Missing the gender-infrastructure link -Simrit Kaur, Sanchita Joshi & Vaibhav Puri

-The Indian Express

Why Niti Aayog’s evaluation of Sustainable Development Goals has room for improvement.

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.

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.

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 gap.

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.

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The Indian Express, 7 February, 2019, https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/niti-ayog-gender-infrastructure-link-gender-inequality-5572780/

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