The Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. The Goals interconnect and in order to leave no one behind, it ís important that we achieve each Goal and target by 2030.
India has played an important role in shaping the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Therefore, it is no surprise that the country’s national development goals are mirrored in the SDGs. As such, India has been effectively committed to achieving the SDGs even before they were fully crystallized.
The expression “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas,” which translates as “Collective Effort, Inclusive Growth” and has been popularized by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, forms the cornerstone of India’s national development agenda. To fast track this agenda, the Government of India has just released a draft Three-Year Action Agenda covering years 2017-18 to 2019-20. In parallel, work is in advance stages on a 15-Year Vision, which will also include a 7-year Strategy. Reflecting the country’s long-standing federal tradition, these documents are being prepared with active participation of the States (sub-national Governments).
Reflecting the country’s commitment to the SDG agenda at the highest levels of Government, the Indian Parliament organized several forums including the South Asian Speakers’ Summit in February 2017. These forums have focused on the elimination of poverty, gender equality, climate change and resource mobilization for SDGs. Additionally, the Speaker’s Research Initiative has been launched for providing SDG-related insights to Members of Parliament.
For implementing the SDG agenda, the Government of India has launched several ambitious programmes, some of which are highlighted below. A noteworthy example of a crosscutting initiative is the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) which is the world’s largest financial inclusion programme. By leveraging PMJDY, Aadhaar (biometric identity system) and mobile telephony, the Government has disbursed a cumulative amount of INR 1.62 trillion (USD 25 billion) to 329 million beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfers.1 This has helped to significantly enhance the efficiency of Government programmes.
Further, special efforts have been made to invigorate the federal governance structure of the country through cooperative and competitive federalism. State Governments are playing a prominent role in advancing the national development agenda. The recommendations made by three sub-groups of Chief Ministers of States on various themes including the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Movement) and skill development have contributed towards shaping relevant policy decisions at the national-level.
India’s bold Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), communicated to the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, form a significant part of its SDG strategy. These include substantially reducing the emission intensity of GDP, tapping non-fossil fuel energy sources and creating additional carbon sink.
The responsibility for overseeing SDG implementation has been assigned to the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), which is the premier policy think tank of the Government and is chaired by the Prime Minister of India. NITI Aayog has mapped the goals and targets to various nodal ministries as well as flagship programmes. State Governments are also engaged in developing roadmaps for achieving the SDGs with several of them having already published their plans. Draft indicators for tracking the SDGs have been developed and placed in the public domain by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation for wider consultation.
The main messages for India’s Voluntary National Review of SDG implementation encapsulate the progress made with respect to Goals 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 14 and 17. This is not to suggest that progress has not been made with respect to other goals. Interconnections across the 17 SDGs are so strong that the pursuit of the goals explicitly discussed below necessarily involves the promotion of other goals as well.
End poverty in all its forms everywhere
- Rapid growth (SDG 8) is the key weapon in any country’s arsenal for combating poverty. On the one hand, it creates well-paid jobs that empower households by giving them necessary purchasing power to access food, clothing, housing, education and health. On the other, it places ever-rising revenues in the hands of the Government to finance social spending. India has continued its programme of economic reforms to achieve sustained rapid growth. The reforms have included fiscal consolidation, inflation targeting, improved governance all around, accelerated infrastructure development (SDG 9), curbing of corruption (SDG 16), Aadhaar Act, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Act, Goods and Services Tax (GST), further liberalization of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), closure of sick Public Sector Units and much more. The result has been that, today, India is the fastest growing large economy in the world. It grew 7.9 per cent during fiscal year 2015-16 and 7.1 per cent during 2016-17.
- An important strategy for achieving this goal is focused on generating meaningful employment by developing agricultural infrastructure, productive assets and entrepreneurship-based livelihood opportunities. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), which is sometimes described as the world’s largest cash transfer programme, has generated over 2 billion person-days’ of employment (SDG 8) during the last year. It has helped reduce extreme poverty as well as enhance the infrastructure and purchasing power in rural areas. The benefits have largely been reaped by women (SDG 5) and disadvantaged sections of society (SDG 10). Similarly, the Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Livelihoods Mission provides skilled employment to marginalized communities.
- Further, two major programmes, the Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana, provide access to life and accident insurance for 130 million subscribers for nominal annual premiums. Additionally, initiatives like the Atal Pension Yojana and the National Social Assistance Programme provide pension to workers in the unorganized sector, widows and the differently abled.
- Another crucial strategy for eliminating poverty is ensuring access to basic services. In the area of education, there is a National Mission, which is focused on providing universal access to quality primary education. Moreover, the Right to Education Act has established an effective legal framework entitling all children (6-14 years) to free and compulsory education based on principles of equity and non-discrimination. Similarly, the National Health Mission and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) initiatives strive to provide access to primary health care and nutrition for the population.
- India is committed to ensuring housing for all by 2022. To enable the achievement of this objective, the Prime Minister’s Housing Scheme provides direct financial assistance to poor households.
- For fulfilling the cooking fuel requirements of the population in an environmentally friendly manner, the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, launched in 2016, aims to provide Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) to poor families with initial financial support for accessing a connection. The programme has enabled the provision of more than 20 million LPG connections since its launch a year ago.
- Providing access to adequate and safe drinking water as well as sanitation is crucial. Under the National Rural Drinking Water Programme, more than 77% of the rural habitations have been fully covered with 40 litres of drinking water per capita on a daily basis. The objective of the Clean India Movement is to ensure an Open Defecation Free India by 2019. Over the last two years, more than 39 million household toilets have been constructed. Moreover, 193,000 villages and 531 cities have been successful in ending the practice of open defecation. The Movement also focuses on bringing about sustained behaviour change through the engagement of a range of stakeholders, including religious and political leaders.
- Programmes under the National Food Security Act cover more than 800 million people in the country. The Public Distribution System, for instance, is one of the largest food security initiatives in the world. In recognition of empirical evidence that women pay greater attention to household security, the Government has chosen to issue ration cards in the name of the senior most female member of the household. Other initiatives that contribute to this goal are the ICDS and the Mid-Day Meal Programme. The latter provides nutritious cooked meals to 100 million children in primary schools.
- Governance reforms are being undertaken for improving the effectiveness of food security programmes. These include digitization of ration cards, leveraging Aadhaar for authenticated delivery of benefits and an online grievance redressal mechanism.
- Further, the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture in collaboration with other stakeholders is implementing climate change adaptation strategies for sustaining agricultural productivity. Since 2014, the land under organic farming has increased to 200,000 ha. Additionally, over 62 million Soil Health Cards, with crop-wise nutrient management advisories, have been issued.
- Moreover, a comprehensive plan is being implemented for doubling farmers’ income by 2022. This includes expediting tenancy reforms, promoting crop diversification and expanding micro-irrigation (1.3 million ha covered during the last two years).
- Another area in which considerable progress has been made is digitization of agricultural marketing. The electronic National Agricultural Marketing platform now covers 250 Mandis (agricultural markets) across the country. A revamped crop insurance programme, the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, has also been launched.
Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages
- Beyond increasing access, several initiatives are also being taken for improving the quality of health services. These include the development of a composite index and an award for ensuring a hygienic environment in Government health facilities.
- The National Health Policy, 2017, specifies targets for universalizing primary health care, reducing infant and under-5 mortality, preventing premature deaths due to non-communicable diseases as well as increasing Government expenditure on health.
- To tackle the death of children due to vaccine-preventable diseases and the risk due to incomplete immunization, the Government is aiming to provide vaccination against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, tuberculosis, polio, measles and hepatitis to all unimmunized or partially immunized children by 2020.
- As a step towards achieving universal health coverage, the Government of India has announced a health insurance cover to the tune of INR 100,000 (USD 1,563) for families below the poverty line.
Gender equality and women’s empowerment
- Several important initiatives have been taken during the last few years for promoting gender equality. A flagship initiative is Beti Bachao Beti Padao (Save the Girl Child Educate the Girl Child), under which State Governments are implementing a range of measures suited to their local contexts to elevate the status of the girl child.
- Additionally, a Maternity Benefit Programme has been launched for all pregnant and lactating mothers. Through conditional cash transfer, it protects women from wage loss during the first six months after childbirth.
- For raising the levels of female labour force participation, a number of initiatives are being implemented including Stand-up India and MGNREGA. The Women Empowerment Campaign is another effort focused on enabling digital literacy and gainful employment opportunities.
- Further, Women Empowerment Centres are being established for providing comprehensive services at the village-level.
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
- All forms of transportation — roads, railways, civil aviation and waterways — are being rapidly expanded. Road connectivity and electricity are being brought to all villages.
- The objective of the Digital India initiative is to build a digitally empowered society by focusing on broadband highways, mobile connectivity and Internet as well as e-Governance. For example, the Bharat Broadband Network Ltd has provided high-speed connectivity to 18,434 local village councils, thus far. Till December 2016, there were 432 million internet users in the country.
- Another priority area is manufacturing. The new Manufacturing Policy raises the output target from 16% of GDP to 25% by 2025. India is developing into a high-tech and global manufacturing hub because of the emphasis on ‘Make in India’ and a substantial increase in FDI inflows.
- The Government has also introduced a number of policy measures for boosting employment-intensive manufacturing segments. For instance, the recently introduced Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana provides easy credit ranging from INR 50,000 to 1 million (USD 780 to 15,600) to small-scale business entrepreneurs. A major package announced for the textiles industry aims to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in this sector.
- For promoting entrepreneurship and enhancing economic growth, the Government has launched the Start-up India programme. Innovation and entrepreneurship is also being encouraged through initiatives like the Atal Innovation Mission. Additionally, NITI Aayog has launched the India Innovation Index for ranking innovations in the country.
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans seas and marine resources for sustainable development
- Several strategies have been put in place for realizing the Blue Revolution in the country. These include strengthening marine research, developing an eco-friendly marine industrial and technology base as well as implementing the National Fisheries Action Plan.
- Significant progress has been made with respect to preservation and management of the marine ecosystem. For instance, the Coastal Ocean Monitoring and Prediction System tracks the levels of marine pollution along the coastline. Additionally, the Online Oil Spill Advisory System enhances the effectiveness of the national response to marine oil spills. India is also implementing the revised National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan.
- Further, the Sagarmala programme is focused on improving port connectivity, port-linked industrialization and coastal community development. Under this initiative, support is also provided for the development of deep sea fishing vessels and fish processing centres.
Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
- A revitalized global partnership is crucial for the achievement of the SDGs. India is committed to taking measurable actions for implementing the SDG agenda. We also reaffirm the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. This is important because while efforts at raising resources domestically will help India move closer to the attainment of the SDGs, they are unlikely to result in sufficient revenues. Therefore, we reiterate that the developed countries have an essential obligation to provide financial assistance to the developing countries, especially for global public goods such as climate change mitigation and control of pandemics, so that they can fully achieve the SDGs. International cooperation is also essential for curbing illicit financial flows, defining aid unambiguously and establishing robust systems for monitoring commitments made by donor countries.
- For increasing the domestic mobilization of resources, a path-breaking tax reform agenda is being finalized. This includes direct tax reforms as well as the GST, a uniform and simplified form of indirect taxation. An innovative tax like the Swachh Bharat Cess (Clean India Cess) has also been levied for mobilizing resources for the Clean India Campaign.
- Additionally, implementation of the budget responsibility legislation is ensuring predictable and sustainable budgeting as well as long-term debt sustainability.
- Financing of sustainable sources of energy is being promoted to provide energy for all by 2022 through a massive 150 GW increase in energy from renewables. Enhanced international cooperation is also being fostered through the leadership of the International Solar Alliance.
- Further, consistent policies have opened up the economy to FDI. This has resulted in $156 billion FDI flow during the last three fiscal years. The flow of $56 billion in the latest fiscal year has been larger than that in any other year.
- The 14th Finance Commission award is being implemented to substantially enhance fiscal devolution to States (from 32% to 42% of the central pool of tax proceeds) and Local Governments. This is enabling a significant spurt in development interventions designed and implemented independently by sub-national Governments.
- Enhancing development cooperation with neighbouring and other countries of the global South brings India’s innovation and expertise to the service of these countries. For instance, launching of the South Asia Satellite will lead to sharing of valuable data with neighbouring countries including Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Afghanistan.
It is apparent that the tasks of meeting the consumption needs of the projected population are going to be more difficult given the higher productivity base than in 1960s. There is also a growing realization that previous strategies of generating and promoting technologies have contributed to serious and widespread problems of environmental and natural resource degradation. This implies that in future the technologies that are developed and promoted must result not only in increased productivity level but also ensure that the quality of natural resource base is preserved and enhanced. In short, they lead to sustainable improvements in agricultural production.
New technologies are needed to push the yield frontiers further, utilize inputs more efficiently and diversify to more sustainable and higher value cropping patterns. These are all knowledge intensive technologies that require both a strong research and extension system and skilled farmers but also a reinvigorated interface where the emphasis is on mutual exchange of information bringing advantages to all. At the same time potential of less favoured areas must be better exploited to meet the targets of growth and poverty alleviation.
Digital technologies in agriculture
Digital technology has been applied in different agricultural processes including farm machinery, livestock handing facilities, agronomy, communication others. Below you will find few ways in which technology has evolved within agricultural industries.
Some digital tools allow farmers monitoring livestock movements, trading, reporting, forward planning and feeding programs. New technologies have become essential for producers to track their livestock. Using mobile technology, the lifetime tractability of livestock is now more effective than ever and it has become critical for disease response, market access and reputation,
Real time fleet tracking and monitoring
Digital and GPS technology has been used in machinery to track vehicle movements and fuel consumption, operation tracking to monitor yield and crop quality, track maintenance as well as direct communication with supervisors and workers.
Digital marketing monitoring
Online programs and applications have streamlined many time-consuming processes associated to marketing management. This new software allows users to track their online activity, to manage website and social media campaign activity.
Remote monitoring & drones
Some properties cover many acres, situation that makes checking water points, stock monitoring time consuming more challenging. Farm management software allows businesses to access information and alerts from their computers or mobile devices.
Drones have a unique advantage in being able to provide live information that can be advantageous in many ways. The have being used to check and monitor crop health, stock feed and water points.
Use of ICT in agriculture extension
Information technology revolution is upcoming rapidly and more noticeable now. With the introduction of information and communication technologies, the traditional agriculture has been reformed, eventually contributing to the significant improvements in agricultural productivity and sustainability. Empowering farmers with the right information at the right time and place is essential for improving the efficiency and viability of small and marginal holdings.
Decision Support System
ICT has a great role as decision support system to the farmers. Through ICT, farmers can be updated with the recent information about agriculture, weather, new varieties of crops and new ways to increase production and quality control. The dissemination of adequate, efficient and tailored technologies related to agro-climatic zone, size of farm and soil type etc. to the farmers is deficient in Indian agriculture and it is the real challenge in front of policy makers in India.
Information and communication technologies can broadcast the precise and authentic information at right time to the farmers so that they can utilize it and get benefits. The decision support system through ITC facilitates farmers for planning type of crops, practising good agricultural practices for cultivating, harvesting, post harvesting and marketing their produce to get better results.
Varied information is required in agriculture based on the different agro climatic regions, size of land holdings, types of crops cultivated, technology followed, market orientation, weather condition, etc. As reported by many researchers, ‘question and answer service’ was perceived as the best facility by majority of the farmers to get personalized solutions to their specific agricultural problems.
Widen Market Access
One of the major drawbacks in Indian agriculture is complex distribution channels for marketing of agricultural produce. Farmers do not get acquainted with the updated prices of commodities, proper place for selling their inputs and consumer trends also. ICT has the great potential to widen marketing horizon of farmers directly to the customers or other appropriate users for maximum benefit. Farmers may connect directly with many users and may get information about current prices for their commodities. They can get access to the market sitting at home. Further, it will curtail the middle profit also which will be beneficial for the farmers. This can improve a farmer’s source of revenue; empower farmers for making good decisions about appropriate future crops and commodities and marketing channels to sell their produce as well as to get inputs.
Strengthen and empower farming community
ICT technologies can help for strengthening farming communities through wide networking and collaborations with various institutes, NGO’s and private sectors. Further, farmers may enhance their own capacities through updated information and wide exposure to scientific, farming and trade community.
ICT Initiatives For Agriculture In India
It is a comprehensive web portal to broadcast relevant information to farmers, which was initiated and funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India. The AGRISNET serves farming community by disseminating information and providing services through use of Information & Communication Technology (ICT). It has the goals of Providing information to the farmers on quality of the inputs and its availability, disseminating information of various government schemes and recommending fertilizers after soil testing, Providing information on latest technologies for increasing productivity in agriculture.
Digital Green is an international organization, which works with the participatory approach by engaging rural community to improve their livelihood using digital platform. Interactive and self explanatory videos are prepared for farmers by progressive farmers with the assistance of experts. These videos are shown to the farmers at individual level or in groups. The videos are prepared concentrating the requirements and welfare of the rural masses.
The eSagu system was developed in 2004. eSagu provides customized solution to the farmers’ problems and advice them from sowing to harvesting. Farmers send their farm condition in the form of digital photographs and videos, which were analyzed by the agricultural scientists and experts. After that, they suggest the right things to do to the farmers even small and marginal farmers are also getting advantage by this. The expert advice is conveyed to the concerned farmer within short time. The queries of illiterate farmers are dealt with the help of educated coordinators at village level. The farm situation or problem is communicated to the agricultural experts and they transmit accurate information to the farmers.
The Warana “Wired Village” project was instigated in 1998 by the Prime Minister’s Office Information Technology (IT) Task Force with the objective of providing agricultural information and services to farmers for increasing productivity. The information is transmitted to the farmers in local language about prices of agricultural outputs, employment schemes from the government of Maharashtra and educational opportunities. The information is disseminated through information kiosks with the help of operators, who are the main linkage between the farmers and the agricultural connoisseurs.
IFFCO KISAN SANCHAR LTD (IFFCO Kisan) was started in 2012. It delivers relevant information and custom-made solutions to the concerned farmers through voice messages on mobile phones. The farmers can also communicate directly to the agricultural experts on explicit themes via ‘phone-in’ programmes.
Agricultural Marketing Information Network (AGMARKNET) was commenced in March, 2000 by Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India with the aim of empowering decision-making ability of the farmers regarding selling of their produce. This portal was developed to pace up the agricultural marketing system through broadcasting information about influx of agricultural commodities in the market and their prices to producers, consumers, traders, and policy makers transparently and quickly.
Digital Mandi is an electronic trading platform for facilitating farmers and traders to sell and procure agricultural produce beyond the geographical and temporal limitations effortlessly. Various financial institutions also participate in online trading of agricultural output to remove cash crisis.
National Agriculture Market (eNAM) is a pan-India electronic trading portal which networks the existing APMC mandis to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities.Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC) is the lead agency for implementing eNAM under the aegis of Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Government of India.
The vision of E-NAM is to promote uniformity in agriculture marketing by streamlining of procedures across the integrated markets, removing information asymmetry between buyers and sellers and promoting real time price discovery based on actual demand and supply. E-NAM will lead to the Integration of APMCs across the country through a common online market platform to facilitate pan-India trade in agriculture commodities, providing better price discovery through transparent auction process based on quality of produce along with timely online payment.