All UN member states are committed to achieve SDGs Agenda 2030 consisting of 17 goals and 169 targets, spanning the three dimensions of economic, social and environmental development. Under this framework, each national government as well as other stakeholders, including local governments, business and the civil society is expected to identify, implement and report on specific actions that lead to their achievement. The national government has to translate these goals and targets into the national policies, to resource and implement these policies and to measure their implementation. On the other hand, civil society organisations are expected to play an important role in popularizing SDGs as well as take on role for monitoring the implementation of the SDGs.
In a diverse country like India, it becomes necessary to first review the systems that are in place for ensuring the participation from all stakeholders- from people in the grassroots up to the highest levels of Government. Since the Government is the biggest entity with the most resources to ensure achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and targets that have been set, the legal and policy framework already in place in the country has to be critically reviewed to see how capable it is of achieving the SDGs and identify the gaps and challenges for rectification.
The UN resolution also mentions that the business sector, non-state actors and individuals too must play a significant role in ensuring the achievement of the SDGs. Therefore, the existing efforts by these other sectors and individuals also have to be reviewed for proper planning. A year has gone by and there has been a lot of progress done on SDGs by Government of India, NITI Aayog and civil society organizations in popularizing SDGs at national and sub national level. NITI Aayog has drafted National Indicators and a compendium of recommendation on the indicator has been submitted by the civil society organization on April 7th, 2017.
WNTA as a platform of various civil society organisations in partnership with office of United Nations Resident Coordinator (UNRC) have actively engaged with the Ministry of Statistic and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) and NITI Aayog in advocating the national indicators from the perspective of the most marginalized section of the society. WNTA organized the national multi-stakeholders’ consultation on SDGs to strategise a common accountability framework for Civil Society on 8th& 9th November 2016 from the prism of the most marginalized communities to achieve the agenda of ‘Leave No one Behind’.
The Government of India is presenting its Voluntary National Review report on SDGs at High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development 2017 in New York. The government has formed a taskforce with different concerned ministries and agencies to prepare the report. NITI Aayog is the nodal agency coordinating this process.
The Civil Society, anchored by WNTA, in partnership with the different members of the Civil Society had a planning meeting to strategize the process of the Civil Society Report on the SDGs and a detailed discussion on the strategy, methodology and time line on 21st March 2017 at Indian Social Institute, New Delhi, followed by meetings on 5th May 2017 and 19th June 2017 at National Foundation for India (NFI), India Habitat Centre.
The 17 Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — adopted by 193 nations in September 2015 at the UN Summit — officially came into force on 1 January 2016. While ambitious and universal in nature, they have, in principle, charted out a path for nations to achieve development that is fair, equitable, inclusive and environment friendly. Human and environmental rights underpin the foundation of the SDGs that demand robust and integrated actions nationally, recognizing the role of different actors in the process.
The SDGs being interdependent in nature, require actions at all levels to attain the development outcomes. In the Global South context, it is only logical to deduce that much is desired of the emerging economies of the world (BRICSAM nations), which account for highest proportion of poorest communities. And with the rising Gross Domestic Product (GDP), India accounts for the largest number of people living below international poverty line, with 30 per cent (nearly 800 million) of its population living under $1.90 a day (World Bank, 2013).
Poverty is more than lack of income or resources- it includes social discrimination and exclusion, lack of basic services, such as education, health, water and sanitation, and lack of participation in decision making. These ‘durable inequalities’ perpetuate acute poverty, limiting the life options of historically marginalised communities. The recent Credit Suisse report shows that the richest 1 per cent Indians now own 58.4 per cent of the country’s wealth. In a country where more than half the households are dependent on land (agriculture had 48.9 per cent of employment share in 2011-12), its distribution is highly unequal. The visible fiscal and economic inequalities are undercut by gross social inequalities based on identity and social status, viz. caste, ethnicity, religion, region, age and gender.
National and state-level statistics testify to the trends of exclusion from land ownership and agriculture. Census data reveals that in the 10-year period between Census 2001 and Census 2011, there were nearly 9 million less cultivators in India. The number of landless agricultural workers in the country rose from 106.7 million in 2001 to 144.3 million in 2011. Further, landlessness is highest among Dalits (57.3 per cent), Muslims (52.6 per cent) and women headed (56.8 per cent) households, castigating them to work as agricultural labourers, and to face the specter of depressed and unequal wages or to be expelled altogether to join the massive migration to the cities. Constituting only 8 per cent of the population, the Tribals shouldered 55per cent of the development induced displacement till 1995, and not much has bucked the trend to date. There is also a growing trend of feminization of agricultural labour, but only 13.6 per cent households are headed by women, owning 7.17 per cent of total productive land. Even where they report ownership of productive land there is the question of who controls the use of such land. Besides, in India, employment generation is abysmally low even during the periods of high growth rate.
The youth population, is therefore, either getting into unskilled /informal labour sector where scope for economic betterment is too narrow. The decline in agricultural investments that started in the 1980s is continuing till date. A total of 12, 602 farmer suicides were reported officially, with Maharashtra topping the list with 4,291 suicides, followed by Karnataka 1,569, Telangana 1,400, Madhya Pradesh 1,290, Chhattisgarh 954, Andhra Pradesh 916 and Tamil Nadu 606 farmer suicides. Together, these seven states accounted for 87.5% (11,026) of total 12,602 suicides in the farming sector in the country. The per capita availability of land has declined from 0.5 hectares in 1951 to 0.15 hectares in 2011, with shrunken agriculture, and related insecurities due to commercialization, natural disasters and climate vagaries. Civil Society Report on Sustainable Development Goals: Agenda 2030 viii India released the first National Disaster Management Plan (NDMP) in June 2016.
While the Indian Government has embarked upon building urban infrastructure across the country and develop 100 smart cities over the coming years, it is important for cities and infrastructure being built to consider the topography of the area and its vulnerability to various hazards. One of the fundamental problems is the lack of appropriate vulnerability assessment mechanism. Most of the state plans are based on the Vulnerability Atlas of India. While this provide macro level analysis, it leaves out the slow onset disasters such as droughts and sea level rise. In 2016, 255,923 villages across 10 states suffered severe drought, which impacted food security and access to water, resulting in acute indebtedness.
And despite the known vulnerability of India to various disasters, most of the mitigation programmes so far are designed as responsive/ reactive, and not resilience centric. Appropriate infrastructure for India Meteorological Department (IMD), rainfall and weather monitoring stations, lack of forecasts providing information down to the village level rather than giving it for regions, and lack of IMD and ISRO information in a user-friendly and understandable manner remains the need of the states. Issues like migration, indebtedness, and livelihood regeneration are yet to be considered as a part of climate change and DRR planning in the government policies; which will make the approach to sustainable cities and communities comprehensive and risk resilience focused (SDG 11).
As far as the local governments are concerned, they have almost no role in managing climate change and disasters. The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992, which aimed at empowering local rural and urban authorities including the right to raise resources, pursue social justice policies and contribute to economic development, largely remains unimplemented. This is ironical as world over these are local governments who are leading the transition of cities. Lack of jobs in rural areas and low returns on agriculture have only created a pool of seasonal migrants flowing into urban centers, settling down in slums working in casual/unorganized sector or being rendered homeless.
The Government is implementing its National Rural Drinking Water Programme through the concerned ministries for ensuring drinking water to people in the rural and urban areas. There are several programmes run by the Government around river development and rejuvenation of Ganga River in India. Despite all this, there are still 76 million people who do not have access to safe drinking water in India today. Absorption into the un organised sector fueled rather by distress than by choice hides huge underemployment. In a situation where even the formal sector is being in formalised in the form of contract labour, the working conditions range from insecure to precarious to near or total bondage, impacting health and wellbeing of the workers adversely.
As it stands now, government spending on health is around 30 per cent of the total expenditure on health in India, while 62.4 per cent of the total expenditure is borne out of pocket. In such a scenario, wage labourers sometimes prefer private health services to save a day’s wage being lost to long waits in the government hospitals. This demonstrates the poor quality of healthcare in India and the disproportionate burden that it imposes on the poor and the marginalised. India does not yet explicitly recognise a national minimum social security cover.
In the 2017-2018 Union Budget, the Finance Minister announced an allocation of Rs. 48,000 crores to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), which is the highest allocation to the scheme ever. But this is only a 1 per cent increase from the Rs. 47,499 crores (revised estimate or RE) in 2016-17. Furthermore, expenditure for 2016-17 (as on 1 February) is Rs. 53,594 crores which indicates a massive shortfall. The absence or poor quality of social security provisions, both in coverage and quantum, has further intensified the impoverishment of the poor in India. Government records show that under the MGNREGS, Rs. 441 crore worth of compensation was due to the workers against delayed wages in financial year 2016-17.
Health spending by the Central government remains at only 0.3 per cent of the GDP out of a total 1.3 per cent of GDP spent by the states and Centre together. In fact, the total spending is a far cry from the 3 per cent of GDP which is widely accepted to be the minimum level required to achieve reasonable universal health coverage.
As per the data of Rapid Survey on Children (RSOC) of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, about 44 % of the adolescent girls could be classified as severely thin. This prevalence increases further when we look at socially excluded groups like Scheduled Caste (SC) (46.4%) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) (45%); with highest number of severely thin adolescent girls amongst the lowest income quartile (47.9 %). The states with high rates of stunting include Chhat- Civil Society Report on Sustainable Development Goals: Agenda 2030 ix tisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam, Gujarat and Meghalaya. Bihar tops the list with 49.4 % of children in age group of 0-59 months stunted. The number of women in the reproductive age group of 15-49 years with lower than normal Body Mass Index (BMI) reduced from 35 % in 2005-06 to 22.9 % in 2015-16 as recorded in the last two rounds of National Sample Survey Office (NSSO). Almost 52 % of women in rural areas were as anemic as 45.7 % women reported anemic in urban areas. The National Health Policy 2017 talks of “strategic purchasing”, which indicates a push towards privatisation.
Tracking progress towards the SDG 3 targets will require a robust and reliable monitoring system, as well as a strong accountability mechanism, both of which are currently lacking. Close attention needs to be paid to inequities in health indicators as well as provision of services, especially along lines of caste, class, religion and geographical location, and specific concerns of marginalized groups especially Dalits, Tribals, religious minorities and women must be taken into account in the designing and provisioning of health services. To attain Goal 4 on the quality education, India will have to increase its spending to 6 % of the GDP on education as compared to the current 3.5% spending.
The government, in the previous three years, has made impressive strides with its national campaign of Swachh Bharat, and according to the ASER 2016, there has been improvement in the number of schools with toilets but, even now nearly 200,000 are running without toilets. These conditions push children, especially girls to drop out, besides bringing children at risk of illnesses that can be avoided if provided for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene requirements. The Union Budget has ignored effective implementation of the Right to Education, and a meagre increase in the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’s budget – by Rs 1,000 crores – is far from helping the meaningful implementation of the Act and achievement of SDG 4. The progress of the community is measured by the degree of progress which women have achieved.
India ranks 88thout of 186 countries in the list on number of women parliamentarians with 18.5 per cent of women appointed in ministerial positions as of January 1, 2017 (United Nations, March 16, 2017).
There are only five ministers (18.5 %) in the Cabinet, and only 8 states having more than 10% of women members in the Legislative Assemblies; 12% of parliamentarians constitute only 12%.The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have only 11.8 % and 11 % representation of women, respectively. Reservation of 33% for women in the government has improved representation of women in urban and rural areas, but their voice and participation remain tethered. In the armed forces, women only constitute 5.4 %. However, induction of women fighter pilots is a positive step towards gender equality. The 68th Round of National Sample Survey (2011-12) portrays that the labour force participation rate of women in India, dropped from 42.7 % in 2004-05 to 31.2% in 2011-12.
The Global Wage Gap Report (2016) informs that the proportion of women in India represent no more than 10–15 per cent of wage earners. World Economic Forum (2016) reports that only less than 9% of the firms have female representation in the top management. Only 58.75% of females are literate as compared to 62.31% among the males. The figures for SC and ST women are 56.5% and 49.4% respectively.
Overall, Muslim women’s participation in employment is significantly low. State response to poor outcomes for religious minorities has been one of either complete denial or of lip service. India recorded 644 incidents of communal violence in 2016, compared to 751 in 2015, and 703 recorded in 2014. The number of larger incidents may have come down, but there are many small incidents as low-intensity violence and polarisation along communal lines is increasing. Similarly, the NCRB lists 45,003 cases of atrocities against SCs and 10,914 against STs with a conviction rate of 27.6 in both the cases in 2015. Although better reporting is a reason for higher numbers in the recent years, the low rate of conviction is a dampener in this struggle to access justice. This will be a major threat to the attainment of peace and justice (SDG 16) for India if not contained through preventive actions.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) recorded 3, 27, 394 crimes (a slight decrease of 3.1 % from 2014) with a rise in crimes on molestation, the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, abetment of suicide of women, rape and domestic violence in 2015. Specifically, 8000 crimes against Dalit women were reported at the rate of a crime per hour. The conviction rate remained low at 21.7 %, with 10,80,144 cases pending disposal. These trends must be rigorously altered to stay true to the SDG 5. The LGBT Community remains most discriminated and excluded from public services and society. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code continues to criminalise sexual minorities.
Their basic existence to live a fearless life is under big threat. Government’s refusal to vote in the United Nations Human Rights Commission’s (UNHRC) resolution to set up the office of an independent expert to end discrimination against LGBTQ people shows their stand on the LGBTQ rights.
Civil Society Report on Sustainable Development Goals: Agenda 2030
x Gender inequalities have curbed progress of women in India, while caste has played an important role in exclusion of a community which consist of more than 201 million people in the country. Religious minorities, differently abled and people with different sexual orientation have faced similar discrimination in their socio-economic and political aspects of life. The inter sectionality of these social groups has seen the further exclusion and inequalities to another spectrum.
The elderly population of age 60 and above is another marginalised and silenced group which is fast growing in India. Their population jumped 35.5 per cent — from 7.6 crores in 2001 to 10.3 crores in 2015. The Elder Abuse study by HelpAge India (2014) revealed1 in 3 older people reported abuse within the family ranging from physical abuse to verbal abuse Moreover, according to the Crime in India 2014 report by the NCRB, there is a significant increase in crime against older people who are considered soft targets. The SDGs cannot accrue benefits to these communities with a conventional headcount approach to poverty.
The indicators, therefore, need to adopt a holistic approach, which evaluates access of marginalised and vulnerable communities to quality basic services, and dis aggregates data to assess progress made regarding all dimensions of poverty. There is a need to ensure that public policies that contribute towards achieving SDGs are governed by the principles of intersectionality that can be measured by predetermined indices.
Hence, reducing inequalities within the country and communities (SDG 10), points categorically towards socio-economic and political equity and erasing of any discriminatory mechanisms which propels inequality among the people which the Government of India must work hard upon. The Government must ensure engagement and influence of people’s representatives in planning and implementation for realization of SDGs by instituting oversight function for Parliamentarians in the enactment of legislation and adoption of budgets, as envisioned by the SDG General Assembly Resolution.
Civil society Report on SDGs