I just submitted an essay for the Delhi Sustainable Development Conference 2007 on the MDGs of the United Nations. Here it is in full piece. For further information visit: click here.
MDGs: A Panacea for Developing Countries
Lets be a part of the generation that would make the difference!
“Poverty is not a disgrace, but it’s terribly inconvenient” 
This comment is a deep reflection! A reflection on the way the world looks at itself. Is this the reason that we divide the world into two? Perhaps Yes. Poverty is in itself a complete form of disorder. With it comes the complete package of life: no bread, no roof, and no cloth! Poverty is inconvenient. Look at myself, or yourself, you are walking past a supermarket on a big street, and there is this couple, poor, with their five children, all torn on their bodies, clinging to you and begging for something. All you do is simply shoo them away, or at the best, give a coin, mostly the one in your pocket that has the lowest dimensions. What are they asking for? Are they asking for bread or money? Or are they just asking for attention? A few kilometers south of the campus in which I live, is a village that is a perfect example of utter poverty and also sheer contrast. Just by its side is one of India’s greatest centers of learning. And here is this village struck by every possible rot in the world. The people are poor, and the government only gives them false promises. Every time I go there on my bicycle, I see families sitting on something that looks like a porch of mud, barely clad, looking at me with despair on their faces but hopes on their eyes. All they wish is for me to look at them, give a smile and not just that, but to go to them and help them out, in whatever small way I can. That is just one of the millions of villages in India. Why just India but anywhere and everywhere in the so called developing world, if I have to be particular. Are these the black holes that are stopping their nation’s growth?
To remind myself, we are not talking about poverty here, but the package in totality, something that holds the growth of civilization. The Millennium Development Goals, eight of them, were agreed upon by leaders of every country as the vision of the future. In short they are time bound targets providing a framework for development. The goals are feasible and don’t look fictitious. There is hope! The statistics are there for everyone to see. The achievement of those goals is based on the developed countries offering as much support as they can, and the developing countries utilizing their resources and external aid to the best.
The United Nations is no doubt doing its best as the premier institute of sympathy but are the developing nations and even the developed nations doing there same bit? I wonder! Take India for instance. The constitution has all rules in it. The government also knows all the rules in it. I bet no one knows better than them. They also execute them well enough and well in time. A man waits. He still waits. He waits some more time. He either dies of starvation or extremely bad health, or commits suicide. Most of the times his family follows. The help that started out still hasn’t reached. His son, if still alive somehow manages to grow up. One fine day he lands up in the court. The matter is taken up but he is given a date. He returns, just to get another date. Weeks, months, years and not so surprisingly decades pass away but nothing comes of it. India has all the necessary equipments, infrastructure, rules and regulations, a highly intelligent population and not too harsh environmental conditions. Coming to think of it, most Indians feel that the world should stop classifying it as a developing country. Well, if you happen to stay in a good city, you may feel so too. None the less, I would say India has everything to switch immediately to the status of a developed nation. And I am pretty sure there may be at least a dozen other countries like it too, who may be almost there. But it’s unfortunate, that it won’t happen. It won’t happen because administration is bad! Politics is bad and the governance is bad, worse at the micro levels. Just to give a live example of such a deal between the government and the needy, drought affected farmers across many states in India have been granted many millions of rupees worth relief. It is remarkable to note, how in bright open, a drought affected farmer’s family can get a cheque signed for Rupees Three only (that is around six cents)!
Such incidences occur widely all around the nation and with most relief operations. It’s the middle politician and the lower one where the black hole exists. It is also this problem of corruption which we are walking hands in hands with. For the MDGs to be really successful by the deadline, we would have to make sure that we remove bitter hindrances like these from our way.
I would say that it is this generation of ‘we the people’ that needs to stand up and make sure that we make a collective difference. The factors that we need to consider have been excellently highlighted by the UN in formulating the targets of the MDGs. Let us look back at our textbooks and ask ‘What are man’s basic needs?’ Food, clothing and shelter comes a pat reply! But this world has changed from what it was many decades ago let’s say just around or after the world war two and the change has been significant. On an individual scale yes they are the basic needs, but looking in totality, and looking from a region’s human life sustainability, the needs are bigger than just that. They are: 1. Sanitation and Health, 2. Education, and 3. Availability of Natural Resources and Energy. The Goals have been classified according to these three needs which I feel are the fundamental basic needs, basically I am just echoing the UN’s words. The UN has been tracking the progress of various regions around the globe looking for the parameters which correspond to these goals. It is evident that global poverty is on a decline and the goal should be easy to meet. Where 27.9 percent people lived on less than $1 a day in developing countries, the figure in 2001 was just 19.4 percent. But the proportion of people living with insufficient food hasn’t gone down noticeably. Both these parameters have had hardly any change especially in the Sub Saharan region. 44.6 to 44 percent and 33 to 31 percent respectively, from 1990 to 2001. Somewhat similar is the scenario for most other parameters. What concerns most is the availability and tapping potential of natural resources. Natural resources do not mean coal and iron ore, but human resources, educational potential, energy alternatives. Human Resource is what I believe the biggest factor in pushing a nation towards development. Human resources include manpower both quantitatively as well as qualitatively. Human resource stands for skilled men. It stands for distinct category of population, which is intelligent, smart and unbiased, where there is an equal participation of everyone from all regions, all categories, all classes and both sexes! For this a scenario of universal primary education, gender equality and maximizing higher education must be put forth. Management of these resources will only ensure a growing economy.
Another requirement for development comes as the improvement of natural habitat of human being. Historically we have only seen a decline in the quality of the relationship that man has shared with nature. Nature has been brutally affected, environment has been hit hard: waters are not potable and soils are not tillable. In reverse effect it is he the man himself who has suffered. It has been projected that by the year 2007, majority of the world’s population, for the first time in history would be staying in urban areas. But with urban development comes more and more slum development. It has however been noteworthy that compared to 1990, the number of people having access to improved sanitation has gone up considerably: from 25 percent in 1990 to 50 percent in 2005. Along with sanitation, access to better medical facilities has been found helping the decline in the rate of child mortality and maternal health. The deadly diseases like HIV and malaria still exist with thousands of new infections diagnosed everyday, but the rates are not growing as fast as they had peaked in the early 1990s. Tuberculosis unfortunately has been one of the biggest killers of late. So we see, in a way it is the effect of environment around us and our interaction with it, that determines the outfall of our actions.
These and few other such parameters have been demarcated to assess the growth and prosperity of nations. But I believe there is someone else who needs to play a larger role than UN or any other agency doing noble work. It is we the citizens who must take on the responsibility onto ourselves. If the government funds are going into wrong pockets I believe it is because we haven’t elected good leaders. It’s because educated people like us don’t go to cast votes, so the ones who vote are the ones who know nothing about anything. Let’s educate the masses. Lets educate the youth, lets bring in equality and a sense of sustainability amongst the down trodden. It will be only when they will see an improvement in their lives that they will gain confidence in the systems around them. It will only be when they know what is happening and how far they are from their means that they will see light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s educate! Education is the primary way to realize any goal. It will only be when they understand the working behind the system, behind the way of life, behind the true way of life in today’s world, that they will be happy for themselves. It is for this that we need a stronger sense of commitment from those who have already got the benefit of education. We need a stronger base, to come from bigger institutions of social change and financial help. We need a larger involvement of the entire so called white collars. The problems that the sufferers in the developing nations face are not because of discrimination from other nations, but from people within their countries who call themselves white collars. The double standard society has to break down to give way to a freer nation; a feeling of belongingness must be infused into the population. They must be treated not as a hindrance to the growth, but as god’s gift to the nation. It is in a way something like the rich gets richer and the poor gets poorer. Only when the social backwardness of the population gets through, we can think of educational prosperity and financial prosperity. Social backwardness here stands for double standards of the society.
I do believe that the UN Millennium Development Goals are the key areas which are responsible for the development index of a nation and they must be met with utmost priority. The way to success and universal enhancement of the human life is an achievement of these goals! The unprivileged are also one of us! By 2015 most of my young friends would be doing the best jobs in the world, minting lots of money hopefully, and I just request them to stop by, look into this and do something if they can to the best of their power. Remember, together we can, because we are a part of it! Would you want to be remembered as just another generation in which poverty increased from x percent to y percent or AIDS spread from these many million to those many billions? Or would you want to be remembered as a part of the generation that made the difference?
 Famous Jewish American comedian Milton Berle
 Govt. puts price on farmer tragedy: Vikrant Dubey & Manasi Tewari for CNN-IBN
 The Millennium Development Goals Report 2006: United Nations