India’s development needs by State

By Kealan Finnegan

State and local governments play a pivotal role in implementing development programmes. Particularly in India, where more than 1.3 billion people require continued developmental endeavours, they play essential roles to ensure that no one is left behind under the National Government’s development plans.

NITI Aayog acts as the nodal institution, coordinating efforts at State/Union Territory (UT) and National level. To do so, NITI measures the progress achieved and areas to be improved by the States/UTs in their journey towards meeting the targets set out against the UN’s SDGs. The resulting Index enables the States/UTs to identify prior­ity areas, facilitate peer learning, enable healthy competition, highlight data gaps, and promote healthy competition. Visit for the Index in full.

Below, I summarise the areas in which certain states/UTs are leading and highlight the wide range of priorities and performance by states/UTs across India.

Source: SDG India: Index & Dashboard 2019-20, NITI Aayog

Of India’s states, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Karnataka, Goa, and Sikkim were adjudged to be the front runners. While, Chandigarh and Puducherry were best regarded amongst the Union Territories.

These top performers scored highly for a number of reasons. Some were consistent across most SDGs, such as Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, with both scoring above 65 in 11 of the SDGs. While others, despite scoring low in some of the SDGs, scored much higher in others, generating a high composite score. For example, Sikkim only scored above 65 in 8 of the SDGs but scored 97 in SDG7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and 100 in SDG15 (Life on Land), pulling its overall score up.

One glaring pattern is that the majority of these states and UTs are in the south of India. Accordingly, greater effort is needed beyond the south to ensure the wider population are being educated, are healthy, have access to water and sanitation, have access to infrastructure and work, and more.

What these variations go to show is that some states/UTs need support across all or most of the SDGs, whereas others would benefit most from focussed support in specific areas. Even where states/UTs score well there needs to be continual development; yet, in light of limited resources, both financially and physically, certain actions will be more beneficial in certain states/UTs, also considering state/UTs existing environment, norms and history.

Another stark pattern is that some of the SDGs are scored consistently by all states, whether it be highly such as SDG6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), or poorly, like SDG5 (Gender Equality). Perhaps those goals that are scored poorly by all or most states should be made a greater priority by the national Government, with an active role of the states and UTs to enact the national Government’s vision.

On the other hand, those goals that are much more unequal in state performance could be prioritised by the states and UTs that score low, and the national Government should seek to help those states and UTs that perform low in SDGs that other regions have been successful in. These include SDG2 (Zero Hunger), SDG4 (Education), and SDG9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure).

Ultimately, these patterns help to identify areas where states and UTs need support. To use one example, West Bengal scores well on SDGs 3 (Good Health and Well-being), 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), 10 (Reduced Inequality), 15 (Life on Land) and 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions); it scores moderately on SDGs 1 (No Poverty), 4 (Education), 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and 12 (Sustainable Consumption and Production); and it scores poorly on SDGs 2 (Zero Hunger), 5 (Gender Equality), 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and 13 (Climate Action).

This index can help Government and private companies to identify areas where support is most necessary to make most efficient and effective use of resources.

It is also critical to identify inequalities within states. Even where regions score highly, there are likely to be millions with restricted access to basic facilities.

UK companies, with access to technology, expertise, and experience can help India to achieve the SDGs. UKIBC’s Socio-Economic Impact campaign highlights the work that UK companies are doing in relation to the SDGs and aims to prompt companies to do even more. See

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