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Constraints to Transforming Aspirational Districts

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The Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) was launched on January 5, 2018 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 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 state governments. Over 15% of India’s population lives in these districts.
Despite economic progress in the country, if these places have remained underdeveloped, it is because they suffer from a host of contributing factors. 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.
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. Changes in people’s mind-sets and attitudes are critical to achieve progress.
A list of 49 target indicators has been developed by NITI Aayog. These will be regularly monitored for promoting improvements in health and nutrition, education, agriculture and water resources, financial inclusion and skill development, and basic infrastructure.

Performance ranking

In April 2018, NITI Aayog issued a ranking of these districts according to baseline data collated from secondary sources on these selected indicators. According to this, the top five districts are Vizianagaram (Andhra Pradesh), Rajnandgaon (Chhattisgarh), Osmanabad (Maharashtra), Cuddapah (Andhra Pradesh), and Ramanathapuram (Tamil Nadu) with a score ranging from 46.78% to 48.13%.
The bottom five districts are Shrawasti (Uttar Pradesh), Kiphire (Nagaland), Singrauli (Madhya Pradesh), Asifabad (Telangana) and Mewat (Haryana) with a score ranging from 26.02% to 28.13%.

Constraints to ADP

The constraints impeding the development of these districts are institutional; aggregating assistance from different sources and applying the principle of convergence indicates that paucity of funds is unlikely to be a major issue.

Governance challenges

Governance inadequacy hampers the effective implementation of government schemes. The institutional framework has been fragmented because of the multiplicity of implementing agencies and schemes. There is no accountability on the part of either the government or district administrations.
Non-availability of periodical data makes it difficult to track progress and implement evidence-based policymaking. There is lack of social awareness and community participation in development programmes.
In tomorrow’s article, we will look at the way forward for transforming Aspirational Districts.

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