How is India faring in Millennium Development Goals?

Sudipto Mundle of NIPFP reviews the developments so far.

He looks at development in each of the 8 goals:

  • Goal 1. Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger: Despite progress 40% of kids expected to will continue to suffer from hunger and poverty which is such a shame.
  • Goal 2. Achieve Universal Primary Education: Here we have focused on enrollments which we are likely to achieve,. The final outcome that is whether students are getting educated is a different matter. Gulzar reflects on how badly we are faring in this.
  • Goal 3 Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women: Looks set to achieve the target though targets are much lower than desired
  • Goal 4. Reduce Child Mortality:  Looks difficult to achieve especially for poor states
  • Goal 5 Improve Maternal Health: Unlikely to achieve as there is lack of trained personnel
  • Goal 6 Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Other Diseases: likely to be achieved though high risk groups continue to be effected.
  • Goal 7 Ensure Environmental Sustainability: Some targets like access to drinking water, increase in forest coverage ratio to be achieved. Others like access to sanitation to be missed. I think access to water still means having a tap…not whether tap has running water or not..
  • Goal 8 Develop a Global Partnership for Development: Progress made in telephone and internet connectivity


To summarise, India‟s performance has been positive, though mixed. Out of 12 targets spread over 8 goals, India‟s performance has been high for three targets, meaning on track or ahead on all indicators; and it has been good for another five indicators, implying the country is on track for the main or most of the indicators. As against this, India‟s performance has been weak, meaning off track for most indicators, in two target areas i.e., child mortality and maternal mortality reduction. It has been poor, off track on all indicators, in the case of one target – reduction of hunger

So what are the lessons? Well not to be complacent in case of successes and work on the failures:

There are lessons to be learned from both our successes as well as our failures for the period going forward. The most important lesson to be gleaned from the success stories is the need to guard against premature complacency. The MDG for education is a case in point. India will achieve the specified net enrollment ratio target, However, we have seen that this misses the point about learning outcomes, where our record has been poor as in many other developing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. For learning outcomes, the survival rate of grade I students to grade V is a much better target, since learning does improve with years of schooling. Here our performance has been declining. This requires re-visiting what we focus on, even in the areas of success. Indeed, there is a view that focusing on numbers, the enrolment target under the Right to Education Act, may have actually led to deterioration in learning outcomes because of the thinner spreading of resources.

The lessons from our failures are a richer harvest, since they point to the numerous ways in which we can improve our performance. It is true that setting the targets as relative improvements of negative indicators overstates failures, as Easterly has convincingly argued in the case of Africa. However, there is nothing to be gained from taking refuge in this caveat, when more than 40 percent of our children will still be going to bed hungry in 2015. This is a national shame, and our collective moral agony. Hopefully, the Right to Food act currently under discussion will finally put an end to it. Some of the other failures, especially those related to health outcomes such as child mortality and maternal mortality, seem to be concentrated in the poorer states. This is partly attributable to the relative target setting problem cited earlier, but the failures would remain even if targets were set in terms of absolute changes.


Apart from this he discusses how biased the global targets are. Lowering certain ratios mean very little population for developed economies but a huge number for poor ones:

For instance, if a target is specified as a relative improvement on a negative indicator, e.g., percentage reduction in maternal mortality, where the base level is likely to be much higher in a poorer country compared to a better off country, the same level of relative improvement will require a much larger absolute improvement compared to the richer country. Conversely, for positive indicators such as literacy, where the level is likely to be higher in richer countries, an absolute improvement in levels will entail a smaller relative increase in richer countries compared to the poorer countries. Similarly, if incomes are normally distributed, as is often the case, a relative target of reduction in the percentage of population below a poverty line, e.g., „reduce by half‟, will require a much larger percentage reduction in poverty in the poorer countries, simply because the initial percentage of population below the given poverty line will be larger in a poorer country.

Nice overview of how we are faring in MDGs…A long long way to go…


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