Economy

Budget 2020 – India’s Path to Sustainable Development?

The Brundtland Commission has defined sustainable development as the development that meets the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable development is one of the most popular terms of the 21st century and rightly so. In a society driven by production and consumption, one often fails to notice the depletion of the world around them. Hence, the concept of sustainable development helps in ensuring that our society achieves longevity.

It is important for countries to identify their unique framework, needs, and opportunities and accordingly build sustainable developmental models to promote societal upliftment. In 2015, The United Nations released its sustainable development goals which have been adopted by all United Nations Member states. These goals provide a framework for peace and prosperity of the planet and its people. At the core, there are 17 sustainable development goals which are urgently required to be met by all member nations. Some of these goals include no poverty, zero hunger, quality education, gender equality, affordable and clean energy, climate action, etc.

The Government of India has allocated the role of implementing sustainable development goals to the NITI Aayog. NITI Aayog or National Institution for Transforming India is a policy think-tank established by the Government of India to achieve the target of sustainable development goals with cooperative federalism. This policy think-tank was formed on 1st January 2015. Several national and regional level consultations have been established by NITI Aayog to bring together various stakeholders and build capacities for achieving the sustainable development goals.

Through NITI Aayog, several targets were achieved in the year 2018-2019. In February 2018, the Union territories of the country, 23 states, and relevant stakeholders engaged in a workshop on capacity development for localizing the Sustainable Development Goals. In March 2018, as regional preparatory for the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), the Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development was held in Bangkok. This took place under the Chairmanship of Dr. Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog. Nearly 600 participants attended the event and engaged in discussing the theme, ‘Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies’. Similarly in 2018, the South Asia Forum on Sustainable Development Goals was co-organized by NITI Aayog, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and RIS. The SDG Index – A Baseline Report 2018 was released by NITI Aayog in December 2019. This report helps trace the progress of the States and Union Territories on priority indicators. This report measures the success and failures of the various interventions implemented by the Central Government. According to this report, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala are the top-ranking states in the sustainable development goals index.

With the recent Union Budget, India’s aim to achieve sustainable development seems a step closer. Nirmala Sitharaman’s Union Budget aims at achieving three broad goals; improvement in the standard of living, boosting economic development for all sections and establishing a humane and compassionate society.

The Agricultural sector, a vital sector of our society, is currently going through a damaging turmoil. Due to several hiccups in the system, the life of our food soldiers is often compromised. However, the recent budget displays the government’s genuine concern to uplift the condition of our agrarian heroes. Interventions such as doubling the farmers’ income, supporting water-stressed districts, monetizing barren land by transforming them into solar farms, etc. have been established by the government in this budget.

Similarly, the government has allocated Rs. 99,300 crore towards the education sector in 2021. This figure also includes a lump sum Rs. 3000 crore for skill development. This measure may also help in tackling the unemployment crisis the country is currently facing. Through allocating funds in the education and skill development sector, the government can produce individuals who would be future-ready.

The 2020 budget also provides promising measures to improve the health sector of India. The government has proposed to establish hospitals in nearly 112 identified districts. These districts also include Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. This would help in improving the health conditions of the weaker sections of society while simultaneously encouraging higher employment opportunities. Similarly, there is a concerning shortage of doctors in the country. As per World Health Organization standards, India needs to produce and employ double the number of doctors than those currently practicing. To achieve this standard, the government has planned to attach a medical college to a district hospital through the public-private partnership method. Again, this would help in raising employment opportunities. Besides this, the Budget also proposes to eradicate tuberculosis from the country by 2025.

The budget has aimed at an overall improvement of the health and sanitation of the country by promoting clean drinking water, sanitation, and nutrition under the goals of Jal Jeevan Mission, Swachh Bharat, and several other schemes. There has also been an initiative to expand the universal immunization program, Mission Indradhanush. This would be implemented by including five additional vaccines.

The Finance Minister has also provided measures in the budget to comply with global climate commitments. A push for renewables and clean air has been the focus of the environmental domain. The promotion of solar energy would help in containing the pollution caused by thermal power plants. Forty percent of the country’s electricity is aimed to be generated by non-fossil fuels. This shift from coal would help in reducing carbon emissions significantly. There is also a plan to build a 148km suburban transport project in Bangalore. This would undoubtedly help in reducing carbon emissions. While critiques have mentioned that the budget fails to propose solutions to tackle the larger climate crisis, it is undeniable that, even if introductory, significant steps are being taken in order to address this global crisis.

Picture Credits: bloomberg.com



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