'India won't fail the world': Sushma Swaraj at UN on development goals
United Nations, Sep 29: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj assured the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday that India was totally committed to achieving the sustainable development objectives for its 1.3 billion people.
Addressing the General Debate of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, Swaraj said in 2015, India had established 2030 as a critically important horizon for 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
"A common refrain, from 2015, has been that we will reach that horizon only if India finds its way to this destination. Otherwise, we shall fail," she said.
"I assure this august gathering...that India will not let you fail. We are totally committed to achieving these objectives for our own people," Swaraj said.
Policy experts, analysts and think tanks have opined that the global success in achieving the 2030 development agenda is highly reliant on India's performance.
Swaraj told the 193-member UN body that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership, India had initiated unprecedented economic and social transformation that will help the country achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) much before time.
The SDGs, otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for action to end poverty, protect the planet, improve health, education and ensuring that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.
Swaraj highlighted the various initiatives and programmed launched by the Indian government that mirror the targets of the SDGs.
She said through the 'Jan Dhan Yojana', the world's largest financial inclusion scheme, over 320 million Indians, who had never crossed the door of a bank before, now have bank accounts.
The scheme has enabled the poor to receive allotments from the government's welfare programmes into their personal accounts, through Direct Benefit Transfer, which has ended waste and corruption in the system.
She also cited the example of 'Ayushman Bharat', the world's biggest health insurance programme launched on September 23.
Describing it a revolutionary scheme, Swaraj said 500 million Indians will benefit from it as they get an insurance cover of Rs. 500,000 per family per year.
"We have a prayer in India: Sarve Santu Niramaya, which means, all should be healthy. The Aayushman Bharat Yojana is the answer to this prayer," she said.
India also launched the largest housing scheme in the world aimed at ensuring that everyone has a roof above their heads.
Under the scheme, the government has set a target of building nearly 21 million homes by 2022. So far, over five million homes for the poor have already been constructed.
Schemes such as Skill Development Programme and Mudra Programme aid in the skill development of the citizens and help the poor turn into entrepreneurs.
Over 140 million Indians have taken Mudra loans and 76 per cent of the beneficiaries are women.
"At the heart of Prime Minister Modi's transformative vision is a radical idea: that the uplift of any nation is best achieved through the all-round empowerment of women," Swaraj said, adding that all the ambitious schemes being implemented across India have the welfare of women at their core.
She also told the General Assembly that at a time when some developed nations with huge economies do not offer more than six weeks paid maternity leave, India is implementing the Maternity Benefit Scheme, in which women get 26 weeks of paid leave to care for their newborn.
"In India, we have implemented what women across the world need," she said.
As independent India marks its 75 years in 2022, Swaraj said Prime Minister Modi has pledged to build a 'New India' by then.
This 'New India' will be 'Swachh Bharat, Swasth Bharat' (clean India, healthy India), 'Samarth Bharat, Surakshit Bharat' (prosperous India, secure India), 'Shikshit Bharat, Viksit Bharat' (educated India, developed India), 'Urjawan Bharat, Shaktiman Bharat'(energised India, strong India).
"That is our horizon for India in 2022. We will reach that horizon," Swaraj said.
Swaraj added that the UN General Assembly has to be made into a platform of understanding, assistance and true justice where nations understand each others' pain and work with developed countries to ease and eliminate this pain.
"Arrogance has no place in our scheme of things; arrogance is counter-productive and self-defeating. Let us work for the benefit of the less fortunate. Let us work for a world where there is peace, serenity and shared prosperity; a world that is free from terrorism, tension and violence," she said.