SDG Index 2019: Where does India stand?

Urvashi Prasad / Shashvat Singh | Updated on January 28, 2020

While India has improved its score and made notable progress on a number of indicators including health, water and sanitation, more needs to be done on the poverty, hunger, gender and climate fronts

NITI Aayog has recently released the Sustainable Development Goals India Index 2019 (SDGII 2019). In a significant improvement over the inaugural version, 68 indicators have been directly borrowed from the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation’s National Indicator Framework (NIF) while another 20 are modified versions of NIF indicators and 12 have been developed by NITI Aayog in consultation with Union ministries. This alignment of indicators will pave the way for better coordination among government agencies for tracking India’s performance on SDGs.

Another noteworthy improvement is the broader coverage of goals, targets and indicators. While in the first edition, Goals 12, 13 and 14 were not included, only Goal 17 has been left out of the second round for ranking sub-national governments due to the absence of any relevant indicators in the NIF. Additionally, while SDGII 2018 covered 39 targets and 62 indicators, SDGII 2019 spans 54 targets and 100 indicators.

Scores improve

So, how are we faring in our quest for achieving the SDGs? Overall, India’s score has improved from 57 to 60, with notable progress on SDGs 3, 6, 7, 9 and 11. While, a decline in the Maternal Mortality Ratio has contributed to our improved performance in the area of ‘Good Health and Well-Being’, ramping up toilet coverage under Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan has raised the country’s score on ‘Clean Water and Sanitation’.


The commendable performance on Goal 7 is due to expanded access to clean cooking fuel and the government’s massive electrification drive. Similarly, on Goal 9, the progress can be attributed largely to a significant improvement in rural road connectivity and increased mobile phone penetration. Our performance on Goal 11 has been boosted by better access to housing through the Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana as well as more widespread adoption of door-to-door waste collection and processing.

While this progress is heartening, there are certain indicators where focussed attention is required. For instance, India’s tuberculosis notification rate is still high, thus limiting our overall progress on Goal 3. Further, there are some SDGs on which the whole country needs to step up its performance considerably, namely those pertaining to poverty, hunger, gender and climate action.

Limitations exist

While SDGII 2019 is a much-improved version, an exercise of this nature is not without its limitations, especially because of the gaps in data availability. In subsequent versions of the Index continued efforts need to be made to include indicators that capture the full extent of the SDGs. For instance, if the target is to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres, we need to go beyond measuring spousal violence and sexual crimes against children. Similarly, SDG 3 must capture at least one indicator that reflects the country’s progress on tackling non-communicable diseases.

Crucially, concerted efforts need to be made to generate data disaggregated by gender, age and socio-economic status to truly get a sense of how we are faring in terms of fulfilling the overarching SDG mantra of ‘leaving no one behind’.

Finally, future SDG Index reports could perhaps go a step further by including good practices that enable high-performing States/UTs to make progress on each of the goals, thus providing useful lessons for those lagging behind.

India is the only country to publicly rank its sub-national governments on SDGs. While the exercise needs strengthening in terms of scope and quality on an ongoing basis, it is a valuable effort that needs to be persisted with as it helps to bring the SDG agenda into the limelight at the national level as well facilitates its localisation at the level of States and UTs.

Urvashi Prasad is Public Policy Specialist, NITI Aayog, and Shashvat Singh is Programme Officer, United Nations. Views are personal

Published on January 28, 2020

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