The ‘Transformation of Aspirational Districts’ programme of India aims to quickly and effectively transform majority of Indian districts in terms of socio-economic development. In the long term this programme may go a long way in enabling the districts to come at par and realize their potential growth and development along with good governance parameters. The broad contours of the programme are Convergence (of Central & State Schemes), Collaboration (of Central, State level ‘Prabhari’ Officers & District Collectors), and Competition among districts driven by a mass Movement. With States as the main drivers, this program will focus on the strength of each district, identify low-hanging fruits for immediate improvement, measure progress, and rank districts.
Need for a programme like Aspirational Districts
India is a big country and as of 2020 there are a total of 739 districts, up from the 640 in the 2011 Census of India and the 593 recorded in the 2001 Census of India. Indian districts were bigger in size to begin with. But in due course of time they were divided in smaller districts for better administrative control and implementation of development programmes. However, as in the past inter and intra-district inequality is a fact of life in India even at present. Those districts acting as citadels of administration, commercial centres located near ports and places of pilgrimage were more developed during the colonial times and this trend continued for a pretty long time even after India became independent. In the independent India the districts in which Industries, educational centres, satellite towns were set up saw better growth while other districts lagged behind. Lately the adjoining districts with NCR and state capitals marked higher level of development. But even now when we see the landscape of Indian districts we find glaring inequalities in terms of connectivity, amenities and socioeconomic developments. Transformation of Aspiration District programme aims at bringing the backward Indian districts at par with those which stand better in various development parameters.
In the post independence period Mahalanobis strategy led growth was criticized by many observers to have created “islands of prosperity” on one hand and “pockets of underdeveloped regions” on the other. Although the industrial centres established during that era were supposed to act as growth nuclei, which were expected to propel regional development with backward and forward linkages among the districts of the region, this somehow did not happen. One of the primary reasons of this was lack of skill, connectivity, industrialization based on local resources and low purchasing capacity of the people in small own due to unemployment and low productivity in agriculture and underdeveloped markets for agricultural produce. Now it is call of the time to take development to the underdeveloped regions. This would be possible by proper and integrated approach towards implementation of the existing centre and stae governments development programmes as well as a competitive approach towards making things better in the districts by ensuring optimization of resources and participation of all the local stake holders. The Transformation of Aspirational Districts is a programme in this direction.
India is now recognized as an emerging economy since at least two and a half decades. However, it is still observed that some districts are far ahead than others in terms of socio-economic development, basic facilities and good governance. Every district in India has its unique resource base and comparative advantage. If the districts are enabled to harness their strengths and remove their weaknesses, it will not only advance their development, but also eventually reduce regional inequality and lead to prosperity of the country.
The main focus of the Aspirational Districts
- The concept of aspirational district is rooted in the principle of inclusive growth. Government is committed to raising the living standards of its citizens and ensuring inclusive growth for all – “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas”. This programme has the following focus areas:
- It aims at enabling optimum utilization of Indian districts potential.
- It focusses closely on improving people’s ability to participate fully in the burgeoning economy.
- One of the main areas of focus is on financial inclusion and skill development.
- The focus on basic infrastructure would include access to road, potable water, rural electrification and individual household toilets.
- Other core areas of focus include health & Nutrition, Education, Agriculture & Water Resources, Financial Inclusion & Skill Development, and Basic Infrastructure.
- Agriculture and water resource will get priority.
Core Strategy of the programme
- It is a team effort. States are the main drivers.
- At GOI level, this programme is anchored in NITI Aayog.
- In addition individual ministries have been given responsibilities of districts.
- For each district, a central Prabhari Officer of the ranK of AS/JS has been nominated.
- An empowered Committee under the convenership of the CEO NITI Aayog has been notified to ensure convergence in Schemes and address specific issues brought out by Prabhari Officers.
- States have been requested to form a committee under Chief Secretary to implement the programme.
- States have nominated Nodal Officers and also state level Prabhari Officers.
Selection of Districts
115 districts have been identified on the basis of transparent criteria. A composite of index comprising challenges faced by the districts in terms of poverty of their citizens, relatively poor health and nutrition, education status and deficient infrastructure. These districts include 35 of those affected by the Left Wing Extremism which were selected by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Indicators and steps to improve performance
- Identification of key performance indicators: In each of the focus area, important indicators that show progress have been identified.
- Ascertaining the current status in each District and aspiring to catch up with the best districts in the state: District should firs identify its own status and compare the same with the best district in the state. Finally it should aspire to become one of the best districts in the country.
- Take steps to improve the performance and compete with other districts.
Measuring rod of progress of districts
This programme aims at prompting competition among the Indian districts for their progress. For this 49 key performance indicators have been chosen to measure progress of the districts after several rounds of consultations with various stakeholders,. Districts are prodded and encouraged to first catch-up with the best district within their state, and subsequently aspire to become one of the best in the country, by competing with, and learning from others in the spirit of competitive & cooperative federalism.
Methodology of ranking
Baseline Ranking- The objective of the program is to monitor the real-time progress of aspirational districts based on 49 indicators (81 data-points) from the 5 identified thematic areas. With the latest available data from the ministries concerned, NITI Aayog has completed a baseline ranking of 101 districts. Data was normalised, and a composite score was calculated. Going forward, districts will be ranked based on their progress on a real-time basis. Niti Aayog will subsequently calculate the ‘distance to frontier’ – i.e. the distance of each district from the state’s and nation’s best.
Health and Nutrition (30%) – With 30% of the overall composite score on health & nutrition, the program has identified 13 indicators to focus on antenatal care, postnatal care, gender parity, health of new – borns, growth of children, contagious diseases, and health infrastructure.
Education (30%) : The education sector accounts of 30% of the overall index. 8 indicators have been identified focussing on learning outcomes (transition rate from primary to upper primary, and subsequently to secondary schooling, average scores in mathematics and language etc.), as well as infrastructural (toilet access for girls, drinking water, electricity supply) and institutional indicators (RTE mandated pupil-teacher ratio, timely delivery of textbooks).
Agriculture & Water resources (20%) : Agriculture is the backbone of India, with more than 50% of our workforce engaged in cultivation and allied activities. 10 indicators have been identified for the 20% weightage allocated to agriculture. The focus is on outputs (yield, price realisation etc.), inputs (quality seed distribution, soil health cards), and institutional support (crop insurance, electronic markets, artificial insemination, animal vaccination etc.).
Basic Infrastructure (10%) : A roof over one’s head with water, electricity, and road connectivity is the priority of the Government. 7 important indicators have been identified including availability of individual household latrines, drinking water, electricity, and road connectivity. Districts are also tracked for the number of internet connected Gram Panchayats, and panchayats with Common Service Centres.
Financial inclusion & Skill Development (10%) : Together, these two themes account for 10% of the overall index. 6 indicators have been identified in financial inclusion to measure progress in take – up of important central government schemes (Atal Pension Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana etc.), reach of institutional banking (number of accounts opened under Jan Dhan Yojana), and ease of institutional financing for small businesses (disbursement of Mudra loans). 5 indicators have been identified in skill development to keep track of the progress in skilling of youth, employment, and the skilling of vulnerable/marginalized youth.
List of Aspirational districts
|Jammu And Kashmir||Kupwara|
|Jammu And Kashmir||Baramulla|
|Telangana||Komaram Bheem Asifabad|
|Uttar Pradesh||Siddharth Nagar|
|Uttarakhand||Udam Singh Nagar|
|West Bengal||Dinajpur Dakshin|
Dashboard for monitoring the real-time progress of the districts
NITI Aayog in partnership with the Government of Andhra Pradesh has created a dashboard for monitoring the real-time progress of the districts. District Information Officers underwent training on March 23, 2018 on how to enter data to the dashboard and generate MIS (Management Information System) reports. On April 1, 2018 districts will start entering data. Beginning May 2018, districts will be ranked based on progress made (‘delta ranking’) on a real-time basis. The dashboard will be open to the public to monitor the progress of the aspirational districts.
Second delta ranking for the aspirational districts
In the overall ranking, the most improved districts are as follows:
The Second Delta ranking also details the following districts as Least Improved over the period of June – October 2018:
The idea of Transformation of Aspirational Districts is very good, but its proper implementation holds the key to development of the districts. A word of caution nevertheless is necessary. In almost all the cases of project implementation and development, delay, cost overruns, leakage, corruption and lack of accountability is observed in our country and also in different states. If pursued in a right earnest, this programme may be game changer. But otherwise it will turn lie just other programmes, which exists, but do not make any difference or make little difference. Team India needs to be a true implementer in almost all the arenas. And we can do. Programmes are like running horses on th paper as long as they are not implemented properly and within a given time frame. This programme has the potential to unleash the energy of people of India from the backward regions and give them opportunity to contribute in the development of our country meaningfully. This programme would be an equalizer and has the potential to realize one of the great premises of the directive principles of our constitution, i.e., equality of opportunity.