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Approach:

  1. Intro – about Aspirational Districts programme.
  2. Then mention its core themes & strategy.
  3. Mention significance.
  4. Mention its perceived successes.
  5. Conclusion

The Aspirational Districts Programme was launched in 2018 to improve the socio-economic status of 112 aspirational districts across 28 States. These districts had witnessed the least progress along certain development parameters. The districts accounted for more than 20% of the country’s population and covered over 8,600 gram panchayats. The Programme is coordinated by NITI Aayog with support from Central Ministries and the State Governments.

Core themes : The 5 core themes include: (a) Health & Nutrition (30% weightage); (b) Education (30% weightage); (c) Agriculture & Water Resources (20% weightage); (d) Financial Inclusion & Skill Development (10%); (e) Basic Infrastructure (10%).

Core strategy : The ADP is based on the following strategy: (a) Work on the strength of each district; (b) Make development as a mass movement in these districts; (c) Identify low hanging fruits and the strength of each district which can act as a catalyst for development; (d) Measure progress and rank districts to spur a sense of competition; (e) Districts shall aspire from becoming State’s best to Nation’s best.

Significance : it has ensured that States and districts have a greater say in their own development. Local challenges differ significantly across the country, therefore, State and Local Governments are best-positioned to recognize their development challenges, and design customized policy interventions. Instead of making a dedicated financial allocation for the ADP, the programme has focused on improving governance, making use of existing resources more smartly and achieving better outcomes for the same amount of money. Also, working collaboratively has enabled innovative service delivery approaches. For instance, the smart classroom initiative being implemented in Banka, Bihar, to improve student learning outcomes, is being replicated in the aspirational districts across Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Jharkhand. By collaborating with the private sector, philanthropic organizations and technical partners, the ADP is changing the deeply entrenched popular perception that development is the prerogative of the government alone. It has also spurred competition among districts by allowing them to regularly assess their position vis-à-vis other aspirational districts as well as the best performing districts in the country.

Successes :

  • The success achieved by the ADP has been globally recognized. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has appreciated the programme’s 3Cs principle and recommended its replication in other parts of the developing world.
  • Several independent experts have also lauded the programme’s success in catalysing rapid improvements in performance in the areas of health, nutrition, education and infrastructure.
  • Health and Nutrition: Model Anganwadi centres have been set up across districts to benefit women and children. The number of institutional deliveries has increased, along with a dip registered in the rate of severe acute malnutrition in infants.
  • Poshan App has been developed for an aspirational district in Ranchi. It is a real-time data analytics digital platform. It monitors bed occupancy, child-growth charts and the inventory of every malnourishment treatment centre in the district.
  • ADP also provided Assam’s Baksa district with support to ensure that it can run mobile health ambulances during poor weather conditions so that access to healthcare service delivery is ensured.
  • Education outcomes: Innovation and digitisation have been the cornerstone of transformation in the education sector.
  • The ‘Hamara Vidyalaya’ model adopted in Namsai, a remote district in Arunachal Pradesh has shown substantial improvement in learning outcomes and overall teaching practices. The model makes use of an online platform called ‘Yathasarvam’ for improving the outcomes.
  • Agriculture and water resources: District administrations have laid emphasis on improving irrigation facilities, yield, and farmer education. Several innovative paths have been adopted to create market linkages for products indigenous to the aspirational districts.
  • g., the farmers of Chandauli, U.P were encouraged to grow fertiliser-free organic black rice. The experiment was remarkably successful, with Chandauli adding to the thriving global market of black rice and exporting to countries like Australia and New Zealand.
  • Basic Infrastructure: This pillar witnessed significant advancement especially in LWE affected districts. This ensured better connectivity and seamless movement from rural to urban regions e.g., Bijapur in Chhattisgarh and Malkangiri in Odisha have greatly improved the network of roadways and ramped up the infrastructure projects in their jurisdiction.
  • Financial inclusion and skill development: Micro-ATMs have been launched in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district to provide financial assistance to women self-help group members. They are provided with commission-based income on every transaction.

The success of the Aspirational Districts Programme has been testified by national as well as international agencies. It is a flagship initiative for improving the lives of citizens residing in most backward regions of the country. The need of the hour demands overcoming its challenges and realizing the vision of ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas’ for ensuring inclusive development.

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