NEW DELHI: The United Nations Development Programme’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) report for 2008 is a cocktail of contradictions.
Poverty levels in India, it says, have gone down from 52% to 41% from 1990 to 2005. But population growth coupled with runaway inflation has led to a huge increase in the number of people living in extreme poverty in the country — 20 million —during the 15-year-period.
Moreover, the report adds, the overall economic slowdown and increased food and oil prices are expected to further push more people into absolute poverty.
It was at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 when 189 world leaders made a historic promise to end poverty by 2015 and agreed to achieve the eight MDGs - reduce poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child and maternal mortality, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure access to water and sanitation and provide access to affordable and essential drugs.
Seven years to go for the deadline, India’s chances of achieving these goals appear quite bleak with about 46 million malnourished children and huge gaps in literacy and employment among men and women.
While on one side increasing enrolment in primary classes has been substantial due to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the lack of water and sanitation for girls and high drop-out rate at the secondary level remains an area of concern, the report states. Another prime area for worry is the high infant and maternal mortality rates (MMR).
“Going by the current trend it is unlikely India will achieve its target of reducing MMR unless all states make substantial progress like Kerala and Tamil Nadu,” said Maxine Olson, resident co-ordinator of UNDP in India. With regard to combating malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDs, though access to anti-retroviral therapy is increasing for the latter, much remains to be done.
Releasing the report, Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee said India has made sustained progress but much has to be achieved.
The UN will hold a meeting in New York later this year where all country heads are expected to reveal plans to meet the MDGs. Prime minister Manmohan Singh is expected to attend the firstname.lastname@example.org