Missing the gender-infrastructure link
(The Indian Express)
Mains Paper 5: Governance
Prelims level: Infra-9
Mains level: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability,
e-governance applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential
- The NITI Aayog should be complimented for releasing the “SDG India
Index Baseline Report 2018”.
- The document tracks India’s progress at the sub-national level on
13 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- The launch of an index that maps India’s endeavours at sustainable
development is significant in several ways.
- The performance of the world’s second-most populous country would
have a great influence on the success or failure of the SDGs.
- A rigorous evaluation of India’s performance is thus critical to
ensure that the UN’s Agenda 2030 does not remain on paper.
Report highlights about SDGs
- The report classifies states as “achievers” (index score = 100),
“front-runners” (score: 65-99), performers (score: 50-64), and “aspirants”
(score < 49) based on their performance on 13 indices, each representative
of an SDG.
- The country’s performance has been exemplary with respect to “life
on land” (Goal 15), “reduced inequality” (Goal 10) and “peace, justice and
strong institutions” (Goal 16) with scores of 90, 71 and 71 respectively.
- However, the performance has been abysmal on goals pertaining to
industry, innovation and infrastructure (Goal 9, henceforth Infra-9),
sustainable cities and communities (Goal 11) and gender equality (Goal 5),
with scores of 44, 39 and 36 respectively.
Gender Equality Index report
- The performance of gender equality is particularly lamentable,
given the intrinsic and instrumental importance of this SDG.
- The sub-indicators adopted by the NITI Aayog to formulate the
gender equality index are based on sex ratio at birth, wage-gap, domestic
violence, women in leadership, labour-force participation and adoption of
modern family planning methods by women.
- At the state-level, Kerala (50), Sikkim (50) and Chhattisgarh (49)
have emerged as the top performers, while Uttar Pradesh (27), Manipur (25)
and Bihar (24) trail far behind. Kerala’s lead can possibly be attributed to
its legacy advantages, including high literacy rates and low gender literacy
- To assume that “expenditure” creates a distinction between
front-runners and under-performers is not necessarily true since the gender
budget allocation of Kerala is a fraction of that of Bihar.
- In such respects, governance matters as well.
- Gender inequality is determined by an interplay of complex
economic, demographic and socio-cultural factors such as income, health,
education and religion.
- Several studies, including the World Bank’s Engendering
Development (2001) and World Development Report on Gender Equality and
Development (2012) and the Asian Development Bank’s Sectoral Perspectives on
Gender and Social Inclusion (2011) point out that infrastructure development
has a significant bearing on gender equality.
- The Niti Aayog’s report too underlines that Infra-9 is closely
intertwined with gender equality.
- Our findings, however, do not indicate a strong positive
relationship between gender equality and Infra-9 scores in the agency’s
report (a correlation of -0.3).
- This raises two queries.
- How representative is the Infra-9 index as compiled by NITI Aayog
vis-a-vis the UN’s comparable description of “industry, innovation and
- Second, how representative is the term “infrastructure” in Infra-9
a-vis.the generally acceptable definition of infrastructure?
- The Niti Aayog considered only two sub-targets (9.1 and 9.2) under
Infra-9 pertaining to physical and wireless connectivity.
- This negates the importance of sub-targets related to financial
inclusion, sustainability of industrial activities and research and
developments (sub-targets 9.3 to 9.5).
- The scope of the Niti Aayog’s targeting exercise would be enhanced
by the addition of the relevant sub-indicators for the missing targets.
Niti Aayog’s roles
- The Niti Aayog’s exercise uses only the data pertaining to
all-weather roads under schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.
- And with regards to targets under wireless connectivity, the
exercise covers only mobile tele-density, internet connectivity and
e-governance through BharatNet.
- In both respects, therefore, Niti Aayog’s exercise covers
“infrastructure” under Infra-9 partially.
- This limitation can be overcome if the exercise evaluates the
country’s performance on Goal 6 (clean water and sanitation), Goal 7
(affordable and clean energy) and Goal 11 (sustainable cities and
communities). Exercises like the Asian Development Bank’s report, Meeting
Asia’s Infrastructure Needs (2017) and the World Economic Forum’s Global
Competitiveness Report 2017-18 underscore the salience of incorporating
these SDGs in any evaluation of infrastructure.
- A single unweighted composite-index of Goals 6, 7, and 11 with
gender equality, establishes a significant and positive relation
(correlation of 0.6).
- Schemes like Swachh Bharat, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, AMRUT
and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana are progressive steps in strengthening such
plurality of relations.
- So SDGs pertaining to energy, water-sanitation and sustainable
cities must be aligned with Infra-9 in order to establish the linkage
between gender and infrastructure comprehensively.
- Despite paucity of disaggregated data, the NITI Aayog has done a
commendable job in compiling the “SDG India Index Baseline Report 2018”.
- Constant review and monitoring of the progress in achieving SDGs
is important not only for honouring the country’s commitments in this
respect but for effective policy-making as well.
- We hope that Indian statistical organisations take cues and work
towards capturing and collating comprehensive micro-level data sets that
cover the SDGs in all their facets.
Q.1) What does the Operation Greens launched by the Government deal with?
(a) Enhancing Production of Cereals
(b) Protection of Forests
(c) Enhancing Production of Tomato, Onion and Potato
(d) Combating Climate Change
Q.1) Why Niti Aayog’s evaluation of Sustainable Development Goals has
room for improvement?