Odisha dropped to the 19th rank from the 15th rank last year in the NITI Aayog score for Sustainable Development Goals for 2020-21 released on Thursday, June 3. The index developed in collaboration with the United Nations to assess the country's progress towards attaining the global goals adopted in 2015, measures state performances based on the targets of zero poverty, no hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality and peace, justice and strong institutions, and aims at protecting the planet and ensuring that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. Odisha with a cumulative score of 58 in the report, improving from last year's 61, is still amongst the bottom five in the list.
In response to the report, Bhubaneswar MP and BJP leader Aparajita Sarangi expressed her disappointment and commented on various elements targeting a slew of questions towards the ruling BJD party administration in the state.
Questioning the state government on the lakhs of pucca houses sanctioned to the state by the central government, Sarangi said, "I wonder that the state of Andhra Pradesh has 9.2 per cent people who are living under national below poverty line. Many families in Bhubaneswar parliamentary constituency are yet to get pucca houses under the government scheme. At least 14.2% or 1 crore people are still living in kutcha houses in Odisha while in West Bengal the figure is only 6% and in Andhra Pradesh, it is 3.2%, reported Hindustan Times.
With at least 29 per cent of children below the age of five are malnourished, the state ranked sixth from the bottom in the category of zero hunger. "About 48 per cent of our women are anaemic, while around 29 per cent of children under the age of five are stunted or underweight," she said.
She added that the employment provision demand under the MGNREGA dropped marginally, resulting in a high rate of youth migration, even during the times of COVID. According to the report, in ease of doing business, Odisha scored zero marks, in innovation ranking, the state went down from 12th to 14th rank, and in economic growth, the state ranked second from the bottom among 28 states.
Commenting on the increasing cases of crime against women and the prevalent gap of gender inequality, Sarangi said, "The state's rank in the Gender Equality is 11 from the bottom. Criminal cases against 103.5 % of women in the state have come to the fore. As per the report, 103 women in 1 lakh are exploited in the state. The harassment cases against women continue to surge since 2015. The BJD government has failed to ensure the safety and security of women."
In response to the assessment of the report, and the questions raised by the BJP MP, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik stated that the data used for the assessment is inept and does not include the records at the panchayat level. He also pointed out that important and internationally praised state-employed schemes and programmes like Mamata and Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana in the health sector have been overlooked in the report and the assessment has been carried out on the basis of central schemes. Apart from ignoring some key facts, the list also has discrepancies in various sectors, he added.
While the report states that 48 per cent of the state's women are anaemic, Patnaik claims that it failed to incorporate that the state secured second rank in the Mission for Making India Anaemia Free, as per a report by The New Indian Express.
The report also stated that Odisha is ahead in a few indicators like #ClimateAction and #LifeBelowWater. Patnaik further said that the SDG index awarded 99 points to the state in the banking sector when banking services are yet to reach the rural pockets in the state. He also pointed out that the report has no mention of railway sector development. He questioned the sudden dip in points from 123 in 2019 for Internet connectivity, to 44 in the 2020-21 report. Mobile and Internet services are yet to reach remote areas of Odisha, which highlights the question of how the 123 points were given back in 2019. Furthermore, according to the 2019 report, Odisha was India's leading state in terms of industrial investment and got 92 points, which now has been awarded zero.
Criticising the BJP MP Sarangi for not touching upon these anomalies in her address, Patnaik alleged that these are political stunts pulled by the BJP government to detract the country from the failure of the vaccination drive. He stated that the report is not a political one and should not be used to play dirty politics.
"The report should be used for fostering more development. We should strive to remove data inconsistencies so that we get the correct picture of where we are in the achievement of SDG goals for the country as a whole. SDGs are national goals vis-a-vis the entire world. Both Centre, as well as all the states, must work together to achieve the national goals so as to be an example before the international community. Hope Odisha BJP and its leaders develop the intellectual depth to understand this well," said Patnaik, as reported by India Today.