U.N. report

Sanitation concerns

Print edition : August 09, 2013

The U.N. report does not place emphasis on disaggregated data on the basis of social indicators for a more holistic picture of the state of MDGs in India. Photo: DESHAKALYAN CHOWDHURY/AFP

A RECENTLY released United Nations’ report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has recognised the remarkable progress made by South Asian countries, including India, in reducing poverty, and improving access to education and health. Though the report praises them for their achievements, it does not take up adequately factors such as caste and other forms of political and social marginalisation in evaluating the success of the MDGs. Civil society groups in India working on Dalit rights, women’s rights and minority rights have been demanding the inclusion of more specific goals in the MDG framework so as to address issues of caste, social justice and inequality. The present report, released by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on July 5, does not place emphasis on disaggregated data on the basis of social indicators as a means to get a more holistic picture about the state of MDGs in India.

The report notes that though poverty remains widespread in India, the reduction of poverty has been substantial. In India, the poverty rate fell from 49 per cent in 1994 to 42 per cent in 2005 and to 33 per cent in 2010. The report is optimistic about India attaining its poverty reduction target by 2015.

However, the analysis of the strides made by India does not take into consideration other forms of discrimination. Speaking to Frontline, Paul Divakar, general secretary of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, said: “The status report does not address issues of discrimination on the basis of caste and the consequent social and political marginalisation of groups. These factors need to be taken into consideration in evaluating reduction of poverty, access to education, health and other opportunities. In evaluating the status with respect to education, the issue of substantive equality among different social groups so as to ensure access to education needs to be addressed. The report recognises gender-based inequalities, but not the intersectionality of caste and gender.”

The report points out areas where India and other South Asian countries are lagging behind. South Asia has the highest maternal mortality ratios of all regions, with 220 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2011. It also notes the need to accelerate government action on sanitation. Speaking at the launch of the report, Lise Grande, U.N. Resident Coordinator, said: “Although close to two billion people have gained access to latrines in recent years, we’re still going to miss the target of halving the population without access to toilets. The report shows that one of the best ways to address this is to stop open defecation.”

Sagnik Dutta

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