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Millennium Development Goals

India’s share of global challenge


  • Economic transformation since early 1990s without corresponding positive change in social development.
  • Uneven expansion of social opportunities with growing disparities across regions, castes, sex and other characteristics.

Striking features:
• Every second young child in India is malnourished
• Less than ¼ of rural population use toilets
• Only 4 out of 10 girls who enrol complete eight years of schooling

There are two prominent trends in India: impressive economic growth and wealth creation; and stagnation in key social indicators, particularly among disadvantaged populations (i.e. geographically, by caste, gender). The rapid growth of the economy since the early 1990s, and the Government of India’s (GOI) increased commitment to accelerating social development, present a unique opportunity.

Since the inception of the ambitious 10th Five Year Plan in 2003, current rates of progress on many indicators are not sufficient to meet many of the child-related National Development Targets by 2007, nor the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

Greater effort and focus must be directed to enrolling all children in the development process through improved management and provision of quality basic social services, promoting child-related behaviour change within households, and mobilizing the community to become more involved in the management of services for children.


India is increasingly recognized as a global power in key economic sectors. There have also been positive trends on certain social indicators, particularly those that respond to vertical, campaign-like approaches: the near eradication of polio; a significant increase in literacy rates; and the enrolment of both boys and girls in primary school. However, progress has been slow in areas requiring systemic changes, such as in the provision of good quality services (i.e. primary health care and community-based nutrition services). There has also been limited change in the practice of key behaviours related to child well-being, such as hand washing and exclusive breastfeeding. The HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to spread and poses a significant threat. Issues related to child protection, including trafficking and child labour, are becoming more pronounced. Repeated and extensive emergencies such as the tsunami, flooding and earthquakes have also adversely affected the lives of children in India. This uneven development path has been further exacerbated by striking and persistent inequities by gender, caste and geography.

GOI has adopted ambitious targets related to children that are in line with, and at times more ambitious than, the MDGS. Centrally-sponsored schemes have increased public resources to key sectors, notably the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan in education (the national policy to universalize primary education), the Reproductive and Child Health Programme II, the National Rural Health Mission and the Integrated Child Development Services. The challenge remains to convert these commitments and resources into measurable results for all children, especially those belonging to socially disadvantaged and marginalized communities. 

As the graph below indicates, the importance of India to the achievement of the global MDGs cannot be overstated. Some 42% of households without latrines globally are in India, and Indian children make up one-third of the world’s malnourished children.

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality

Goal 5: Improve maternal health

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Goal 7:  Ensure environmental sustainability

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development

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MDG Monitor

For every child
Health, Education, Equality, Protection