Aspirational Districts Programme 

#GS2 #Governance 

Union Minister for Development of North Eastern Region has reviewed the status and healthcare facility in ‘Aspirational’ districts with special focus on North East. 

What is ‘Aspirational District Programme’? 

  • Aspirational Districts are those districts in India, that are affected by poor socio-economic indicators. These are aspirational in the context, that improvement in these districts can lead to the overall improvement in human development in India. The 115 districts were identified from 28 states, at least one from each state. 

Objective – Achieve balanced development in India by uplifting 115 districts. 

  • Under phase-1 of ADP, 115 districts were identified based on the level of human development, physical infrastructure, threat of left wing extremism (LWE) and the views of the state governments. 
  • Over 15 percent of India’s population lives in these districts. A list of 49 target indicators has been developed by NITI Aayog. Relatively poorer endowment of physical resources, lack of infrastructure, poor social capital, low standards of health, nutrition, education and skill, poor governance and above all, inhabitants demotivated due to years of poverty and deprivation can be cited as major contributory factors. 

Constraints  

  • Governance challenges – Governance inadequacy; Multiplicity of implementing agencies and schemes. 
  • No accountability on the part of either the government or district administrations. 
  • Non availability of periodical data. 
  • Lack of social awareness and community participation. 
  • Lack of competitiveness among districts to improve developmental performance. 

Way forward  

  • Lifting levels of aspirations through a vision and district plan, adequate institutional arrangements, convergence in all stakeholders’ efforts and above all, ranking-based public competition among the districts. 
  • Create a positive narrative of development by making development a mass movement – Referring to these districts as ‘aspirational’ rather than ‘backward’ highlights the programme’s recognition that people are the most valuable resource to improve a district’s performance. 
  • Use data to inform decision-making and spur competition among districts – Composite index and Data – NITI Aayog has identified 49 key performance indicators (KPIs) with 81 data points. The ADP assigns different weights to the indicators, informed by a policy focus on social sectors. Health and nutrition, and education have been given the highest weightage and cumulatively, they account for 21 of the 49 indicators. 
  • Converge initiatives across all levels of government – The ADP aims to ensure convergence between different government schemes. To achieve this, the action plan prepared by the district collectors of aspirational districts will identify the thrust activity, map existing schemes and their respective implementation agencies and set targets for rapid improvement. 
  • Promote federalism and put in place institutional mechanisms to ensure teamwork between the central, state and districts administration – Harnessing and creating synergies among the different stakeholders is the backbone of the ADP. While states are the main drivers and district magistrates/collectors are the fulcrum of the programme, a major innovation here is the emphasis on team foundation. Set up Empowered Committees of Secretaries of Government of India to supervise and troubleshoot. 
  • Partner with expert organisations with demonstrated technical competence – While data-based objective ranking and competition among districts are major elements of the ADP’s strategy, another core component is bringing in technical expertise through public private partnerships. 
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