Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable Development Goals: A Look at India’s Top Performing States

Introduction of Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 ambitious goals adopted by all UN member states in 2015, aiming to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030. These goals address global challenges like poverty, hunger, inequality, climate change, and environmental degradation.

India is one of the largest and most populous countries in the world, and its progress towards the SDGs is crucial for the global success of the agenda. The Sustainable Development Goals India Index, launched by NITI Aayog in 2018, tracks India’s progress on the SDGs at the national and state levels. This article takes a closer look at the top performing states in the SDG India Index 2020-21, highlighting their achievements and challenges.

Top Performing States:


  • Ranked first with a score of 100%, Goa has achieved remarkable progress across all Sustainable Development Goals.

Key achievements include:

  • Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.
  • Achieving universal primary and secondary education.
  • Providing access to clean water and sanitation for all.
  • Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.
  • Building resilient infrastructure and promoting sustainable industries and innovation.


  • Ranked second with a score of 96%, Telangana has made significant strides in several SDGs.

Key achievements include:

  • Reducing poverty significantly.
  • Improving access to quality healthcare and sanitation.
  • Promoting renewable energy and sustainable agriculture.
  • Empowering women through education and economic opportunities.


  • Ranked third with a score of 93%, Gujarat is a leader in infrastructure development and economic growth.

Key achievements include:

  • Building world-class infrastructure, including roads, ports, and airports.
  • Promoting industrial development and creating jobs.
  • Investing in renewable energy and clean technology.
  • Improving access to education and healthcare.

Andhra Pradesh:

  • Ranked fourth with a score of 92%, Andhra Pradesh has made significant progress in maternal and child health.

Key achievements include:

  • Reducing maternal mortality rates and improving child health outcomes.
  • Expanding access to quality healthcare services.
  • Investing in education and skill development.
  • Promoting sustainable agriculture and water management.


  • Ranked fifth with a score of 91%, Bihar has overcome significant challenges to achieve progress in education and poverty reduction.

Key achievements include:

  • Increasing literacy rates and improving access to education for girls.
  • Reducing poverty and hunger through social safety net programs.
  • Improving agricultural productivity and rural livelihoods.
  • Empowering women through self-help groups and microfinance initiatives.

Sustainable Development Goals

Other Notable States:

  • Maharashtra: Ranked sixth with a score of 90%, Maharashtra is a leader in innovation and renewable energy.
  • Chhattisgarh: Ranked seventh with a score of 89%, Chhattisgarh has made significant progress in forest conservation and tribal development.
  • Kerala: Ranked ninth with a score of 89%, Kerala is known for its high levels of human development and social welfare.
  • Madhya Pradesh: Ranked tenth with a score of 88%, Madhya Pradesh has made strides in agriculture, rural development, and poverty reduction.

Challenges and the Road Ahead

While India’s top performing states have made impressive progress, there are still significant challenges to achieving the SDGs by 2030. These include:

  • Inequality: The benefits of progress have not been evenly distributed, with marginalized communities and certain regions lagging behind.
  • Environmental degradation: Pollution, deforestation, and climate change pose major threats to sustainable development.
  • Data gaps and monitoring: Lack of reliable data and effective monitoring systems make it difficult to track progress and identify areas for improvement.

To overcome these challenges, India needs to:

  • Focus on inclusive development: Ensure that everyone benefits from the progress towards the SDGs, leaving no one behind.
  • Invest in sustainable solutions: Promote renewable energy, clean technologies, and climate-resilient practices.
  • Strengthen data collection and monitoring: Improve data quality and accessibility to track progress and inform policy decisions.
  • Foster collaboration: Work together across government, civil society, and the private sector to achieve the SDGs.

Beyond Ranking: Exploring Specific Goals and Achievements

While the overall scores paint a broad picture, delving deeper into specific SDGs showcases the diverse achievements of these top performing states. Here are some examples:

Goal 1: End Poverty in All its Forms Everywhere:

  • Bihar: Reduced poverty by 30% in ten years through targeted social safety nets and livelihood programs.
  • Telangana: Implemented Rythu Bandhu scheme, providing direct financial assistance to farmers, leading to a significant decrease in rural poverty.

SDG 4: Quality Education:

  • Kerala: Boasts the highest literacy rate in India (96.2%) and prioritizes access to quality education for all, especially girls.
  • Goa: Achieved universal primary and secondary education, and focuses on vocational training and skills development.

Goal 5: Gender Equality and Empower All Women and Girls:

  • Gujarat: Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign tackles gender inequality and promotes girl child education.
  • Andhra Pradesh: Self-help groups empower women economically and increase their participation in decision-making.

Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation:

  • Goa: Achieved universal access to clean water and sanitation, setting an example for other states.
  • Himachal Pradesh: Implemented effective water management practices, leading to improved water security for communities.

Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy:

  • Maharashtra: Leads in renewable energy generation, with ambitious solar power targets and investments in wind energy.
  • Gujarat: Established itself as a hub for clean technology and innovation, attracting global investments in renewable energy projects.

Goal 13: Climate Action:

  • Chhattisgarh: Prioritizes forest conservation and sustainable forestry practices, mitigating climate change impacts.
  • Sikkim: Aims to become the first organic state in India, promoting sustainable agriculture and environmental protection.

Real-life Impact: Stories of Transformation

The success of the Sustainable Development Goals goes beyond numbers and statistics. It translates into real-life improvements in the lives of millions of people. Here are a few examples:

  • In rural Bihar, Aasha workers provide essential healthcare services to mothers and children, leading to a dramatic decrease in infant mortality rates.
  • In Telangana, Rythu Bandhu empowered the small farmer Lakshmi Devi, allowing her to invest in her land and increase her income significantly.
  • In Kerala, free and quality education gave Anitha, a young girl from a marginalized community, the opportunity to become a doctor and serve her community.

These stories highlight the transformative power of the Sustainable Development Goals and the tangible benefits they bring to individuals and communities across India.

Conclusion: A Call to Action

India’s top performing states in the SDG India Index offer valuable lessons and inspiration for the rest of the country. By learning from their successes and addressing the remaining challenges, India can accelerate its progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. This journey requires unwavering commitment, innovative solutions, and collaborative efforts from all stakeholders. As the global community strives for a better and more sustainable future, India’s success in achieving the SDGs will not only benefit its own population but also serve as a beacon of hope for other developing nations.

The achievements of India’s top performing states showcase the potential for progress, but significant challenges remain. To truly achieve the SDGs by 2030, India needs a collective effort. This requires:

  • Strengthening political commitment: Ensuring sustained government support and resource allocation for SDG implementation.
  • Fostering public-private partnerships: Leveraging private sector expertise and investments to address critical challenges.
  • Empowering civil society: Engaging communities and NGOs in planning, implementation, and monitoring of SDG initiatives.
  • Raising public awareness: Educating citizens about the SDGs and mobilizing their support for sustainable development.

By harnessing the power of collaboration, innovation, and unwavering commitment, India can build a more inclusive, prosperous, and sustainable future for all, not just by 2030, but for generations to come.

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