Sustainable goals

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The report of the NITI Aayog on Sustainable Development Index Goals for the year 2019, released last week does not give information that is surprising for the people. It is heartening to note that five states from the South – Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka are joined by Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Goa as the best performers while other states in Central India, North Eastern, Northern and North Central states have been lagging behind in achieving the United National mandated goals by the year 2030. The poor performers like Uttar Pradesh have shown discernible advances in the indices – measured between 2018-19 especially in adopting cleaner energy and improving sanitation. But the regional divide is stark in basic livelihood goals such as ‘eradication of poverty’, and ‘good health and well being’ or even in measures such as ‘industry, innovation and infrastructure’. These figures point to variances in both State governance and in administrative structures and implementation of public welfare policies. The South Indian part, led by Kerala and Tamil Nadu, has done much more in orienting administrative institutions to deliver on basic welfare, leading to actions on health care, education, poverty eradication and hunger, with a governance structure tuned to competitively monitoring actions on these fronts. The converse is true of northern states – Bihar and Uttar Pradesh – where outcomes have remained relatively poor despite there not being much of a difference in the governance structure. The obvious answer to the complicated issues could be the presence of historical socio-political movements that have resulted in greater circulation of elites in power and which have addressed issues related to welfare more thoroughly in the South – Kerala and Tamil Nadu in particular. Yet even these states need to go further in reaching the UN’s goals and achieving the living standards of both the first world and other developing nations. Apart from this, it is worthwhile to note that the western states, especially Gujarat and Maharashtra, are also better off in economic growth and industry, indicating a diversified economy, higher employment ratios, skilled labour and better entrepreneurial culture. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is limited to certain sectors where free flow of the capital is available for investments and productive output. A major drawback in India is in achieving gender equality, where barring middling performers such as Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Jammu & Kashmir, the rest of the country lags behind. Low sex ratio – 896 females per 1,000 males, poor labour force participation and presence in managerial positions, only 17.5 percent and 30 percent, according to the report, high level of informality of labour, a major gender pay gap, females earn 78 percent of wages on an average compared to earned by males in regular salaried employment, lack of adequate representation in governance , 14.4 percent in Parliament, but 44.4 percent in local government besides high crime rates against women and girls are among the major national level indicators that have contributed to this. The states need to climb a mountain to achieve gender equality, but immediate steps such as enhancing women’s participation in governance through parliamentary reservations would go a long way in addressing several of the issues faced by them. This is also important that such decision making process and empowerment of women is necessary to reduce the gender gap and allow the equitable distribution of wealth among the common masses. The policies need to be re-looked into for making course corrections for putting the rails back on the tracks so that the growth sector registers visible scenario. The announcements of the government in making amendments in the process are important for the overall growth in the economic sector in the days to come. The common masses impacted by the economic slowdown are keeping their fingers crossed on the new policy initiatives in this sector.