracy and the emerging superpower, is a country with over 1.37 billion people and the home to more than a sixth of the world’s population. This great nation has been projected to be the world’s most populous nation within a decade by surpassing China.3 India’s economic success in recent years has helped to ensure South Asia as the fastest-growing region in the world: “India has been declared the sixth largest economy in the world with a GDP of 2.6 trillion in 2017.”4 India displaced France to stand firm on this position, while only five countries are ahead in the race. India is growing faster than any other large economy except for China, which is projected to be the world’s second largest by 2050. “Economic growth of around 7½% makes India the fastest-growing G-20 economy.”5 Recent economic reforms in India have widened business opportunities and increased collection in revenues. India has also made progress on structural reforms in the recent past, including through the implementation of the GST, which has helped reduce internal barriers to trade in every Indian state, increased efficiency, and improved tax compliance. “India has jumped from 6.7 per cent in 2017 to 7.8 per cent in 2018.”6


India’s performance in last decade was overwhelming. Over 270 million people in India moved out of poverty in the decade since 2005-06 and the poverty rate in the country nearly halved over the 10-year period. The 2018 global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) released by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) estimated that about 1.3 billion people live in multidimensional poverty globally. The Index noted that poverty rate in the country has nearly halved, falling from 55 per cent to 28 per cent over the ten-year period.7



Statement of Problem


Despite considerable progress in social and economic fields in last few decades, India still encounters a multitude challenges ranging from lower education rate to lesser per capita income. “Among top ten world’s largest economies, India has very low per capita income having 142nd position in nominal and 126th position in PPP ranking.”8 With the acceleration of structural reforms, the move towards a rule-based policy framework and low commodity prices have provided a strong growth impetus, and recent deregulation measures and efforts to improve the ease of doing business have boosted foreign investment, still investment is held back by the relatively high corporate income tax rates, a slow land acquisition process, regulations which remain stringent in some areas, weak corporate balance sheets, high non-performing loans which weigh on banks’ lending, and infrastructure bottlenecks. Quality job creation has been low and the labour laws are complex in India.9


As per “National Sample Survey Report (71st Round) more than 12% of rural households in India did not have any secondary schools within 5 kilometres whereas in urban areas such cases are less than 1%.”10 Not only that, Government elementary schools have a shortfall of 9.08 lakh teachers against a sanctioned strength of 51.8 lakh posts (as of 31.03.2016).11 Drop out is still a major problem in secondary level. India’s expenditure on education as percentage of GDP has gone up from 3.8% in 2013-14 to 4.4% in 2014-15, but it is not sufficient. Besides, total education rate in 2011 was only 74.04 per cent, which clearly indicates that in India about 31 crore people are deprived of education.


Health being an important indicator of Human Development is still neglected in India. It was highlighted in a recent report (Indian Health Report, October 2015) that India still suffers from malnutrition. In spite of making several attempts in the last few years, India continues to struggle to tackle nutrition. Women’s health is very important for a developing country like India, but it also caters the same unfortunate tale of poor health. Almost 55 per cent of Indian women between ages 15-49 have anaemia or low blood count. Early marriage is the result of low infant nutrition in India. About 30 percent of women, aged 20-24, had been married before the age of 18. Malnutrition is still prevalent in the country. India’s situation of malnutrition among children may pose bigger threats in health care for the country in the future. It is estimated that 44.7% of girls between ages 15-18 have low Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the worst figure when compared to other fast growing economies.



Importance of the Study


There is no denying of the fact that people are the real wealth of a nation. The basic objective of any plan and program of a nation is people’s development. Further, the fundamental aim of development is to create such an enabling situation where people can enjoy the basic needs of life such as education, medicine, dwelling place, pure drinking water and comfortable environment for flourishing. Without increasing national income it would not be possible for the countries to provide better nutrition and health services, greater access to knowledge, more secure livelihoods, better working conditions, security against crime and physical violence, satisfying leisure hours, and a sense of participating in the economic, cultural and political activities of their communities. Of course, people also want higher incomes as one of their options.


A close investigation into the life of general Indian public exhibits people’s suffering from deprivation. What is the use of development, if the citizens are not happy, and are exploited by elite group of society? What is the argument of calling India a great nation, if it fails to fulfil the minimum needs of the people? Can democracy survive if fifty per cent of its population remains out of the corridor of decision making power? If violence against women through torture, rape, or threat is so rampant, how can women take equal part in all development activities? Still the third gender is excluded from all the development activities and also they fail to enjoy the fruits of development. Democracy is meaningless until and unless it overlooks the basic amenities of citizens like food, roof, cloths, pure water, and medicine. Human development is related with availability, accessibility and affordability of all the minimum necessities of people such as bread, education, health, social security and freedom of choice of the people. Without proper and scientific education and arrangement of health and sanitary facilities to millions of Indian people, human development of this great nation is next to impossible. If the government is unsuccessful to protect its people from foreign aggression, internal exploitation, corruption and violence, how can India outshine its competitors like BRIIC or G-20 countries?



Aims and Objectives of the Study


On this backdrop the present study was undertaken. The primary objective is to examine the present status and position of India. It was intended by the researcher to examine India’s position in comparison with the G-20 countries. Further, it seeks to deal with (i) the present status of women in India, (ii) the policies and programs taken up by the Government of India for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals, (iii) the issues and constraints standing on the way of Sustainable Development Goals, and finally to provide (iv) some policy prescriptions for attaining Sustainable Human Development and growth in India.



Universe of the Study


The present study was carried out in the G-20 countries. It was the intention of the author to cover these countries through online survey. The countries being historically, geographically, linguistically, culturally and regionally varied, give a representative character of the world. Moreover, the countries possess different sorts of characteristics in relation to population, income, nature of government, size of the economy etc.



Research Methodology


The desk top research methodology has been adopted for the present study. However, the research is based on both secondary as well as primary data. Major sources of secondary data comprise books, journals, evaluative studies, periodicals and newspapers. Besides, the related publications of international organizations like that of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Reports of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), International Monetary Fund, World Bank and relevant documents of Indian Government such as Census data, National Crime Record Bureau data, Health Survey report etc. were used for the research. The primary sources include the Government Acts, Manuals, and Statues. Along with these, formal and informal interactions with ordinary people have largely enriched the study.



Defining Democracy


A great many scholars have contributed to the rise and growth of democracy since the ancient Greek city-states. In ancient Greece, the concept of democracy or the rule of democracy was by no means considered as an ideal rule. Plato vehemently opposed democracy because; according to him people were not appropriately equipped with education ‘to select the best rulers and the wisest courses.12 The word Democracy has come from Greek language, like aristocracy, oligarchy, monarchy, and other political terms. In Greek ‘Demos’ means ‘the people’ and Kratos means ‘power’. Hence, democracy means “Power to the People.”


However, democracy means a government by the common people especially a rule of the majority people. The most familiar definition of democracy has been provided by the former President of America, Abraham Lincoln. He envisaged that, “… democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people.”13 While the British Parliamentarian and philosopher John Stuart Mill describes democracy as a form of government in which, “…the whole people or some numerous portion of them, exercise the governing power through deputies periodically elected by themselves.”14 On the other hand, Robert Morrison MacIver considers that, “Democracy is not a way of governing whether by majority or otherwise but primarily a way determining who shall govern and broadly to what ends.”15 Lord Bryce pointed out that, “The word Democracy has been used ever since the time of Herodotus to denote that form of government in which the ruling power of a State is legally vested, not in any particular class or classes, but in the members of the community as a whole.16


However, the concept of democracy is not a new rather it has a long Indian tradition. Gandhiji believed that true democracy is based on non-violence and for him establishment of peace and fulfilment of democracy are synonymous with cultivation of non-violence. Gandhiji pointed out, “True democracy or the Swaraj of the masses can never come through untruthful and violent means; for the simple reason that the natural corollary to their use would be to remove all opposition, through the suppression or extermination of the antagonists. That does not make for individual freedom. Individual freedom can have the fullest play only under a regime of unadulterated ahimsa.”17


Perfect democracy, therefore may be achieved only through perfect non-violence. If people follow true non-violence having self control, master over methods of satyagraha and cooperate with the state; an ideal and genuine democracy can be emerged. Such a democratic state based on non-violence would facilitate full growth and progress of individuals and would be based on rational understanding, mutual cooperation and love for all which are the outcome of true non-violence. Gandhiji further pointed out, “My notion of democracy is that under it the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest. That can never happen except through non-violence.”18 On the other hand, Dr. Radhakrishnan considered that, “Democracy is not merely a political system but a way of life which affords equality to everyone irrespective of the difference of race, religion, sex, and economic status.”19 Therefore, it is evident that, democracy is both ‘a form of government’ and ‘a way of social life.’



Democracy and Sustainable Development


Though democracy is an age-old concept since the time of Aristotle, the concept has emerged with new thrust as a cross-cutting issue in the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits since the 1990s and in the internationally agreed development goals they produced. In the beginning of the 21st century, the world leaders pledged in the Millennium Declaration Goals (MDGs) to spare no effort to promote democracy and strengthen the rule of law, as well as respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Further, the Outcome Document of the post-2015 negotiations, “Transforming Our World the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” which was adopted by the members of the UNO also reaffirmed the commitment to a world in which “democracy, good governance and the rule of law as well as an enabling environment at national and international levels are essential for sustainable development.”



Implications of Sustainable Development


The concept of Sustainable Development has two major components i.e. development and sustainability. It is interesting to note that, most of the classical economists and development theorists considered that development is only related with the economic growth and increasing the buying capacity of people. The classical theorists also emphasized on the transformation of agricultural production from tradition to modern, use of technology in factories in place of manual production, introduction of science and technology in everyday life, and last of all increasing the high consumption level of people. According to several neoliberal and modern development theories established over the past 60 years and the contemporary understanding, development is a process whose output aims to improve the quality of life and increase the self-sufficient capacity of economies that are technically more complex and depend on global integration.20 Fundamental purpose of this process is creation of stimulating environment in which people will enjoy and have long, healthy and creative life.21


The term sustainability literally means “a capacity to maintain some entity, outcome, or process over time.”22 It was observed by the United Nations that after the Stockholm Conference very little was accomplished to concretely integrate environmental concerns into development policies and plans. Hence, it was necessary to a more integrated perspective to incorporate both economic development and environmental sensitivities. As a result in 1983, the UN General Assembly created the World Commission on Environment and Development which was later known as the Brundtland Commission. In 1987, the Commission published a Report titled Our Common Future. It built upon what had been achieved at Stockholm and provided the most politically significant among all definitions of sustainable development. The Brundtland Commission’s brief definition of sustainable development is the “ability to make development sustainable – to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”23 Now let us examine the status and position of India in global perspective.



India and the G–20


There is a myth regarding the position of India. Millions of Indians have a misconception about the socio-economic status of contemporary India. Hence, it is necessary to examine the actual status and position of India in comparison with the G-20 countries.



Area and Population of G-20


Let us begin with the size of area and population of G-20 countries. It is observed from the available data24 that Russia is the largest country while the second position is held by China, and the United States of America occupies the third position. Even entire European Union is lesser than half of Russia. India holds the seventh position in terms of area. On the other hand, Republic of Korea is a small country with only 97230 sq. km. area.


Country-wise data show that, China is the highest populated country with 18.54 per cent of the world population, while India is the second most populated (17.74%) country, and European Union is the third most populated with 7.00 per cent of global share. The USA and Indonesia holds the fourth and fifth position respectively.



Gross Domestic Product of G-20


In terms of Gross Domestic Product China holds the second position, after the USA, followed by Japan (3rd), Germany (4th) and United Kingdom (5th). India is the world’s sixth largest economy. According to the International Monetary Fund, India is projected to generate growth of 7.8 percent in 2019, boosted by household spending and a tax reform whereas the world’s expected average growth of 3.9 percent. As per the estimate of the London-based Centre for Economics and Business Research that, India would overtake both Britain and France in terms of GDP, and had a good chance to become the world’s third-biggest economy by 2032. At the end of 2017, Britain was still the world’s fifth-biggest economy with a GDP of $2.622 trillion.25 Further, it comes to light that, France came down to seventh position and it was followed by Brazil (8th position), Italy (9th position) and Canada (10th position). Next comes Republic of Korea (11th position), Russia (12th position), Mexico (15th position), Indonesia (16th), and Turkey (17th).



GDP per Capita Income at Current Prices


India has achieved spectacular growth in its economy in recent years. India’s economic growth accelerated from a 4.25% annual pace in the 1961-1993 period, to 7.0% annually in the 1994-2017 period, as financial reforms and deregulation had a positive impact on the economy. Per capita GDP almost tripled, from 1.93% annually in the 1961-1993 period to 5.35% annually in the 1994-2017 period.26


Despite holding the sixth position in economy, India’s GDP per capita income is frustrating. Available data show that, India’s GDP per capita income is the lowest (US$ 1,939.6) among the G-20 countries. The United States of America is the richest country in both Gross Domestic Product and per capita income GDP (US$ 59,531.7), while Australia holds the second position with US$ 53,799.9 GDP per capita income followed by Canada (US$ 45,032.1), Germany (US$44,469.9) and the United Kingdom (US$ 39,720.4) that hold 3rd, 4th and 5th position respectively. France (US$ 38,476.7) and Japan (us$ 38,428.1) are almost equally positioned while China (US$8,827.0) and Mexico (US$ 8,902.8) are having almost similar GDP per capita income. It is shocking that, individual citizens in South Africa (US$ 6,160.7) and Indonesia (US$3,846.9) are also richer than average Indian citizens.



FDI Outflow and Inflow


FDI inflows to the G-20 as a whole decreased by 27% from US$ 1208 billion to US$ 877 billion, but trends diverged across the G-20 sub-groups: FDI flows to OECD G-20 economies decreased by 39% but were partly offset by a 3% increase in FDI inflows to non-OECD G-20 economies. In 2017, the major FDI recipients worldwide were the United States (US$ 287 billion) followed by China (US$ 168 billion), Brazil (US$ 63 billion), the Netherlands (US$ 58 billion excluding resident SPEs), France (US$ 50 billion), Australia (US$ 49 billion), Switzerland (US$ 41 billion) and India (US$ 40 billion). A closer look of India and China’s FDI outflow in 2017 shows that China’s total FDI outflow was US$ 101914 billion, while India had only US$ 11256 billion outflow. On the other hand, FDI inflow of India during the same year was US$ 39978 billion; but China had succeeded in FDI inflow amounting to US$ 168224 billion. China’s FDI inflow was the second highest after the United States of America. In terms of FDI outflows the first position is held by European Union and the second position is occupied by the USA. While Japan and China holds the third and fourth positions respectively. However, India’s outflow and inflow of FDI is better than many G-20 countries such as Argentina, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.



Human Development Index


The Human Development Report 2018 shows that Australia (0.939) tops in the Human Development Index, while Germany (0.936) comes in the second position followed by Canada (0.926). In the 800 and above index there are four countries such as Italy (0.880), Saudi Arabia (0.853), Argentina (0.825) and Russia (0.816). India fell in the lowest Human Development Index category among the G-20 countries with mere 0.640 points.


India’s rank is the 130th, which gives it the status of a Medium Development country. There is not a single country in the G-20 that has so poorly performed in Human Development Index. Out of 20 countries (including EU), eleven countries fall in with very high Human Development Index. These are: Australia (3rd position), Germany (5th position), Canada (12th position), United States (13th position), United Kingdom (14th position), Japan (19th position), France (24th position), Italy (28th position), Saudi Arabia (39th position), Argentina (47th position), and Russian Federation (49th position). Similarly, 4 countries fall in the High Human Development Index such as China (86th position), Brazil (79th position), Mexico (74th position), and Turkey (64th position). In the Medium Development Index only 3 countries are there – South Africa (113th position), Indonesia (116th position) and India (130th position).


The position of a country in the Human Development Index depends on some indicators such as life expectancy at birth, maternal mortality rate and political participation of women. It is observed that, people in Europe and America live more years than average Indians. India is only ahead of South Africa, and people’s life expectancy in all the other G-20 countries is better than the people of the largest democracy. People in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea and UK live more than 80 years whereas in India people’s average life expectancy is only 68.8 years.


In terms of Maternal Mortality Rate, India is again the worst performer with 174 deaths per 100,000 live births. Countries like Italy (4), Japan (5), Australia (6), Germany (6), Canada (7) and UK have lesser than 10 Maternal Mortality Rate; but this rate for South Africa (138) and Indonesia (126) is higher, while some countries such as Republic of Korea (11), Saudi Arabia (12), the United States of America (14), Turkey (16) and Russia (25) are worse than Italy, Japan, Australia and Canada. Mexico (38), Brazil (44) and China (27) are in moderate position in the Maternal Mortality Rate.


But the most disappointing fact revealed in the UNDP Report (2018) was about the share of seats in Parliament by women. The G-20 countries have failed to provide equal opportunity to women at par with their male counterparts. It is observed that, Mexico (41.4%) has the highest percentage of women in the national Parliament, while South Africa is a bit lower with (40.0%) women in Parliament and it is followed by Argentina (38.9%). Further, it is found that France (35.4%), Australia (32.7%), Germany (31.5%) and Canada (30.1%) have more than 30% women in their Parliament, and countries like the UK (28.5%), China (24.2%), Saudi Arabia (19.9%), Indonesia (19.8%), the USA (19.7%), Russia (16.1%) and Korea (17.0%) have lower representation of women than their counterparts in France, Australia, Germany and Canada. But the position of India (11.6%) is the lowest in comparison with the other G-20 countries just mentioned above and even lower than Japan (13.7%), and Turkey (14.6%), while only Brazil (11.3%) is worse than India in empowering women through participation in the highest law making body.


It is revealed from the study that there is not a single country in the world where women are equally treated and gender parity has been ensured. Gender disparity and disempowerment of women in India is worse than almost all other G-20 countries. Globally women earn less than men and are more likely to engage in poor-quality works, while a third suffers physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. In India women are deprived of their legitimate share of food, education and income. Girl’s sex ratio is comparatively lower than boys, crime and cruelty against women are more than men. Child marriage and sex trafficking in India is at an alarming stage. Education rate of girls is lower than their male counterparts. There is disparity between women and men electors; women’s turn out in election is also lower than men; and finally women are lowly represented in every political decision making body – from Panchayat to Parliament. Women are lowly visible in administration, judiciary and legislature. Women’s labour force participation and per capita income are also much lower than their male counterparts.



Education and Labor Force Participation


Over the past several decades, global literacy rates have significantly increased. It is said that, education is the mirror of society. When we compare India’s literacy rate it comes to light that, it is the lowest (74.0%) among the G-20 countries. Russia achieved 100 per cent literacy in 2010; many countries in the world and especially the G-20 countries have achieved full or nearly full literacy. The available data compiled from various sources indicate that Argentina (98.0%), Australia (99.0%), Canada (99.0%), France (99.0%), Germany (99.0%), Italy (99.0%), Republic of Korea (98.0%) and the United Kingdom (99.0%) have achieved almost 100 per cent literacy almost a decade ago. It is to be mentioned that, literacy rate means “percentage of population aged 15 years and over who can both read and write with understanding a short simple statement on his/her everyday life.” Only a few countries such as Brazil (90.0%), China (93.0%), Indonesia (91.0%), Saudi Arabia (91.0%), Mexico (92.0%), and South Africa (92.0%) could not complete full literacy.


In terms of labor force participation also there is wide gap between men and women. The Human Development Report (2018) indicates that, in the world where men’s labor force participation rate is 75.3 per cent, this rate for women is 48.7 per cent. Thus a clear gap of 26.6 per cent is visible. This gap is prevalent in almost all the countries in the world. Most difference is found in India where total labor participation of men is 78.8 per cent, while women’s participation rate is only 27.2 per cent thereby making a difference of 51.6 per cent. Almost similar gap is observed in Turkey (39.5%), Mexico (34.9%), Indonesia (31.1%), Republic of Korea (21.0%), and Brazil (21.5%). On the other hand, there are some countries where the difference between men and women in labor force participation is a little lesser than the formerly mentioned countries, such as China (Male – 76.1%, Female – 61.5%), Japan (Male – 70.6%, Female – 50.5%) and Russia (Male -71.8%, Female – 56.6%). However, a few countries have been able to bring down the difference between male and female labor force participation. In Canada this gap is only 9.1 per cent, in France this gap is 9.5 per cent, in the UK it is 11.3 per cent, while in Australia and USA this gap is only 11.3 and 12.6 per cent respectively.



Hunger and Unemployment


The 2018 Global Hunger Index (GHI) indicates that the level of hunger and under-nutrition worldwide falls into the serious category, at a value of 20.9, down from 29.2 in 2000.27 Underlying this improvement are reductions since 2000 in each of the four GHI indicators – the prevalence of undernourishment, child stunting, child wasting, and child mortality.


Out of 119 countries for which global hunger index is available, it comes to light that India’s rank is 103. All other countries are better positioned than India. Argentina’s rank is 18, Brazil stands at 31st position while China’s rank in the global poverty index is only 25. Indonesia (73rd rank) is below the 30 points of India and Mexico’s rank is 22 while Russia holds 21st position followed by Saudi Arabia (31) and South Africa (60).


On the other hand, when we look at the unemployment rate, it comes to light that all the countries in the world are having unemployment problem. In 2019, the global unemployment rate is expected to remain essentially unchanged, whereas the number of unemployed is projected to grow by 1.3 million.28 In terms of unemployment, India is a little better positioned than others. India’s current unemployment rate is 3.5 per cent i.e. 18.6 million youths are unemployed in India, while this rate in South Africa is 28.5 per cent (6.4 million). China’s unemployment rate is 4.7 per cent that means 37.6 million youths are jobless, and this rate in Brazil is 11.9 per cent comprising 12.5 million youths. Italy (11.0%) and Turkey (11.1%) are also facing much unemployment problem with 2.7 and 3.5 million unemployed people respectively. The UK and USA are also not free from the burden of joblessness. UK’s current unemployment rate is 4.2% (1.4 million people) and the USA’s present rate of joblessness is 4.3 per cent where 7.0 million youths are unemployed.



Indian Initiatives for Achieving Sustainable Development Goals


From the above discussion it is revealed that India is lagging behind many G-20 countries in almost all respect. The Government of India is also concerned with the deplorable socio-economic attainments of India. Hence, like the previous ones the present government also has come up with several programs and schemes in order to ease the burden of poverty holding India back. It is not possible to highlight all the schemes and policies within this short article; still an endeavour has been taken to trace out a few important policies and schemes of the Modi government for human development, economic growth and upliftment of general citizens. The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) is one such program. A couple of insurance programs were also launched by the Government of India recently for members of lower income groups and economically-backward sections such as Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY) and Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY). The Prime Minister launched the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAANJHI) to develop the infrastructural facilities in India. Further, the Government of India initiated a number of policies, programs and schemes for reducing the gender gap and boosting women’s empowerment. Some notable initiatives in this regard are the National Mission for Empowerment of Women (NMEW), Swadhar, Priyadrashani, Kishori Shakti Yojana (KSY), Swawalamban Program, Mahila Samriddhi Yojana (MSY), Balika Samriddhi Yojana (BSY), Sukanya, Ladli Laxmi Yojana, Apni Beti-Apna Dhan (ABAD) and many more. All the above schemes and programs are formulated for empowerment of people and especially for women for eradication of poverty.


With a view to ending hunger, the National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013 was launched by the UPA-II government. The NFSA is being implemented across the country addressing the availability, accessibility and affordability dimensions of food security. The Scheme covers around 800 million people, about 67% of the country’s population. The National Health Policy, 2017 has been adopted to achieve specific targets for universalizing primary health care, achieving further reductions in infant and under-5 mortality, preventing premature deaths due to non-communicable diseases as well as increasing government expenditure on health.


India is focused on ensuring access to water and sanitation services to all. Since the launch of Government of India’s flagship scheme, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission), more than 12 million toilets have been constructed in rural areas.29 The government of India’s efforts to make India clean through toilet movements will ensure health and well being of Indian people. Another flagship scheme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, is aimed at achieving universal quality education for all Indians aged 6-14 years, and is complemented in this effort by targeted schemes on nutritional support, higher education, and teacher training. Along with the general education, vocation training is also being imparted for making Skilled India mission successful. To address the employability issue of students, providing vocational education is of utmost importance. Through the schemes like Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion (SANKALP) and Skill Strengthening for Industrial Value Enhancement (STRIVE), the government is increasingly looking at revamping the educational framework and skill development of students, improving the quality of trainers, and standardizing the assessment and certification process so that students passing out meet the requirements of the future workforce.


Numerous measures have been put in place for promoting gender equality. For example, the Beti Bachao Beti Padao (Save the Girl Child, Educate the Girl Child) initiative focuses on a comprehensive package of interventions for the girl child including those pertaining to education and protection. Various Maternity Benefit Programs protect women from wage loss during the first six months after childbirth. Besides, Janani Suraksha Yojana is a great scheme for a woman that provides Rs. 6000 to pregnant women who undergo institutional delivery for hospital admission. Further, several programs are being implemented for enabling greater participation of women in the work force.30


Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana is another ambitious social welfare scheme of Narendra Modi Government. Under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, the government aims to provide LPG connections to BPL households in the country. The scheme is aimed at replacing the unclean cooking fuels mostly used in rural India with the clean and more efficient LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas). Ujjwala Yojana is aimed at providing 5 Crore LPG connections in the name of women in BPL (Below Poverty Line) households across the country. Recently the government of India has taken some flagship programs to achieve Goal No. 8. These include National Skill Development Mission, Deendayal Upadhyaya Antodaya Yojana, Atal Innovation Mission, the National Service Scheme and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Further, the Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana (DAY) was launched basically with an aim to uplift the urban poor people by enhancing sustainable livelihood opportunities through skill development. Keeping in view the objective of ‘Make in India,’ Skill Development is essential for socio-economic upliftment of people.


The Government of India’s emphasis on the three pronged Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile programs are aimed at a comprehensive strategy of inclusion, financial empowerment and social security. These priorities are in line with the Sustainable Development targets aimed at achieving greater equality and promoting the social, economic, and political inclusion of all by 2030.31 The Government of India’s Smart Cities Mission, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, and the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) are aimed to address the challenge of improving urban spaces. The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana aims to achieve housing for all by 2022.32


In 2016 the Prime Minister of India launched another flagship program, Sagarmala for Holistic Development of Islands and Coastal Areas with a view to promoting port connectivity, development and industrialization, in a phased manner during 2015 to 2025. Holistic and sustainable development of coastal communities, especially the population engaged in fishing, is one of the key pillars of the program. Coastal tourism is also being promoted under the program for enabling access to better livelihood opportunities.33


The government of India launched the Green Highways Policy in 2015 to promote greening of National Highway Corridors across the country. The National Afforstation Program targets development of forest resources with the involvement of people. The integrated development of wildlife Habitats Program, which includes Project Tiger and Project Elephant, focuses on capacity building of staff, wildlife research and evaluation, anti-poaching activities, wildlife veterinary care, addressing man-animal conflicts and promoting eco-tourism. The Program of Conservation of Natural Resources and Eco Systems, through its different sub-programs, aims at conserving biosphere resources, natural resources and eco-systems of the country.34


Presently the Government of India is an important part of the new global partnership, and it has been strengthened by the country’s efforts to build networks within the region and with the world through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS and its New Development Bank, and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, as well as with UN agencies and programs around the world.35 India left no stone unturned to vitalize global partnership for attainment of Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.



Challenges of Sustainable Development Goals


There are several challenges standing on the way of Sustainable Development Goals, human development and economic growth in India. Within this small article, only a few such obstacles and challenges will be succinctly pointed out in the following part.


Let us start with the political challenges. Prior to every election – from local body to Parliament – threatening, intimidation, booth capturing, bombing, proxy votes, vote boycotting are some of the common incidents observed by any conscious citizen in India. In health sector, despite the headway made in the last 15 years, several challenges still remain. There are significant inequalities in access to quality and affordable health services, and a disproportionate burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases still exist. Low budgetary allocations for health are a key reason. The government’s health expenditure has remained at around 1% of GDP over the past decade, which puts India significantly behind the global average. These funds are also not efficiently utilized due to fragmented planning and vertical disease programs.


In India, the quality of education from primary to university level remains at a very low ebb. In case of primary education the basic deficiency is in terms of basic infrastructure, teacher absenteeism and poor quality. Similarly in case of higher education the problem is largely in quality of teaching and near absence of proper research in most of the states and private sector universities.36 In a recent article37 in The Times of India it was revealed that, Indian universities are ceding ground to global competitors in preparing students for the modern workplace. International students not only bring in revenue, they also help cultivate a university’s reputation as collaborative, attractive and reputable. Currently, India’s international student rate is much lower than many other countries, but that is something the nation is trying to change. The rapid growth and massification of India’s higher education system has resulted in various quality problems, most notably in the fast-expanding private sector. Academic corruption and political intervention in educational institutions are major hindrances to achieve quality education in India. Women’s safety and equality are great problems in India. Women are not free to flourish through participation in political, economic and educational institutions. Gender discrimination and gender violence are still burning issues in India.


In regard to distribution of freebies it can be pointed out that, competitive populism among political parties, and offers of loan waivers and free power in the run-up to elections are just temporary solutions that do not address the need for structural changes to sustainably development incomes in the country. It is a fact that populist measures have short-term political gains, but lead to long term economic problems as they are ‘unproductive.’38


Moreover, corruption, tax evasion, extortion, hooliganism are rampant in India. Also it is a fact that, there is no dearth of sound policies and laws in India, but the inefficient governance and poor performances of the law enforcement and implementation agencies are mostly responsible for India’s low performance in achieving Sustainable Development Goals.



Policy Recommendations


What is the use of robust economic growth if it does not make the qualitative change of average citizens? If there remains a wide gap between the haves and have nots how can India achieve Sustainable Development Goals? How can India be included in the category of very High Human Development countries with so much poverty, illiteracy, ill health and low per capita income? Is it possible to achieve Sustainable Development Goals without women’s equal participation in all development activities? Therefore, a few policies can be prescribed to the government for closing the gaps and achievement of Sustainable Development Goals for making India a superpower by 2030.


For ending poverty from India it requires: 1. To promote growth in agricultural productivity and non-farm rural activities. 2. Public investment in rural infrastructure and agricultural research. Greater employment opportunities and growth in the rural non-farm economy. 3. Better and effective credit policies to promote farm investment and rural micro enterprises. Policies to promote human capital to expand the capabilities of the poor and development of rural financial markets. 4. Self-Help Group Approach to be strengthened as it is a proven method of empowerment of the poor, especially women. 5. Involvement of local communities and people’s participation in NRLM and MGNREGS. Stringent measures for checking the rising corruption of MGNREGS is highly recommended. 6. Public Distribution System (PDS) needs to be reformed and better targeted. 7. Provision of safety nets like targeted food subsidies, nutrition programs and health.39


In regard to robust growth of economy and human development sound fiscal and monetary policies are required. Not the distribution of freebies, rather capacity building of Indian youths as well as employees is the highest need of the hour. Capacity building for governance is crucial if states are to smoothly perform their roles to minimize the risks. The role of the state should be enhanced to build capacity, set the rules, and undertake reforms to better enable citizens to participate in the global economy and attract capital into the country.40 Better governance capacity would also ensure better resource mobilization and distribution.


In order to reduce malnutrition, it is imperative to promote policies for increasing food productivity as well as for enhancing land use and desirable cropping patterns. Use of technology will improve food production and quality of production. Besides, food supplementation programs are essential for tackling hunger and food security issues, and for ensuring social equity.41 Mid-Day-Meal program should be extended to class IX and X for better supporting the nutritional requirement of students.


The public health policy should focus on the prevention of diseases by providing clean water and sanitation rather than fighting diseases by administering antibiotics. There is also a dire shortage of healthcare staff. In order to meet the challenges, the government could forge partnerships with various stakeholders including foreign investors and Indian business community. It is necessary to invest in public health and finish MDG agenda through further improvements in maternal and child health, confronting neglected tropical diseases, eliminating malaria, strengthening the country’s surveillance system to detect and respond to diseases and accelerating the fight against tuberculosis.


For educational sustainability, the key issue across all levels of education in our country is quality. Pay discrimination between central and state teachers should be closed immediately. A separate Indian education services cadre at different levels, within the civil services, should be created. Parents should be bound to send students to school, and district education officials should be responsible for the quality of both private and government schools.42 Local people’s representatives like Gram Pradhan of Panchayats, Councillors of Municipality should be responsible for quality education as well as equitable development of all schools under their jurisdiction.


Inequality is a great barrier to economic growth and development of Indian. Therefore, solutions to reducing income inequality lie in three aspects: (1) investing in women; (2) investing in agriculture; and (3) reforming workplace laws. Investing in women is most important and urgent today to reduce inequality and increase nations’ gross domestic product (GDP). Helping women stay active in the workplace while raising a family is a key to achieving this growth. This means more family-friendly work policies, such as paid parental leave and creating an environment where kids are allowed in the workplace. Flexible timing would also help women to join and continue their works during pregnancy and child rearing.


Promote inclusive growth by ensuring that the income of the bottom 40% of the population grows faster than of the top 10% so that the gap between the two begins to close. Seal the leaking wealth bucket by taking stringent measures against tax evasion and avoidance; taxing the super-rich by re-introducing inheritance tax, increasing wealth tax, reducing and eventually do away with corporate tax breaks; creating a more equal opportunity by increasing public expenditure on health and education. Regularly monitor the measures the government takes to tackle the issue of rising inequality.43


Women’s equality must be ensured for attainment of Sustainable Development Goals. Hence, it is proposed that 50 per cent seats should be reserved for women in all legislative assemblies and Parliament. For bringing about attitudinal change of general public more and more seminars and sensitization programs should be initiated from school to university level. Women’s safety can best be ensured by introducing self-defence training in all educational institutions and clubs in India. Crèche should be set up in all factories and offices where lactating mothers are working. More women should be recruited as drivers and security personnel for ensuring safe travelling of women to and from their home to workplace. The legal awareness campaigning should be more extensive and effective. Government should show more positive signs in recruiting equal number of teachers, nurses, administrators, lawyers, judges, medical officers, pilots, engineers and research scholars to bring about equality between men and women. With equal participation in every sector, women’s equality and empowerment will be ensured in true sense in India.


For controlling environmental pollution, it is necessary to popularize an eco-friendly life style. It is also required to campaign against solid waste, specially plastic and non-recyclable plastic materials. The wastes such as plastic materials, glasses and other types of solid waste can be sorted into several categories, recycled and used for different purposes. The people and especially the women and youths can be sensitized to the importance of responsible waste disposal.


To make India clean the Swachh Bharat Mission should be implemented in a more holistic way. A more sustained awareness campaign among the households, guesthouses, communities, restaurants and organizations in every village, city and town should be initiated. The schools, colleges, and universities, local clubs, civil societies should be more sensitized to curb the menace. Lastly, an introduction of both fine and legal action by government or local administration for creating nuisance and dirt on road, office, educational institutions, park, or any public place will produce effective results. National Green Tribunal should be more active and the administration of local and state government should be more prompt where violation of the guidelines is taking place.


In regard to widespread manipulation in elections, it is recommended that either the voters should have a basic education for selecting their representatives, or the representatives should have certain educational as well as professional degrees. In addition to that, certain level of expertise in Indian Constitution, International covenants, and public administration should be the criteria of contesting a parliamentary election. Further, the electronic voting arrangement should be made for elderly, infirm and ill voters, and citizens living temporarily out of station. Full proof online voting arrangement and online nomination arrangements are the remedies for ongoing violence, alcoholism, proxy votes and vote purchasing by political stalwarts.


In regard to national security it is proposed that Kashmir issues need to be resolved amicably and through dialogue. Major security threat is coming from Indian state Jammu & Kashmir and from our neighboring country. War can never be a permanent solution. Diplomacy is the best way to deter a belligerent country. At the same time, what Indian Army commandos carried out in the form of surgical strikes against terror launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is also necessary because this kind of military operation conveys a very strong message to the terror groups. India must use force, following international military norms, for defending its border, people, and property.


Improving infrastructure is one way to increase GDP of India. Without investment in infrastructure there cannot be GDP growth. Electricity to be provided to all the households. Former Indian president APJ Abdul Kalam felt that, “No nation can aspire to be modern and developed without the availability of quality power for all. Vast biodiversity should be transformed into wealth of people and the nation through selective technological interventions; Indian marine resources are to be transformed into economic strength. Also, there is necessary for a resurgence of Indian engineering industry, machine tools, textiles, foundry, electrical machinery, and transport-equipment. India should be an exporter of electrical, engineering, electronic, and technological items in the world market. Along with production of rice and wheat, India should produce more aircrafts, computers, missiles and fighter planes. More budgetary allocation is required in research and development in science & technology, commerce, medicine, marine, space, literature and social science. Take all necessary steps to weed out corruption from India. Criminals, goons, corrupt officials and corrupt politicians should be brought to book – whatever challenges may come from the Opposition parties or combined political forces.






From the above discussion it can be said that Indian democracy is still in nascent stage and it needs miles to go before matching with other High Human Development Countries in the world. But it is a matter of happiness that, the pace of India’s progress towards economic growth is commendable of which many of its European and Asian counterparts are now envious of. India’s robust economic growth has also attracted the global attention. Besides, strong military power, technological advancement, and vast majority of skilled human resources are added advantages for India. In spite of all achievements still the questions relating to quality education, health, social security, tolerance, women’s safety and equality ask for government intervention. However, it is hoped that Indian government will make serious note of it, and take all necessary measures to address the human development issues.


Finally, it can be said that, India is growing. India is shining, and India is progressing under the present government. At the same time, India is facing many challenges too. However, from the overall trend of its achievements, it can be hoped that India will outshine many of the G-20 countries and become a Very High Human Development country in next two decades. Let us all put our brains and hands together to make India the most powerful, progressive and developed country in the world.





Dr. Keshab Chandra Mandal

Dr. Keshab C. Mandal is the Head Master of a Government sponsored High School in Kolkata, India. Also he taught Political Science at a Government College in Kolkata as a guest lecturer. Previously he taught Political Science at a Government Higher Secondary School in the district of Paschim Medinipur, India. Along with teaching profession, this author has engaged himself in research and publications. He is the author of 10 books, three monographs and more about four dozens of articles published in national and international academic and peer reviewed journals, magazines and newspapers. Also, he was the editor-in-chief of an e-magazine and a Bengali newspaper. Presently he is on the editorial board of The World United, a monthly e-magazine. He has presented papers and delivered lectures in more than a dozen national seminars, conferences and symposiums and was invited to attend conferences in various universities from Europe such as V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, Ukraine; Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv; University of Leeds, UK etc. He is a life member of West Bengal Political Science Association and former member of Jadavpur Association of International Relations. His fields of interest are gender empowerment, local governments and development studies. This author obtained his first M.A. degree in Political Science from Kalyani University (1991), two more M.A. degrees from Madurai Kamraj University (2006 & 2008) and Ph. D. degree from Vidyasagar University (2009), and successfully completed an ICSSR-sponsored research project (2015-2017) as it’s Project Director. Out of his total ten publications, four works in six publications in English language has 45 world library holdings.


Books by this author:


1. A Panorama of Ghatal (2006)

2. West Bengal: Problems and Prospects (2008)

3. Poetry: The Mirror of Society (2009)

4. West Bengal Government: The Issues and Constraints of Development (2010) ISBN-13: 978-8190806534

5. Empowerment of Women and Panchayati Raj: Experiences from West Bengal (2010) ISBN: 9788190806589

6. Gender and Empowerment: A Comparative Analysis of India and USA (2012) ISBN: 9789380663302

7. Barack Obama: The Harbinger of Peace and Prosperity (2013) ISBN-13: 978-3639510188

8. The Thoughts of an Unknown Indian (2014) ISBN-13: 978-3639717945

9. Ghatal Pourasabha: Unnayan O Kichu Bhabna (in Bengali, 2014)

10. Mamata Banerjee: The Maker of New Bengal (2018)

In the pipeline –

Gender Empowerment in Local Governments: Prospects and Debates of Sustainable Development in India




Notes and References


  1. 1. Steiner, Achim. 2018. Human Development Indices and Indicators. New York: United Nations Development Program. p. iii.
  2. Draper III, William H. 1990. Human Development Report. New York: United Nations Development Program. p. iii.
  3. BBC News. 2018. 13 January.
  4. India Today. 2018. New Delhi, April 18.
  5. OECD Economic Surveys. India. 2017. OECD, February.
  6. India Today. 2018. New Delhi, April 18.
  7. NDTV. 2018. September 21.
  8. International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook (April – 2018). 09th June, 2018.
  9. ibid.
  10. “Education Status of India.” 2018. New Delhi: Government of India. Ministry of Human Resource Development. Department of School Education and Literary Statistics Division. p. iii.
  11. ibid., p. iv.
  12. Gauba, O.P. 2006. Social and Political Philosophy. 1st ed. New Delhi: National Publishing House, p. 63.
  13. Garner, W. J. 1955. Political Science and Government. Calcutta: World Press. p. 354.
  14. Mahajan, V.D. 1956. Recent Political Thought, (2nd revised and enlarged ed.). Delhi: Premier Publishing. p. 314.
  15. Kapur, A.C. 1979. Principles of Political Science. 14th revised ed. New Delhi: S. Chand and Company Ltd. p. 289.
  16. Bryce, James. 1921. Modern Democracy. New York: Macmillan Company. Vol., 1, p. 20.
  17. Gandhi, M.K. 1939. Harijan. May 27, p.143.
  18. Gummadi, V. 1999. Gandhian Philosophy: Its Relevance Today. New Delhi: Decent Books. p.162.
  19. Urmila, Sharma. and Sharma, S.K. 2007. Principles and Theory of Political Science. Vol.11. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors (P) Limited. p. 434.
  20. Remenyi, J. 2004. What is Development? In D. Kingsbury, J. Remenyi, J. McKay & J. Hunt, (Eds.), Key Issues in Development. Hampshire. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 22-44.
  21. Tangi, S. 2005. Introduction to Development Studies. Scientific network
  22. Jenkins, W. 2009. Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability: The Spirit of Sustainability. Berkshire Publishing Group. Vol. 1, 1st ed.
  23. World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). 1987. Our Common Future. New York: Oxford University Press. p.8.
  24. Worldometers ( & / retrieved on 30.12.2018, European Union data – Eurostat News letter 115/218, 10 July 2018. Area of EU – World Economic Outlook (IMF) & US Census Bureau.
  25. Firstpost. 2018. “India becomes world’s sixth biggest economy, pushes France to 7th place in World Bank ranking.” July 11.
  26. Will, Kenton. 2018. Investopedia. “Per Capita GDP.” November 15.
  27. Global Hunger Index. available at accessed on 31.12.2018.
  28. World Employment Social Outlook Trends. 2018. Geneva: International Labor Organization. p. 1.
  29. Health, Water and Sanitation. United Nations in India. Available at accessed on 22.12.2018.
  30. Jagriti, Chandra. 2018. “Assault on Boys Punishable by Death.” The Hindu. Kolkata, 29 December.
  31. United Nations in India data available at accessed on 7.1.2019.
  32. United Nations in India available at accessed on 7.1.2019.
  33. Voluntary National Review Report: On the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals. 2017. United Nations High Level Political Forum. New York. pp. 21-22.
  34. NITI Aayog. 2018. SDG India Index: Baseline Report. pp. 167-173.
  35. United Nations in India. available at accessed on 27.12.2018.
  36. Misra, Dr. Satya Narayan. and Ghadai, Sanjaya Ku. 2015. “Make in India and Challenges before Education Policy.” Journal of Education and Practice. Vol. 6, No.1. p. 99.
  37. “Indian universities not fully preparing students for modern workplace: UK study.” 2018. The Economic Times. November 15.
  38. The Hindu. 2019. “Vice President disapproves of competitive populism.” Monday, February 11. 39. Lalita, Kumari. 2013. Researchers World – Journal of Arts, Science & Commerce. Vol.– IV, Issue – 2, April, p.13.
  39. Rondinelli, D. A. 2003. Reinventing Government for the Twenty-first Century: State Capacity in Globalizing Society. Virginia, USA: Kumarian Press Inc.
  40. “Human Development in India: Emerging Issues and Policy Perspectives, Report of a Consultation.” 2010. New Delhi: Indian Council of Social Science Research & The World Bank, Institute for Human Development, February 5-6. p. 4.
  41. Rajagopalan, Sridhar. 2018. “Ten Steps to transform the quality of education in India.” Retrieved 22.12.2018.
  42. Oxfam India, 24 January 2018, “15 shocking facts about inequality in India.” available at accessed on 24.12.2018.

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