Eight Goals for 2015

Millennium Declaration

In 2000, 189 nations made a promise to free people from extreme poverty and multiple deprivations. This pledge became the eight Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015. In September 2010, the world recommitted itself to accelerate progress towards these goals.

UNDP’s Role in the MDGs

UNDP supports a range of local capacity development initiatives that address implementation challenges. UNDP works directly with more than 15 central ministries and several states, strengthening capacity of elected representatives and government officials at state, district and local levels and strategic government development programmes and schemes which are geared towards achievement of MDG and national development goals. The process of preparation of human development reports has been instrumental in generating awareness on MDGs at the state and district levels and the policy and statistical challenges around attaining MDGs.

India and the MDGs

The year 2015 is a landmark year for global development - the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are reaching their December 2015 deadline, and the world is set to adopt a new set of transformative and universal sustainable development goals (SDGs). At this juncture, when the framework for the next phase of global development is being formulated, it becomes critical to assess the achievements of the MDGs in India.  

India is a signatory to the Millennium Declaration adopted at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2000, and has consistently reaffirmed its commitment towards the eight development goals. The targets of the MDGs converge with India’s own development goals to reduce poverty and other areas of deprivation.

India has witnessed significant progress towards the MDGs, with some targets having been met ahead of the 2015 deadline, however progress has been inconsistent. For instance, while India, according to official national estimates, has achieved the target for reducing poverty by half, it is falling short of achieving the target for reducing hunger. The country has achieved gender parity in primary school enrolment yet it is lagging behind on targets for primary school enrolment and completion. India has made progress in providing clean drinking water however; access to sanitation facilities remains inadequate.

The Millennium Development Goals influenced Development policy formulation and planning globally. Along with bringing critical development challenges to the forefront, they also provided countries with a strong target-oriented agenda. While India has been moving in the right direction in some areas, there is still work remaining in the others. This is therefore an opportune moment to incorporate the lessons learned from the MDGs, into the sustainable development goals and build upon the unfinished MDG agenda.

Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Hunger and Poverty

India has been moderately successful in reducing poverty. In 1990, the all India Poverty Head Count Ratio (PHCR) was estimated to be 47.8%. In order to meet the 2015 target, the PHCR level has to be 23.9%. In 2011-12, the PHCR was 21.9%. This indicates that, India has achieved the poverty reduction target, however, progress is uneven. Faster reduction in poverty since the mid-2000s helped India halve the incidence of poverty. This was a result of both: economic growth (including in agriculture) as well as increased social spending on interventions such as MGNREGA and the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). Nevertheless, estimates from 2012 reveal that, over 270 million Indians continue to live in extreme poverty – making the post-2015 goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 challenging, but feasible.

However, eradicating hunger remains a key challenge. India is home to one quarter of the world’s undernourished population, over a third of the world’s underweight children, and nearly a third of the world’s food-insecure people. Malnourishment and food insecurity are interlinked. In 1990, when the MDGs were formulated, 53.5 percent of all Indian children were malnourished. Since then, progress has been slow. In India, the proportion of underweight children below three years has declined marginally between 1998-99 and 2005-06 to 46 percent. In 2015, malnourishment declined to 40 percent. This is still below the target of reducing malnourishment to 26 percent.

Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education

India has made significant progress in universalizing primary education, and is moderately on track to achieve this Millennium Development Goal. Enrolment and completion rates of girls in primary school have improved and are catching up with those of boys, as are elementary completion rates. At the national level, male and female youth literacy rate is likely to be at 94.81% and 92.47%.

In 2009, India introduced the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), however the quality of education remains a major concern. Another issue, which will have to be addressed, is the large numbers of children remaining out of school and failing to complete primary education, particularly in the case of girls, children in rural areas and those belonging to minority communities.

Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

India is on track to achieve gender parity at all education levels, having already achieved it at the primary level. But women’s literacy rates lag behind that of men, indicating women’s poorer learning outcomes and opportunities.

As of August 2015, India, the world's largest democracy, has only 65 women representatives out of 542 members in Lok Sabha, while there are 31 female representatives in the 242 member Rajya Sabha and hence presently the proportion of seats in National Parliament held by women is only 12.24% against the target of 50%.

Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality

The fourth Millennium Development Goal aims to reduce mortality among children under five by two-thirds. India’s Under Five Mortality (U5MR) declined from 125 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 49 per 1,000 live births in 2013. The MDG target is of 42 per 1000, which suggests that India is moderately on track, largely due to the sharp decline in recent years.

Child survival in India needs sharper focus. This includes better managing neonatal and childhood illnesses and improving child survival, particularly among vulnerable communities. Survival risk remains a key challenge for the disadvantaged who have little access to reproductive and child health services. Major states in the heartland of India are likely to fall significantly short of these targets. IMR is lowest in Kerala (12) and highest for Madhya Pradesh (54). The key to significant progress in reducing U5MR and infant mortality rates rests with reducing neonatal deaths, that is, infant deaths that occur within a year of birth at a fast pace.

The large scale of under-nutrition in expectant mothers and children poses a critical development challenge for India. On a positive note, various Ministries under the Government of India are implementing child centric policies and programmes which are vigorously attending the issues related to child health. This includes the National Policy on Children (2013); National Policy on Early Childhood Care and Education; Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and other initiatives focusing on holistic child development.

Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health

From a Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) of 437 per 100,000 live births in 1990-91, India is required to reduce MMR to 109 per 100,000 live births by 2015. Between 1990 and 2006, there has been some improvement in the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), which has declined to 167 per 100,000 live births in 2009. However, despite this, India’s progress on this goal has been slow and off track.

Safe motherhood depends on the delivery by trained personnel, particularly through institutional facilities. Delivery in institutional facilities has risen from 26 percent in 1992-93 to 72 percent in 2009. Consequently, deliveries by skilled personnel have increased at the same pace, from 33 percent to 76.2 percent in the same period.

One contributing factor has been the introduction of a conditional cash transfer scheme, Janani Suraksha Yojana which improved the delivery of babies in hospitals and nursing homes to 72 per cent in 2009. However, the quality of maternal care remains a concern.

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases

Targets for this goal are based on trend reversal and not on base year value, hence it can be said that India is on track to achieving this goal, since HIV, malaria and tuberculosis prevalence have been declining.

India has made significant strides in reducing the prevalence of HIV and AIDS across different types of high risk categories. Eighty-six percent of transmissions of HIV and AIDS in India are caused by sexual activity. Much of this decline can be attributed to greater awareness and increasing condom use. Adult prevalence has come down from 0.45 percent in 2002 to 0.36 in 2009.

Malaria has consistently come down from 2.12 per thousand in 2001 to 0.72 per thousand in 2013, but slightly increased to 0.88 in 2014 (Provisional). The number of confirmed deaths due to malaria in 2013 was 440 and in 2014 (P), 578 malaria deaths have been registered.

India accounts for one-fifth of the global incidence of tuberculosis (TB), but India has made progress in halting its prevalence. Treatment success rates have remained steady and tuberculosis prevalence per lakh population has reduced from 465 in year 1990 to 211 in 2013. TB incidence per 100,000 population has also reduced from 216 in year 1990 to 171 in 2013.

Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability

India has made some progress and is on track towards achieving the Seventh Millennium Development Goal of ensuring environmental sustainability. Forest cover has increased to 21.23 percent - an increase of 5871 sq. km, and protected areas cover to about 4.83 percent of the country’s total land area. Reducing the energy intensity of GDP growth through higher energy efficiency will be the key to achieving energy security.

India is on-track for achieving the MDG target for sustainable access to safe drinking water. The overall proportion of households having access to improved water sources increased from 68.2 percent in 1992-93 to 90.6 percent in 2011-12.However India, which is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, has not recorded similar progress in improving sanitation facilities over the last decade. Therefore, progress is slow for the sanitation coverage indicator.

Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

With 946.4 million telephone connections, including 918.72 million wireless ones, the Indian telecom network, as of 2014 is the second largest network in the world after China. Out of this, 383.97 million telephone connections are in rural areas and 562.43 million are in urban areas.

The huge leap in the telecom sector along with the advances in the IT sector have led to a massive expansion in the Internet subscriber base. Total number of Internet subscribers has increased from 198.39 million in 2013 to 259.14 million in 2014, with an annual growth of 60%. Presently, wired internet subscribers are 18.58 million and wireless internet subscribers are 240.60 million.

As part of the globalization process and integration with the global economy, India has emerged as one of the major development partners for fostering techno-economic and intellectual assistance to various developed and developing countries across the world. The Indian ICT industry, in particular, the IT software and services and ITES sectors have managed to catch up with the global leaders. As a part of its development partnership activities, India has helped developing countries through technical assistance, capacity-building support, economic assistance, and provided market access to least developed countries. India’s development assistance at US$1.4 billion a year in nominal terms is significant for its level of development and can usefully complement the conventional ODA from developed countries.