Less than 500 days left, can India meet its MDG targets?

Going by current trends, the target for reducing infant mortality and improving other human development indices seem near impossible to achieve

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Thursday 21 August 2014


Less that 500 days are left for nations to achieve the targets set under the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); there are eight such goals which range from halving extreme poverty rates to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education.

The countdown for the deadline for MDGs, which expires next year, began on August 18 and it seems unlikely that India can achieve the targets set under it.  Take for instance, the target to reduce infant mortality rate (IMR) to 27 per 1,000 live births. Though IMR has been reduced by nearly 50 per cent between 1990 and 2012, the present level is still a high 42 per 1,000 live births. Going by current trends, IMR is likely to reduce to 40 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015.

Similarly, India is expected provide immunisation cover against measles to about 89 per cent children in the age group of 12 to 23 months by 2015. But the country is likely to fall short of universal immunisation of one-year old children against measles by about 11 percentage points.

India is also way off track in achieving the target set under the first goal for reducing poverty and hunger. Malnutrition among children is still embarrassingly high. From an estimated 52 per cent in 1990, the proportion of underweight children below three years is to be reduced to 26 per cent by 2015. The proportion of underweight children has declined by three percentage points during 1998-99 to 2005-06, from about 43 percent to about 40 percent. If the trend continues, it is expected to come down to about 33 per cent only by 2015.

Easy way to reduce poverty

As for poverty, the target has become almost irrelevant. India has set its own benchmark for defining poverty, though a poor person is defined as one who earns less than one dollar a day under MDGs. (According to the recent recommendation of the Rangarajan committee, India's poverty line should be Rs 32 in rural areas and Rs 47 in urban areas; the earlier poverty line figure was Rs 27 for rural India and Rs 33 for urban India.)

India’s official poverty estimates based on National Sample Survey Office’s Survey of Household Consumer Expenditure 2011- 12 reveals that the all-India Poverty Head Count Ratio (PHCR) has declined by 15 percentage points from 37.2 per cent in 2004-05 to 21.9 per cent in 2011-12. But this has been achieved according to the criteria set by Tendulkar Committee, which has been controversial for its irrational standard of defining poverty.

From the Millennium Development Goals India Country Report 2014, Social Statistics Division of Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India The millennium declaration adopted by the general assembly of the United Nations in September 2000 has set several targets to be achieved by 2015.

Viewing the limited time, several civil society groups have launched a series of interlinked public actions to demand that leaders deliver on promises to uphold the rights of women, men and children.  The Action/2015 Asia platform, founded by representatives of 31 civil society organisations from 13 countries, launched a series of interlinked public actions called "I Move Against Injustice, Inequality and Insecurity." 

In India, Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (WNTA), an umbrella coalition of over 4,000 civil society organisations and networks, has also launched its activities for the purpose.

Advocacy director for Save the Children, Shireen Vakil Miller, said, “There are still 500 days left to achieve the MDGs. India has made dramatic progress in bringing the under-5 mortality down from 114 in 1990 to 52 per 1,000 live births in 2012, showing a commendable decline of 58 per cent. However, India has persistently high rates of newborn mortality and accounts for 26.6 per cent of all newborn deaths globally, with 758,000 newborn deaths a year. Tackling newborn mortality is the last frontier yet to be conquered in achieving the targets.”

Amitabh Behar, executive director of National Foundation for India, expressed similar views. "We need to put all our energies together with new vigour and enthusiasm in working towards the realisation of MDGs. We also need to renew our promises and forge a truly transformative global partnership for development with an ambitious agenda for post 2015 world, which puts an end to any form of injustice, inequity and insecurity.”

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