From the promised $4 trillion economy to employment for women to doubling of farmers’ income to poverty eradication this year, most of the government targets have fallen behind by decades
In 2018, India was into a year without a national plan. The five-year plan regime was done away with: The 12th Five-year Plan ended in 2017 and the Planning Commission was disbanded August 13, 2014. Instead, the NITI Aayog was formed. The ‘NITI’ stands for National Institution for Transforming India.
The NITI Aayog finally gave the plan-orphaned country a vision titled ‘Strategy for New India@75’. It is grand by scope and desirable by development needs.
At the core of this vision is to achieve the ‘New India’ as Prime Minister Narendra Modi before this envisioned. And this ‘new India’ has been promised by 2022-2023, the 75th year of India’s Independence.
Hardly 70 weeks left to achieve the ‘new India’, it is time to take stock of its progress. Before this, a low down on what it takes to achieve the India@75 target. According to the NITI Aayog’s strategy paper, there are 41 areas that have ‘stated objectives’ to achieve.
The vision document has listed a few drivers of change:
There is no specific mention of poverty reduction or eradication, but the document says that achieving major development targets would ensure it.
There are at least 17 government targets that have a deadline in 2022 under the India@75 vision. According to an analysis published in the State of India’s Environment 2022, using all government-published data, the country is most likely to miss almost all the targets because of the slow progress made so far.
The main target for the India@75 vision is to increase per capita income from $1,900 in 2017-2018 to $3,000 in 2022-2023. Achieving the ‘New India’ has been made conditional to this income growth which according to the vision strategy would “enable us to achieve freedom from squalor, illiteracy, corruption, poverty, malnutrition and poor connectivity for the common Indian.”
The latest data of the Union government for 2021-2022 shows that India’s per capita income is around $1,258 (Rs 93,973). This is even lower than the 2017-2018 level. The pandemic since the last two years has accelerated the country’s economic deceleration that started in 2016. To reach the promised $3,000 per capita income level, in the next 70 weeks, we have to more than double the current figure. This entails unheard of economic growth — a miracle.
Another critical indicator for India@75 — pivotal to the per capita income growth — is to increase India’s gross domestic product (GDP )to $4 trillion by March 31, 2023. It is off track by $1.5 trillion by the end of 2021 fiscal.
Rather, the poverty level has increased in India, even though we don’t have an official estimate of it since 2011. In December last year, the NITI Aayog released an index, which used health, education and standard of living as indicators to gauge the poverty level and its intensity. It says 25.01 per cent of India’s population suffers from multidimensional poverty.
Pew Research Center, using World Bank data, has estimated that the number of poor in India (who earn $2 per day or less at purchasing-power parity) has more than doubled to 134 million from 60 million in just a year due to the pandemic-induced recession. This means, India is back in a situation to be called a “country of mass poverty” after 45 years.
With this, India’s uninterrupted progress in poverty reduction since the 1970s has stalled. Last time India reported an increase in poverty was in the first quarter-century after Independence. From 1951 to 1974, the proportion of the poor increased from 47 to 56 per cent of the total population.
To increase per capita income and thus the overall economy size, India@75 vision targets include obtaining employment level, particularly to increase the female labour participation rate to at least 30 per cent by 2022-2023. Here as well, going by government’s data, it was just 16.9 per cent in January-March, 2021. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy’s unemployment data for December 2021, of the 35 million unemployed in the country who were actively looking for jobs, 23 per cent were women.
The next promise for ‘New India’ is to double farmers’ income by 2022 from 2015-2016 level. The recently released 77th round of the National Sample Survey, Land and Livestock Holdings of Households and Situation Assessment of Agricultural Households, by the National Statistical Office has some indicators on whether this promise can be kept.
Monthly income of agricultural households has increased by 59 per cent since 2012-2013. So, it is an annual growth rate of 7.8 per cent. To get a real sense of this growth one has to factor in the annual inflation rate. The inflation-adjusted growth rate in income is 2.5 per cent.
The survey also shows that income from cultivation has come down during these two survey rounds — during 2012-2018. In the total income of an agricultural household, cultivation accounts for just 38 per cent, a steep decline from 48 per cent in 2013. Wages and livestock incomes dominate the economic profile of this sector. Wage is the biggest contributor to household income.
Besides the ‘New India’ targets for this year, India has to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, most of them have been taken under the India@75 objectives.
Going by the ‘SDG Index and Dashboards Report 2021’ by Bertelsmann Stiftung and Sustainable Development Solutions Network, India's rank stood at 120 among 192 nations; it has slipped by three places in the past year. This is primarily because of major challenges in 11 SDGs including SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 5 (gender equality) and SDG 11(sustainable cities and communities) among others. It is behind all South Asian nations except Pakistan.
NITI Aayog’s ‘SDG India Index 2020-21’ shows that nine states have scored lower than 60 (India average) in SDG 1 (no poverty). India scored less than 50 in SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG 5 (gender equality). And 11 states scored below the India average in these two SDGs.
With less than a decade left to realise SDGs, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, two of India's most populated states, are below the national average in 11 and 14 SDGs respectively. These include SDGs dealing with poverty, hunger, education, economic growth among others.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared the India@75 and ‘New India’, his conviction was impeccable. He said that like Mahatma Gandhi’s Quit India call in 1942 leading to independence in just five years, his call for the ‘New India’ would also be achieved in the same time period. He also gave the call for ‘mass movement’ to attain the ‘New India’.
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