India: What does the 2030 Agenda mean to one-sixth of the world’s population?

India is one of the world’s emerging economies, with impressive economic growth. While this growth has increased the income of a very small section of the population, India has the largest number of poor people in the world. The country has the world’s third largest number of billionaires and still millions of children are out of school; many millions of children do not live to the age of five; many millions of mothers die in childbirth. Despite economic growth, the country faces challenges of social and economic inequalities, urban-centred economic growth and shrinking civic spaces. While economic growth indeed made a difference to the large middle class, it is yet to ‘trickle down’ to rural poor, farmers and a vast number of poor and marginalized people, including Dalits (Scheduled Castes) and Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes), which make up 25 percent of the population. The environment is under increasing stress and there is a vibrant discussion about the consequences of mining and other disruptive activities on forests and environment and the implications for climate change. On the one hand, economic growth provides resources for greater investment in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and on the other, the urban-centric growth model, and increasing instances of crony capitalism also result in rising inequality and shrinking democracy and civic spaces and pose a challenge to effectively realize the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs.

India’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew 7.6 percent in 2015-16, making it the fastest growing large economy in the world.4 With USD 31 billion in foreign capital inflows (FDI), India has also surpassed China and the US to take the pole position in attracting FDI in the first half of 2015.5 While India has gone up the ladder in macroeconomic rankings I is very much at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to social indicators. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are based on the three pillars of sustainable development: social, economic and environmental. Locating Indian development in the context of these three pillars is therefore vital.

Source: India National Report, Social Watch Report 2016.