Achieving sustainable development goals won’t be easy: NITI Aayog

Come October, the Indian authorities’ primary task will be to see how India’s development agenda aligns with the SDGs and their targets


Sindhushree Khullar, chief executive officer of NITI Aayog, seems to be one of few voices highlighting the challenge that India faces in implementing the SDGs. Photo: PIB
Sindhushree Khullar, chief executive officer of NITI Aayog, seems to be one of few voices highlighting the challenge that India faces in implementing the SDGs. Photo: PIB

New Delhi: With India failing to meet its national socio-economic development targets, achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 169 targets linked to the goals will be a challenge for the country, a senior government official said on Wednesday.

According to Sindhushree Khullar, chief executive officer of NITI Aayog, India has found great resonance between the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and its own five-year plans laying down targets to improve economic and social indicators.

“The five-year planning and five-year plans in many ways were targets and achievements which we could then measure and then say we were able to achieve some part, maybe we could do more,” Khullar said at a seminar organised by the New Delhi-based Research and Information Systems economic think-tank on the SDGs.

“We have now in the NITI Aayog completed the mid-term appraisal of the 12th plan (2012-2017), we are now in its fourth year. We find that until the 11th plan, the achievements were maybe 10-15% short of target, financing was 10-15% short of target. But in the 12th plan we find both in terms of financing and in terms of goals, we are way off the mark, we are close to 20-25% off what we thought we would be able to do,” Khullar said.

MDGs were outlined in 2000 and were time-bound and quantified targets for reducing extreme poverty—including income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion while promoting gender equality, education and environmental sustainability.

Later this month, 195 countries will adopt a new set of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) during the UN General Assembly that includes gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls, securing availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all and promoting “inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be among the almost 200 world leaders who will be at the UN for the events to mark to adoption of the SDGs.

The SDGs have 169 measureable targets and with India showing mixed results in achieving the MDG targets, Khullar was of the view that this would be a challenge for India.

Come October, the primary task of Indian authorities will be to see how India’s development agenda aligns with the SDGs and its measurable goals, Khullar said. She pointed out that India had set 2022 as the hallmark year for achieving many goals like housing for all, electricity for all, drinking water in all houses besides road and digital connectivity. The year 2022—which marks 75 years of India achieving its independence—was also right in the middle of the 2015-30 SDG implementation period, Khullar noted.

“The 12th five-year plan (2012-2017) has 25 indicators,” Khullar said, adding that given that India had slipped up on these modest domestic targets, the 169 SDG targets marked “a huge jump.”

Khullar seems to be one of few voices highlighting the challenge that India faces in implementing the SDGs. Most people in government have highlighted the fact that the MDGs had been thrust on India and the developing world by a group of developed countries.

In contrast, SDGs have been negotiated for the past three years with India playing a significant role in the discussions, according to senior officials of the ministry of external affairs.