THE United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal call to end poverty, protect the planet and to ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. There are 17 SDGs with 157 nations as signatories. In India the governments have been correctly focussing on each of these 17 parameters and delivering positive results. While 2030, the deadline to achieve these SDGs seems a bit far, going by the diversity and complexity of our country in all spheres, time is indeed of the essence.
India has to continue to push for the implementation of the SDG agenda through close collaboration between the national and State governments as well as the through the relevant participation of all stakeholders. It is also a fact that until the financial, social and physical infrastructure is strengthened, India will find it tough to accelerate and become sustainable. While India has slipped six places in the SDG Index and Dashboard Report, 2017, there is every reason to believe that this is a temporary glitch and our policies and initiatives are bound to result positively in the years ahead.
Let me elaborate on why I feel things are bound to get better and why India is certain to become a world beater as far as achieving SDGs are concerned. The answer lies in the sustained efforts of our governments that are laudable and include landmark initiatives like the Food Security Act, which aims to provide subsidised food grain to approximately two-thirds of our population and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), which provides legal guarantee for 100 days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household willing to do public work-related unskilled manual work at the statutory minimum wage.
Clearly, the actions of the government are making the concept of MGNREGA more sustainable.
Then there are programmes like, Make in India, which has the objective of job creation and skill enhancement in 25 sectors of the economy by improving the quality standards and productivity, minimising the impact on the environment along with encouraging the companies to manufacture their products in India; Swacch Bharat Abhiyan aimed at bringing change in the civic behaviour of the society through a campaign to clean up the streets, roads and infrastructure of India’s cities, smaller towns and rural areas along with the creation of household-owned and community-owned toilets; Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, India’s national mission for financial inclusion to ensure access to financial services for the deprived and needy; and, Digital India has been launched to ensure that government services are made available to the citizens electronically by improved online infrastructure and increasing internet connectivity.
SIMILARLY, Skill India aims to train over 40 crore people in India in different skills by 2022, albeit a tall order, but for which the ministry is burning midnight oil to achieve this target. Right to Education Act provides for free and compulsory education to all children in India in the 6-14 age group. It also makes it clear that no child shall be held back, expelled or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education. This to my mind is one of the most fundamental change made to make India a sustainable society in the years to come.
The Clean Ganga Mission aims to clean the river Ganges and its tributaries in a comprehensive manner, without this water management and effluent along the Ganges due to the waste generated by various industries cannot be managed. Smart Cities Mission is an urban renewal and retrofitting programme by the government of India with the mission to develop 100 cities across the country and making them citizen friendly and sustainable. This will ensure redistribution of the work force thereby reducing the pressure on nearby metros and mini metros. The Transformation of Aspirational Districts Programme aims to quickly and effectively transform India’s most backward districts by focusing on the micro needs of the community so that their income levels could be doubled by 2022.
It is indeed heartening to see that there is a consistent focus on rural India which, to my mind, is going to be the game-changer for the Indian economy. To achieve these goals we need to ensure that there are measurable milestones which are regularly reviewed so that we don’t lose focus and continue to work assiduously in achieving them. I am certain that going by the innovative and out-of-the-box thinking, we will eventually catch up with the top nations of the world and get rid of the laggard tag.
The writer is Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs, ITC Ltd. Views expressed are personal