New Delhi: Despite some movement in primary education, assured rural employment and access to potable water, India continues to lag behind in realising the Millennium Development Goals set for 2015 by the United Nations, says a new report.
Persistent inequalities, ineffective delivery of public services, weak accountability systems and gaps in implementing pro-poor policies are major bottlenecks to progress, said the country report on India pertaining to the Millennium Development Goals.
It is possible poverty will be halved by 2015, but by no means certain, said the report, adding states in India’s heartland like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Uttarakhand were unlikely to achieve the targets if it remained business as usual.
"The proportion of poor in these states is currently at 64 percent of the country’s poor and this is likely to increase to 71 percent by 2015. The number of poor in 2015 is likely to be 279 million at all-India level," said the report.
Its key recommendations included greater devolution of power to local governments in rural areas, streamlining of funds flow, and use of information technology to reach the unreached and stop leakages.
"The stakes are high. With five years to the 2015 deadline we have a narrow window of opportunity to generate renewed momentum," said Statistics and Programme Implementation Secretary TCA Anant at a roundtable here to discuss the report.
"For us programme implementation is the major challenge and to make every tier of the administration accountable to people," Anant said, adding it was imperative to integrate these goals into all levels of planning by all stakeholders.
The report, however, acknowledged the role of India’s various rights-based laws and flagship programmes "in improving the lives of its citizens," with access to amenities like adequate food and income, basic education, health services, clean water, sanitation and and empowerment of women.
"The government recognizes these challenges. Its commitment is evident from various rights-based laws in place like law on guarantee to work, the right to information and the education, besides the right to food which is currently on the anvil," said UNDP Resident Representative Coeur-Bizot at the roundtable.
For instance, India’s Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Programme is cited in the UNDP report as an example of robust social protection that has benefited 46 million households.
The report, however, expressed concern at the issues of persisting hunger, malnutrition and health in the country, saying "India accounts for 50 percent of the world’s hungry. Over 46 percent of Indian children are undernourished."
Expressing concern at low percentage of deliveries under skilled medicare in India, the report said: "Giving birth is especially risky in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where most women deliver without skilled care."
In India, the percentage of deliveries with skilled care went up from 33 percent in 1990 to 52 percent by 2007-08, the report said. "But it is still short of the developing world average of 63 percent."
Lamenting the lack of adequate skilled medicare for childbirth, the report said: "The very survival of India’s women and children is threatened. In 2006, on average 254 women died giving birth to a child for every 100,000 live births down from 327 in 1990."
"The states of Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal had the highest numbers (of women`s death during the child birth) ranging from 480 to 312," the report said.