NITI Aayog wants to work closely with every state for development, its Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar told CNN-News18 on Friday adding that each state in India is like a country on its own with specificities and challenges.
Niti Aayog released its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) India Index 2020-21 on Thursday, which evaluated the progress of states and union territories on social, economic and environmental parameters. Kerala has retained the top rank, while Bihar was noted as the worst performer. Kumar, in his note, had written that “India, together with the world, has marched into the “Decade of Action". With Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam and Uttar Pradesh ranking as worst-performing states with a combined population of 40 crores, the recent findings have raised concerns over severe lack of development in the states.
Commenting on the report’s findings said it is satisfying to see India as a whole ranking up. “This shows that the States are doing fulfilling their targets. India is contributing to the SDG 2030."
Expressing concerns over the rising inequality and inequity in various regions, Kumar said, “we need states to pull together" and overcome the challenges. “The eastern part of our country require special attention, especially from those who are running it. NITI Aayog will do its best in the North-Eastern region. We will work more on eastern states as well. We have to pull it together."
#EXCLUSIVE | NITI Aayog wants to work closely with every state for development. Each state in India is like a country in its own with its own specificities & challenges: @RajivKumar1, VC, NITI Aayog speaks on Bihar last on SDG IndexWatch #NewsEpicentre with @maryashakil pic.twitter.com/YMNmNnBpUR
— News18 (@CNNnews18) June 4, 2021
On being asked on Bihar’s being marked in red in 7, i.e. scores below 50 out of 100 points, having the highest headcount ratio of poverty at 52.5 per cent and cases of stunting in comparison to Kerala’s stellar performance, questions are raised whether these States are dragging back the country from achieving its goals.
Stressing on not being “too harsh on any particular State," Kumar said, “each State have their own circumstances. All are facing doubts with their own challenges. The rankings show that some more pulling up is required in states. I would appeal to these states to work closely with NITI Aayog. We will focus more sharply on improving the situation."
Apart from poverty, Bihar has performed poorly in education parameters such as enrolment ratio in higher secondary, student proficiency in class 8 and gender parity in higher education. The Nitish Kumar-led Bihar government has faced flak as the state government had claimed achievements in education.
Noting the concern, Kumar said that NITI Aayog has put up the numbers, now state governments should “take this as an indicator of what needs to be done."
Stating that the rankings are done objectively and the organisation is ever ready to take the matter head-on, Kumar pointed that “Bihar has a history of militancy, changing governments etc. They are indications signalling areas where more efforts need to be put."
Moreover, on being asked why the ranking does not suggest remedial measured based on assessments of the state issues such as Bihar, Kumar said, “it would be very presumptive on our part to suggest remedies for every state. This is what the planning commission has tried to do but failed. We want to prepare state-specific blueprints and policy framework. I hope we will be able to work with greater effect in future so we achieve great equality."
The country’s overall SDG score improved by 6 points - from 60 in 2019 to 66 in 2020-21. According to the report, this positive stride towards achieving the targets is largely driven by performance in goal 6 (clean water and sanitation) and goal 7 (affordable and clean energy), where the composite goal scores are 83 and 92.
The index, developed in collaboration with the United Nations in India, measures the progress at the national and sub-national level in the country’s journey towards meeting the global goals and targets and has been successful as an advocacy tool to propagate the messages of sustainability, resilience, and partnerships, as well.