By: Arjimand Hussain Talib

20180503_210943The just-released Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) index by the NITI Aayog and the United Nations puts Jammu & Kashmir among what is called “performer states” category.  With a total score of 53 points J&K’s ranking is below the all India average score of 58.

Remarkably, J&K’s neighbouring states of Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh are at ranks 1 and 3, with 69 and 68 points respectively. The other good performing states are Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh, Goa Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra in the same order.

The worst performing states are Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

We have a moot question: are we really a ‘performer state’ in sustainable development?

This United Nations’ designed and facilitated development measurement tool is perhaps the best available tool to assess and measure development among human societies today.

Sustainable Development Goals parameters are holistic. They cover wide-ranging issues that influence and impact human development.

Jammu & Kashmir’s scores under various goals are particularly interesting. Its score of 61 out of 100 in poverty eradication puts it among the best performing developing societies. This ranking seems plausible because the kind of baseline data used for this ranking seems to be decent enough to reach at this conclusion.

On the eradication of hunger, J&K score of 60 makes it a curious case. On poverty eradication, while we seem to be doing little better with 61, the 60 score on hunger indicates that while hunger per se might not be widely prevalent in J&K, our state does have challenges of malnutrition and unsustainable agriculture. The zero hunger component does factor in nutrition and sustainable agriculture issues quite significantly. While at this stage we don’t have full data available used at arriving at this estimation, it, nevertheless, doesn’t look far-fetched.

On good health and well being, the J&K’s score of 63 might, in effect, not be reflective of the dire structural and qualitative inadequacies of the healthcare system often manifesting in compromised health and well being of its citizens. The fact is that in J&K we do not have good quality data available to assess critical qualitative aspects of physical and psychological well being of its citizens. There are ample reasons why Jammu & Kashmir state might not be actually doing so well on health and well-being indicator.

On quality and inclusive education, again, the state’s score of 61, putting it in the good performer category, doesn’t seem to be supported with sound qualitative and quantitative data. Although it is a fact that Jammu & Kashmir state has done significant progress in universalising primary education and broadening public higher education facilities for its people, the significant qualitative inadequacies, reflected in lower performance indicators in applied knowledge, employability and skill factors, suggest this score might not be too accurate.

Gender problems in our state are grave. J&K’s score of 39 on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls seems more or less accurate. It’s also suggestive of the kind of work required to improve the state of women and girls in our state.

Similarly, on clean water and sanitation as well as affordable and clean energy J&K’s scores of 52 and 58, respectively, underline the challenges that exist in the availability of clean water and affordable and clean energy. Our dark days are far from over.

Joblessness, under-deployment and youth bulge are serious issues in J&K today. The state’s deep-rooted difficulties in providing decent work opportunities to its people are well known. That we have scored a dismal 43 in this area is barely any surprise.

The fact is that whatever economic growth Jammu & Kashmir is experiencing today is unsustainable and intrinsically stressed in providing a decent job growth, corresponding to its population growth.

One of J&K’s worst performances, as expected, is in industry, innovation and infrastructure building. We have scored an abysmal 35, making it abundantly clear how deficient we are in industrialisation, innovation and infrastructure. Our nosediving exports and burgeoning imports are an easy indicator.

In developing sustainable cities and communities we are again one of the worst performers, with a score of 23.

J&K’s score of 74 on ecosystem preservation and conservation seems to be overrated. This score would require an in-depth examination and analysis in future performance indices. Rapid, unplanned and environmentally insensitive urbanisation has put our environment, with all its flora and fauna, under acute stress. The vulnerabilities of climate change, as a Himalayan state, don’t seem to have been appropriately addressed.

Finally, the big question of peace, justice and strong institutions. SDGs have come to be highly respected for a pragmatic consideration of these factors in promoting sustainable development and human wellbeing on particular.

On promoting the goal of peace, justice and strong institutions J&K’s score of 69 doesn’t seem to be quite reflective of the exact situation. Future consideration of J&K’s progress on this goal will have to be more honest in acknowledging the serious challenges faced by the state in this area. We can’t be ostriches and not acknowledge the mess large parts of the state are in and their impact on sustainable development.

Overall, J&K’s ranking looks plausible, and offers a lot of food for thought.

The writer is founding editor of Ziraat Times