Kerala tops SDG index by NITI Aayog

Considering the poor performance on SDG implementation in many critical areas such as hunger, there is a need to focus on these (Image: The future of food)
Considering the poor performance on SDG implementation in many critical areas such as hunger, there is a need to focus on these (Image: The future of food)

Kerala retains the top slot with a score of 70, followed closely by Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana in the latest edition of NITI Aayog’s annual assessment of progress made by states in achieving the sustainable development goals (SDG). “Kerala is well on track to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goals,” tweeted Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. It has improved its previous score and has emerged as front runner in 10 categories, out of a total of 16 goals.”

Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Assam, and Uttar Pradesh continue in the lower ranks, with Bihar at the bottom. Among Union territories, Chandigarh maintained its top spot with a score of 70.

The performance of states and Union territories is measured on indicators such as poverty, hunger, gender equality, health, education, climate action and clean water & sanitation, among others in the SDG index 2019.

Unlike the 2018 SDG Index which measured performance on 13 of the 17 SDG goals, the latest edition covers 16 out of the 17 SDGs. The SDG goal on partnerships is measured through a qualitative assessment. The SDG index was constructed using 100 indicators, derived from the National Indicator Framework, measuring their progress on the outcomes of interventions and schemes of the Government of India. It covers 54 of the 169 related SDG targets that are to be achieved by 2030. This year marks the fifth anniversary of the adoption of SDGs, which are now driving India’s development agenda.

At the aggregate level, India’s composite score has improved from 57 in 2018 to 60 in 2019. A score of 100 would mean the state or the country has achieved the SDG goals, which are to be met by 2030.

Much of the improvement took place due to progress on five goals — clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; industry, innovation, and infrastructure; life on land, and peace, justice, and strong institutions.

The report indicates that some states like Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim have shown maximum improvement from the first report brought out in 2018. However, states such as Gujarat have not shown any progress vis-a-vis their 2018 rankings. Also, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand – the bottom three on the list did not show much progress from last year. None of the states were below 50, which is the half-way mark towards achieving the SDG goals.

SDG Index: Score of States - The SDG Index is a powerful tool which offers excellent possibilities for the States/UTs to identify priority areas which demand action, facilitate peer learning, highlight data gaps, and promote healthy competition (Image: SDG India Index 2.0)


The index can serve as a useful guide to locate where state intervention is needed to achieve the SDGs. The index has made some success in water and sanitation largely driven by the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan in eliminating open defecation. Also, the performance was fine in areas such as affordable and clean energy, industry, innovation and infrastructure.

However, nutrition, health, education, basic infrastructure and gender continue to be problem areas in the absence of a focussed approach from the government.

Two goals – 2 (zero hunger) and 5 (gender equality) demand special attention, as the overall country score is below 50 (Image: SDG India Index 2.0)


Poor performance in hunger and equality

The goals of gender equality, decent work and economic growth, ending hunger, upholding peace justice and strong institutions are lagging way behind. The country’s score on goals of gender equality and ending hunger were less than 50.

The performance on SDG 2: Ending hunger by 2030 was dismal with the score having fallen from 48 in 2018 to 38 in 2019. The Global Hunger Index 2019 released in October 2019 too highlights India’s poor performance by placing it 102nd among 117 qualifying countries.

In India, 25 states and Union territories failed to address hunger and malnutrition, with Jharkhand faring the poorest, scoring 22 off 100, followed by Madhya Pradesh at 24 and Bihar at 26. States that lagged also include Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Meghalaya and Uttar Pradesh.

In 2019 three new indictors were considered: Children (6-59 months) who are anaemic; Children (0-4 years) who are underweight; Gross value added in agriculture per worker. These were apart from the four existing indicators: Rural households under public distribution system; Stunted children (under five); Pregnant women (15-49 years) who are anaemic; and Rice, wheat and coarse cereals produced annually per unit area. Goa with a score of 76 topped this indicator among the states, down by four points since 2018.

Considering the poor performance on SDG implementation in many critical areas, there is a need to reorient public policy away from its short-term emphases, towards focusing on long-term goals. There is a need for localization of SDGs to aid in its implementation and monitoring strategy. For this, institutional mechanisms need to be developed and initiatives taken to cast local development plans in the SDG framework. 

Post By: Amita Bhaduri