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
- Health & Nutrition
- Agriculture & Water Resources
- Financial Inclusion & Skill Development
- 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
- 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.