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India’s Millenium Development Goals: A semi-success story

millenium development goals

We are now less than 450 days from the deadline to the completion of the Millenium Development Goals, and it’s time to take stock of where India stands in achieving these, and make a final push towards victory. The Millenium Development Goals were agreed upon in a declaration made in the year 2000, and signed by over 189 countries across the world. Out of 8 goals this article will focus on the first two which are critical to India’s progress and closely related to Akshaya Patra’s cause.

The first goal is to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty. This goal has two targets through which it can be achieved. The first target is to ‘halve between 1990 and 2015 the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar a day.’ The progress made towards achieving this target can be judged across three indicators:

  • Poverty head count ratio (This is the percentage of the population below the national poverty line)
  • Poverty gap ratio
  • Share of poorest quintile in national consumption

Poverty rates in India dropped from 45% in 1994 to 34% in 2005, and according to the latest NSS survey (National Sample Survey) it has further dropped by 5% from 2005 to 2010. So it is clear that India has made some progress in reaching for this target, but there’s some way to go yet.

The second target is to ‘Halve between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.’ The indicator to measuring progress of this target is:

  • Prevalence of underweight children under three years of age

In this India has made less progress. With malnourishment estimated at 52% in 1990, India needs to reduce it to 26% by 2015. However in the stretch from 1999 to 2006, the malnourishment rate declined by only 3% from 43% to 40%. Unless a concentrated effort is made to achieve this target, at the current rate of decline India will have a 33% rate of malnourishment by 2015.

The second crucial goal is to achieve universal primary education. India aims to achieve this through the target of ensuring that ‘by 2015 children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary education.’ The indicators to measure this target are:

  • Net enrolment ratio in primary education
  • Proportion of students starting grade I who will reach grade V
  • Literacy rate of 15 to 24 year olds

With respect to this goal India has had tremendous success. According to the Net Enrolment Ratio (NER) and DISE (District Information System on Education), in 2009-10 India had an enrolment score of 98.3%. These figures make it highly likely that India will achieve its target of ensuring 100% NER for boys and girls well before 2015!

However it is in implementing the second target, of increasing the number of children continuing in primary school from grade I to grade V that India is struggling. As can be seen from the table after an initial burst, sustained primary school enrolment has been fluctuating in recent years.

1999  ⇒  62%
2002  ⇒  81%
2004  ⇒  73%
2008  ⇒  72%
2009  ⇒  76%

However, more good news is that India is also looking at a high probability of achieving 100% youth literacy (literacy rate of 15-24 year olds) by 2015. According to the NSS in 2007-08 alone the urban literacy rate stood at 93% and the rural at 83%.

These figures are inspiring and daunting at the same time. However with only a little more than a year to go it’s time to decide what the world’s next step should be in this battle against poverty, malnutrition and illiteracy. The suggestions outlined by the Open Working Group for Sustainable Development Goals for the next 15 years provide a way forward, but it is up to each of us, each country, and each Government to translate these endeavours into success.

Source: Millenium Development Goals India Country Report 2011 –

The author arjun

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