India is home to more than 30% of the world’s extreme poor. It is a country beset by inequality, preventable diseases, environmental degradation and poor infrastructure (among other things).
360 million Indians live in extreme poverty. More than 600 million Indians defecate in the open, which causes water contamination and countless diseases. Just 24 percent of Indian women participate in the workforce; and girls still lag behind their male peers when it comes to access to education. More than half of the 4 million children living in New Delhi have irreparable lung conditions as a result of air pollution.
But India has also made tremendous progress in many areas. It has controlled the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. And it has ended polio - long considered by experts to be an improbable task in India. The number of Indians in poverty has been halved since 2000. And by the end of 2015, chronic hunger will be halved from 2000 levels, largely due to India’s increasingly productive agricultural sector.
The rapid growth of India’s economy has led to rising wages and improved quality of life for hundreds of millions of people--but, this economic model has come at the price of pollution and depletion of resources.
Inequality can be loosely traced geographically, with the Eastern part of the country stuck in poverty as the Western and Southern parts emerge into prosperity. For India to successfully realize the Global Goals, economic growth will have to be distributed throughout the country. An economic model that prioritizes sustainability will have to be pursued.
Prime Minister Modi’s plan to end open defecation through infrastructure and education will have to accelerate. Women’s potential will have to be unleashed through an inclusive economy and an inclusive education system.
In a country where 50% of the population is under 25 years old (and 65% of the population is under 35 years old), the Global Goals must serve as clarion call for India’s youth.
It was an unassuming 24 year old barrister who set sail from India to South Africa on a temporary assignment who, perturbed by the inequities he faced, developed the satyagraha strategy. Through his relentless advocacy, Gandhiji forever changed the course and destiny of India -- and indeed, the world.
And it was a 19 year old school teacher who departed Macedonia for Darjeeling, who went on to serve the Calcutta community and in the process achieved global impact in more than 100 countries. Through her tireless devotion to the poor of India, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta continues to ignite a global consciousness in living a service-filled life.
Both Gandhiji and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta exemplified and brought to life values of leadership, ethics, altruism, and decisive action -- values which define the essence of global citizenship.
In the short time he has been in power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has elevated the national poverty alleviation agenda to unprecedented heights. As youths of India, we share the Prime Minister’s vision for universal sanitation in India by 2019, and an end to extreme poverty in India by 2030.
For it is only when India realizes the Global Goals, will the world collectively realize a global community free from extreme poverty.
You can go to TAKE ACTION NOW to call on Prime Minister Modi to champion the Global Goals.
This article was contributed by Dhruv Goyal, Jeh Tirodkar and Vandinika Shukla, members of The Global Education and Leadership Foundation, which is dedicated to building a community of ethical, altruistic leaders who work together to improve the state of our planet through collective action.