In September 2000, 189 countries including India signed the United Nations Millennium Declaration, committing to eradicating extreme poverty in all its forms by 2015. To help track progress toward these commitments, a set of time-bound and quantified goals and targets, called the Millennium Development Goals, were developed to combat poverty in its many dimensions - including reducing income poverty, hunger, disease, environmental degradation and gender discrimination. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) include 8 goals, 21 targets and 60 indicators for measuring progress in the 15 years between 1990 and 2015, when the goals are expected to be met.
The Millennium Development Goals for 2015
• Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
• Achieve universal primary education
• Promote gender equality and empower women
• Reduce child mortality
• Improve maternal health
• Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
• Ensure environmental sustainability
• Develop a global partnership for development
India’s progress against the MDGs
Development begins with the child. Children’s welfare measure will lead to every aspect of the development of a nation: economic, social and political. India has fared well in reaching certain child-related development goals – for example, in relation to MDG 4 to "Reduce child mortality" there has been a 56 per cent decline in child mortality in the one to four years age group since 1990 - but many other MDGs will go unrealized in 2015 if other equally critical measures are not fulfilled.
In another example, while India is on track to reach the first sub-goal of MDG1 to “Reduce by half the number of people who live on less than a dollar a day”, it is not at all on target to meet the second sub-goal to “Reduce by half the number of people who suffer from hunger”. At the most recent survey in 2005-6, more than 40 per cent of children under three were still underweight, compared with the targeted 26 per cent.
In terms of MDG5 to Improve Maternal Health, India will have to almost halve by the end of 2015 the number of mothers who die in childbirth from 212 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2007-9 to 109 deaths. On the MDG7 sub-goal to reduce the “Percentage of households without a sanitation facility”, India will need to drastically reduce the number from 51 per cent in 2010 to meet the target of 38 per cent in 2015.
Recognizing the challenges to meeting the Millennium Development Goals, the Government has in recent years implemented national flagship programmes for education, reproductive and child health, child development, child protection, child nutrition, and water and sanitation. Restructuring and universalizing the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme to respond to the challenges in child development has provided great opportunities to speed the pace of progress towards the MDGs, and with a greater level of inclusion.
Historically, the Indian Government has adopted ambitious targets related to children that are in line with, and at times more ambitious than, the MDGs through its “five-year plans”. Centrally sponsored schemes have increased public resources to key sectors, notably the SarvaShikshaAbhiyan in education – the national policy to universalize primary education, the Reproductive and Child Health Programme II and the National Rural Health Mission. The challenge remains to convert these commitments and resources into measurable results for all children, especially those belonging to socially disadvantaged and marginalized communities.
Only then can the Millennium Development Goals for India be realized.
GOAL 1: ACHIEVE UNIVERSAL PRIMARY EDUCATION
Net enrolment ratio in primary education (% both sexes): 94.2
Percentage of pupils starting Grade 1 and reach Grade 5 (% both sexes): 73.0
Progress is evident in universalizing primary education, and India is likely to achieve this Millennium Development Goal. Enrolment and completion rates of girls in primary school have improved and are catching up with those of boys, as are elementary completion rates. In light of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), the challenges now are the quality of education, school results below expectations and completion of upper primary education, particularly among girls, children in rural areas and those belonging to minority groups, and those students in the poorest sections of society.
GOAL 2: PROMOTE GENDER EQUALITY AND EMPOWER WOMEN
Gender parity Index in primary level enrolment (ratio of girls to boys): 1.0
Literacy rates of 15-24 years old (% both sexes): 82.1
GOAL 3: REDUCE CHILD MORTALITY
Mortality rate of children under 5 years old (per 1,000 live births): 76
1-year-old children immunized against measles (%): 59
The large scale of under-nutrition in expectant mothers and children poses a challenge for India in reaching the Millennium Development Goals on child nutrition, survival and development. On a positive note, recent government efforts in restructuring the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and other initiatives are typical of the national commitment to holistic child development.
GOAL 4: IMPROVE MATERNAL HEALTH
Maternal Mortality Ratio (per 100,000 births): 450
With a maternal mortality ratio (MMR) of 200 deaths per 100,000 live births, India is making progress on Millennium Development Goal 5. One contributing factor has been the introduction of a conditional cash transfer scheme (name), which improved the delivery of babies in hospitals and nursing homes (check) from 38.7 per cent in 2005-2006 to 72 per cent in 2009. However, the quality of maternal care remains a concern.
GOAL 5: COMBAT HIV/AIDS, MALARIA AND OTHER DISEASES
People living with HIV, 15-49 yrs old (%): 0.3
Prevalence of tuberculosis (per 100,000 people): 299
GOAL 6: ENSURE ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY
Access to improved drinking water sources (% of total population): 89
GOAL 7: DEVELOP A GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP FOR DEVELOPMENT
Internet users (per 100 people): 10.7
States have the major role in putting in place programmes to meet the Millennium Development Goals since the responsibility for implementing most of the social sector programmes relating to the goals lies with state governments.
A major task for India is the improvement of service delivery and capacity development at district and local levels in order to implement and monitor very large programmes.
Social, economic and political inclusion, decreasing the incidence of gender and caste-based violence and a reduction of regional disparities requires concerted efforts to promote greater access of vulnerable groups – such as women, Dalits, tribal groups and religious minorities – to basic services, including credit and social security, opportunities for substantial work and participation in decision-making.