How Tamil Nadu has fared in Sustainable Development Goals

Nearly ₹7,340 crore in wages was paid to unskilled labor in the state under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme during 2021-22, illustrating its performance in tackling poverty when SDG Week is being observed globally.

Nearly ₹7,340 crore in wages was paid to unskilled labor in the state under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme during 2021-22, illustrating its performance in tackling poverty when SDG Week is being observed globally.

The payment of nearly ₹7,340 crore in wages to unskilled labor in Tamil Nadu under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) during 2021-22, marking one of the highest in the country, illustrates the State’s performance in tackling poverty when the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Week is being observed globally.

(According to an official of the Rural Development Department, the amount of wages paid to unskilled labor last year was around ₹7,340 crore and the expenditure towards materials and skilled labor was ₹3,427 crore.)

As the State was in the midst of the virulent second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the effective implementation of the MGNREGS, which meant the completion of around 4.87 lakh works and the provision of jobs to almost 80 lakh individuals, had ensured Numerous families in rural parts stayed above the poverty line. There were issues concerning the disbursal of wages in view of the time taken for the fund transfer from the Center to the State. Yet, the State got around ₹1,000 crore more last year than in 2020-21.

According to the MGNREGS portal, Rajasthan and West Bengal were the other two states which had spent a higher amount of unskilled wages than Tamil Nadu. In the case of the former, the figure was approximately ₹7,755 crore, while it was ₹7,363 crore in the case of the latter.

However, what is to be pointed out is that the MGNREGS, a Central scheme, is one of the measures implemented in the State, which has a good record in implementing poverty alleviation programmes. It is no wonder that Tamil Nadu was identified by NITI Aayog as a top performer in Goal No.1-No Poverty for 2020-21.

In the area of ​​poverty elimination, the DMK government, which assumed office in May 2021, took two key steps. One was the provision of ₹4,000 each to rice-drawing ration cardholders along with the COVID-19 relief hamper. The second was the launch of the State Urban Employment Scheme on an experimental basis in 37 town panchayats. It took care of issues such as creation and maintenance of public assets, including parks and play fields, and rejuvenation of water bodies.

As regards the Goal No. 2-Zero Hunger, the latest measure of the State, which has a rich tradition in the implementation of free meals programs for schoolchildren, is the inauguration of the Chief Minister’s Breakfast Scheme. The execution of schemes such as ‘Makkalai Thedi Maruthuvam’ (to address non-communicable issues), ‘Illam Thedi Kalvi’ (to compensate for the learning loss due to closure of schools) and ‘Pudhumai Pen’ (to provide a monthly assistance of ₹1,000 each to women for pursuing higher education at the undergraduate level) is meant to accomplish Goals 3-5 which cover good health and well-being, quality education and gender equality.

As part of fulfilling Goal 10 (Reduced Inequality), Tamil Nadu has got a panel for the protection of social justice, besides providing for 7.5% horizontal quota in professional higher education for government school students. Thanks to the persistent efforts of the State, the Union Cabinet has decided to include the Narikoravan and Kurivikaran communities in the list of the Scheduled Tribes of Tamil Nadu. Towards translating into action Goal No. 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), the government has established ‘Anaithum Sathiyam’, a museum in Chennai for the differently abled, at a cost of ₹1 crore. The museum on Kamarajar Salai showcases accessible devices, assistive technologies and a model accessible home.

The constitution of biodiversity management committees in all local bodies and a conservation authority for the Pallikkaranai marshland was directed towards Goal No. 15 (Life on Land). As for Goal No. 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions), the government launched in November last a forensic DNA profile search tool, which would be useful for various purposes, including reunion of abducted and missing children with parents.

KR Shamugam, Director, Madras School of Economics, points out that although the State’s performance has been very good in many parameters, it still has to pay more attention to issues of nutrition and sanitation. To give an illustration, the National Family Health Survey 2019-21 (NFHS 5) has highlighted the problem of anemia which requires to be addressed with all seriousness.

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