Development Goals and Society

The development goals are the cornerstone for any modern society. Development in contemporary times has expanded its scope. It has admitted many concerns and definitions within its ambit. Therefore, development is a forever expanding term that may be vaguely defined as; a value addition to today as compared with yesterday, and a value addition to tomorrow as compared with today.

What is this value addition?

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Value addition is the priorities that a society plans to inculcate within itself through pre-determined methods to be adopted for realization of the goals. Now the question moves ahead with asking for the definition of development goals?

The development goals are the ultimate destination which a society thrives to arrive at. It depends upon the preference of the society or the country. For a capitalist society, the development goal might be to achieve a double digit economic growth and improved standards of living, whereas, a socialist society may be striving for economic equality. A fascist regime might want to expand its empire and bring more territories under its ambit. The same could be called for a theological society that may be looking for an expansion of its religious ideology.

As we see that the priorities of a society depend upon the ideology to which it is based, therefore in modern era, various societies joined together to form a common agenda or the development goals (Millennium development goals) that each society would strive to achieve. Few of such development goals are – Universal education, access to clean drinking water, poverty reduction, fighting undernourishment and hunger, reducing Infant Mortality Rate etc.

Why development?

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As the society is a part of the universe and the law of universe dictates that change is a part of life, therefore change is the only thing constant. But the society has to decide ‘the form’ of this change. Does it want the change to take the form of anarchy?

Where the lives of its people are solitary, poor and brutish or does it want to take the positive route ahead to achieve prosperity, happiness and improved standards of living for its people. Certainly, no society would aim for a difficult life for its people, therefore the path of development becomes the obvious choice.

Development for whom?

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Again the question has many dimensions which are dependent on societal priorities. For a neo-liberal or capitalist society, the development of the upper rich class would be preferred through the means of maximization of profits. Such a society conceptualizes the working of an ‘invisible hand’ that might disseminate the fruits of development to the subordinate classes.

For a socialist society, the subaltern sections of the society could be preferred as the need of the hour for them is to achieve economic equality.

But for a society that prefers to stay away from the extremes of a continuum, the goals of development cover all the sections of the society under its umbrella without any prejudice, but to ensure the principle of equality, they could extend its umbrella to the disadvantaged sections of the society through affirmative action. India is the best example of such a modern society that emerged in the middle of 20th century.

What are the development goals?

Development Goals

Development goals are the ultimate destinations of a journey. A society strives to arrive at this destination and the remarkable fact of this journey is that it is endless. To address the forever growing needs and expectations of the people, the engine of development reaches one destination at a time and simultaneously prepares for the second journey. The common understanding has arrived at following contemporary development goals which are regarded as universal by some sections of society –

  • Universal literacy and education, especially primary education.
  • Access to economic, social and political benefits universally to all citizens of society.
  • Poverty reduction to ensure smooth journey of development.
  • Fighting hunger and malnourishment, especially among children and women.
  • Access to safe drinking water and sanitary toilets.
  • Equality in treatment of women and human rights protection.
  • Environment protection.

I have mentioned above that some sections of the society regard these goals as universal. The reason for their belief is that these goals touch all the societies. These goals are internationally recognized. No matter if the political form of the government is democratic or autocratic, whether the economic ideology is capitalist or socialist, or whether the society is secular or communal, the above mentioned issues affect us all without any prejudice.

Poverty – A barrier or an opportunity?

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Poverty is the state of inability to procure minimum required resources to live a dignified life. Is poverty a barrier to the path of development? Different ideologies regard poverty differently. But the most optimistic and prudent answer is that poverty is not a barrier, but a reality, which is one of the issues that need serious attention, and probably, the most sincere efforts for its circumcision. Poverty is like diabetes, which invites many other diseases with it like social ills, hunger, illiteracy etc. Therefore, the optimistic theory suggests that to kill societal diseases, the uprooting of poverty becomes the single most necessary step.

Poverty looks as only a part of the development goals which we need to deal with, but it is giving shelter to many other problems. Therefore, the need of the hour is to unite and make serious policies against this ‘virus’.

What could be the methods of poverty reduction?

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Although the state of society in terms of poverty differs from region to region, so a one-size fits all approach could not bring the desired results. But the cause of the poverty is same, therefore few universal measures are discussed below that should be adopted –

  • Universal education and access to nutrition.
  • Opportunities of employment through vocational education or job-oriented skill training. (as enshrined in the Skill India Programme)
  • Expanding the share of manufacturing sector because it requires human labour.
  • Expanding the tax ambit (progressive taxation) and in return strengthening social schemes like MGNREGA and expanding its scope for infrastructural development.
  • Supporting farmers in stress through schemes like crop insurance, credit availability etc.

There could be infinite measures that could uplift the poor and thereby help in realizing the goals of development. What matters is the path that we prioritize and apart from political initiative, there is a duty of we, as the people to fight against the virus of poverty, as a single unit. After all, the government, the civil society, the people when comes together, the barriers to the journey of development start shattering to make way for a prosperous society.

India is pegged to be the most populous country, but the good news is that we are the youngest country. For the realization of an ever expanding dream of a prosperous India, we need to tap our huge demographic dividend and march together to achieve the contemporary goals of development. As I pointed out earlier, this journey is endless and expands each moment with the rise in people’s expectation; therefore the journey is long before we pass on the baton to our next generations. It depends on us, if we want to travel alone or if we want to travel together to truly encompass the feeling of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas’.

Raj Malhotra IAS Study Group.