Aspirational Districts Programme

  • The policy makers all over the world are observing a transitional shift in their development strategy, from centralized planning to evidence based policy making. The use of digital technology to monitor real time progress through a dash board has had a direct bearing on quality of life and economic productivity of the citizens.
  • ‘Transformation of Aspirational Districts’ Programme is one such initiative by NITI Aayog, which aims to expeditiously improve the socio-economic status of 117 backward districts by promoting culture of competitive federalism in India. The programme ensures real-time monitoring and ranking of states on Key Performance Indicators like antenatal care, learning outcomes, agriculture price realization, disbursement of Mudra loans, road connectivity etc.

Core Principles of the Programme

  • Convergence, of Central & State Schemes
  • Collaboration, of central, state level ‘Prabhari’ (in-charge) officers and district collectors.
  • Competition among districts.

Five Main Themes of the Programme

  1. Health & Nutrition
  2. Education
  3. Agriculture & Water Resources
  4. Financial Inclusion & Skill Development
  5. Basic Infrastructure

Core Strategy of the Programme

  • Collective national effort with States as main drivers of change
  • Work on the strength of each district and make it a catalyst for development.
  • Ensure development as a mass movement in these districts.
  • Measure progress and rank districts to spur a sense of competition.
  • Districts shall aspire to become State’s best to Nation’s best.

Criticism of the Programme

  • Centrally monitored programme by an executive organization defies the concept of federalism
  • Threatens Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and undermines decentralized planning
  • Validation of stats by third party agencies is limited
  • It ignores implementation condition. Incremental improvement shown in indicators can be inflated and may not reflect grass root reality
  • An increased layer of bureaucracy and oversight
  • The programme lacks budgetary support and financial support
  • The programme seeks improved outcomes in backdrop of same administrative architecture

Way Forward

  • The centralizing tendency of the programme needs to be checked.
  • Financial autonomy as well as legitimacy of Panchayati Raj Institutions needs to be ensured
  • The concept of Cooperative federalism also needs to be imbibed in this programme
  • Codify penalties for government servants who inflate data regarding government progress in the region
  • Address budgetary requirements of the programme
  • Claims of progress made needs to be opened to the public for introspection.