MDG goals: Time running out for India

The leaders are expecting that in the five remaining years, the eight goals, set 10 years ago are reached. But this expectation is in the backdrop of economic and financial crisis in the so called first world countries, spiralling food prices in fast developing nations and severity of climate change and resource use across the globe. Critics are sceptical of meeting the goals.

India of course is one of the key countries under discussion. With an enviable economic growth, Indian leaders are still optimistic about meeting their targets by the due date of 2015 - including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, improving maternal health, promoting gender equality and empowering women and ensuring environmental sustainability.  

The UK government’s International development secretary Andrew Mitchell interacting on a blog discussion, was repeatedly asked why UK is still giving aid to India given its economic growth. The secretary responded “...there are still 456 million poor people living in India and our aid is focused on helping them. Our work is about giving the Indian government the support and know-how to lift millions of its own people out of poverty as quickly as possible. For every £1 the UK spends on helping India’s poor, the Indian government spends £400 of its own money on poverty relief...”
So where exactly is India on the development goals map? Can we do it without their help?

Half way into the 15 year set period, the MDG country report of 2007 by Central Statistical Organisation, GoI, indicated a steady progress for the country as whole, but went on to qualify that 40 per cent of the balance targets to be realised by 2015 needs to come from the states of Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.

So although nationally, the number of people below the national poverty line dropped from 37.2 per cent to 22.7 per cent during the years 1990 to 2005, in Orissa and Jharkhand nearly half of the population (44 per cent and 47 per cent respectively) are still below the poverty line. Researchers at Oxford University found that there were more poor in the eight poorest states of India (410 million people) than in the 26 poorest nations of Africa. The result is that MDG1 target for nutrition in India will not be reached until 2043.

Highest maternal deaths

A UN report, released last week, found that despite a decline of 34 per cent in maternal mortality rate, India records the highest rates of maternal deaths in the world, with 1000 pregnant women dying every day from complications during pregnancy and child birth.

Despite the world’s biggest organised feeding schemes for young children, reaching 58 million children by governments own estimates, India has higher levels of malnourished children than sub-Saharan Africa - 37 million children (46 per cent) under the age of three are undernourished. In sub-Saharan Africa region 35 per cent of children are malnourished.

And since malnourishment is correlated with other basic essentials such as poor access to health services, lack of nutrition, poor sanitation, low hygiene, lack of safe drinking water, all targets that India is struggling with, the realisation of the MDGs in India looks extremely unlikely.

The speed with which India has grown economically is far from an indicator of our progress in key areas of development. And as Gandhiji commented “Speed is irrelevant if you are going in the wrong direction.” It’s time to check the direction of our economic speed, and the responsibility that each one of us carries not because we have to meet the goals, but because we want to live in a country free from poverty, inequality and injustice, soon.

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