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Chapter # 35. Balanced Regional Development: Transforming Aspirational Districts


Balanced Regional Development: Transforming Aspirational Districts

  • Achieve balanced development in India by uplifting 115 districts, currently below the national average in the areas of health and nutrition, education, agriculture and water resources, financial inclusion and skill development, and basic infrastructure.

Current Situation

The Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) was launched on January 5, 2018, by the Honourable Prime Minister. 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 per cent of India’s population lives in these districts.

A list of 49 target indicators has been developed by NITI Aayog.  Transforming Aspirational Districts will be regularly monitored for promoting improvements in health and nutrition, education, agriculture and water resources, financial inclusion and skill development, and basic infrastructure.

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 per cent to 48.13 per cent.

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 per cent to 28.13 per cent.

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.


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.
  • There is lack of competitiveness among districts to improve developmental performance.

Way Forward

The ADP aims to address governance issues by using a combination of approaches: lifting levels of aspirations through a vision and district plan, adequate institutional arrangements, convergence in all stakeholders’ efforts and above all, ranking-based public competition among the districts by setting up a real-time monitoring mechanism.

  1. Create a positive narrative of development by making development a mass movement

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.

As a strategy, district officials will draw up a vision and action plan for their districts spanning the period 2018-19 to 2022-23. Officials will engage the public in formulating these plans.

Each action plan should be based on a SWOT analysis. To facilitate the preparation of such plans, NITI Aayog has already shared a broad common framework with all district administrations.

Setting off a virtuous cycle of growth in aspirational districts requires that people from all walks of life – especially those who have a track record of effecting change despite existing challenges – come together.

The scheme’s design encourages states and district administrations to give a lead role to such champions of change to turn this initiative into a mass movement.

  1. Use data to inform decision-making and spur competition among districts

Composite Index and Data: Across the selected dimensions, NITI Aayog has identified 49 key performance indicators (KPIs) with 81 data points. Extensive consultation with central ministries and knowledge partners informed the selection of these KPIs. An online dashboard allows for the tracking and display of district-level data on a real-time basis.

A key policy question is how to prioritize among different indicators across sectors. The ADP assigns different weights to the indicators, informed by a policy focus on social sectors. Health and nutrition, and education have been given the highest weightage and cumulatively, they account for 21 of the 49 indicators. It indicates the weights assigned to each of the core dimensions.

Rankings: Ranking districts based on performance relative to their baseline highlights the progress made by a district. Making these rankings and the underlying data available in the public domain will help boost competition between districts.

  1. Converge initiatives across all levels of government

The ADP aims to ensure convergence between different government schemes while also seeking complementarity between public initiatives and private efforts of households (for example, choosing to attend a course on skill development).

To achieve this, the action plan prepared by the district collectors of aspirational districts will identify the thrust activity, map existing schemes and their respective implementation agencies and set targets for rapid improvement. activity identified, such as the prevention of stunting, there would be many schemes addressing the issue, which in turn would have different implementing agencies. The ADP will bring together these efforts.

  1. Promote federalism and put in place institutional mechanisms to ensure teamwork between the central, state and district administration

Harnessing and creating synergies among the efforts of different stakeholders is the backbone of the ADP. While states are the main drivers and district magistrates/collectors are the fulcrum of the programme, a major innovation here is the emphasis on team formation.

Senior Government of India officials of the rank of Joint Secretary/Additional Secretary have been appointed as ‘guardians’ (‘prabharis’) for a district. Their role is to act as a bridge between the central and state governments.

Set up Empowered Committees of Secretaries of Government of India to supervise and troubleshoot. At the centre, committees have been constituted including the Secretaries of key ministries/departments that are implementing schemes in the social sector. Their mandate is to fine-tune existing programmes and improve their impact.

  1. Partner with expert organizations with demonstrated technical competence

While data-based objective ranking and competition among districts are major elements of the ADP’s strategy, another core component is bringing in technical expertise through public private partnerships. The approach here is to involve all, including philanthropies, the private sector under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) framework and civil societies, in implementing the ADP.

Chapter # 41. Data Led Governance and Policy Making

Objectives Evidence based policy making should be made integral to the overall governance structure in New India, 2022-23. To achieve this, timely gen

Chapter # 40. Optimizing the Use of Land Resources

Optimizing the Use of Land Resources-Ensuring that land markets function smoothly, through efficient allocation of land across uses, provision of secu

Chapter # 39. Modernizing City Governance For Urban Transformation

Objective  City Governance For Urban Transformation To transform our cities into economically vibrant and environmentally sustainable habitats that p

Chapter # 38. Civil Services Reforms

Objective  civil-services-reforms To put in place a reformed system of recruitment, training and performance evaluation of the civil service to ensur

Chapter # 37. Legal, Judicial and Police Reforms

Objective To ensure the safety and security of citizens and ensure access to effective legal systems and speedy delivery of justice. Current Situation

Chapter # 36. The North-East Region

Objectives The North-East Region (NER) should: Have adequate road, rail and air connectivity, waterways, internet connectivity and financial inclusion

Chapter # 35. Balanced Regional Development: Transforming Aspirational Districts

Objective  Balanced Regional Development: Transforming Aspirational Districts Achieve balanced development in India by uplifting 115 districts, curre

Chapter # 34. Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Other Tribal Groups and Minorities

SCs, STs, OBCs, De-Notified Tribes (DNTs), Nomadic Tribes (NTs) and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (SNTs) Objective  To accelerate the socio-economic developm

Chapter # 33. Senior Citizens, Persons with Disability and Transgender Persons

SENIOR CITIZENS  Objective To ensure a life of dignity, social security and safety for senior citizens, enabling them to actively participate in econ

Chapter # 32. Gender

Objective  To create an enabling environment, sans institutional and structural barriers. To enhance the female labour force participation rate to at

Chapter # 31. Nutrition

Objectives  Under POSHAN Abhiyaan, achieve the following outcomes by 2022-23, compared to the baseline of 2015-16 (National Family Health Survey-4):

Chapter # 30. Universal Health Coverage

Objectives  On the strong platform of Pradhan Mantri – Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY): Attain a coverage of at least 75 per cent of the population

Chapter # 29. Human Resources for Health

Objectives  Achieve a doctor-population ratio of at least 1:1400 (WHO norm 1:1000) and nurse-population ratio of at least 1:500 (WHO norm 1:400) by 2

Chapter # 28. Comprehensive Primary Health Care

Objectives  Under Ayushman Bharat, scale-up a new vision for comprehensive primary health care across the country, built on the platform of health an

Chapter # 27. Public Health Management and Action

Objectives  To revamp radically the public and preventive health system in the nation through the following strategic interventions: Mobilize public

Chapter # 26. Skill Development

Obejctives  For harnessing the demographic advantage that it enjoys, India needs to build the capacity and infrastructure for skilling/reskilling/up-

Chapter # 25. Teacher Education and Training

Objectives There cannot be a quality education system without quality teachers. Therefore, a thorough revamp of the entire ecosystem of teacher educat

Chapter # 24. Higher Education

Objectives  Increase the gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education from 25 per cent in 2016-17 to 35 per cent by 2022-23. Make higher education

23. School Education

Objectives Universal access and retention: o Hundred per cent enrolment and retention at elementary education and secondary education levels; achieve

Chapter # 22. Sustainable Environment

Objective  The objective is to maintain a clean, green and healthy environment with peoples’ participation to support higher and inclusive economic

Chapter # 21. Water Resources

Objectives By 2022-23, India’s water resources management strategy should facilitate water security to ensure adequate availability of water for l

Chapter # 20. Swash Bharat Mission

Objectives The key objectives of the Swachh Bharat Mission include: 1. Making India Open Defecation Free (ODF) by October 2, 2019. 2. Carrying out ext

Chapter # 19.Smart Cities for Urban Transformation

Objectives  Leverage the ‘Smart Cities’ concept in select urban clusters to: Drive job creation and economic growth. Significantly improve effici

Chapter # 18. Digital Connectivity

Objectives Given the relevance of digital connectivity to economic growth and the need to eliminate the digital divide by 2022-23, India should aim to

Chapter # 17. Logistics

Objectives Achieve multi-modal movement of cargo on par with global logistics standards. Reduce the logistics cost to less than 10 per cent of GDP fro

Chapter # 16.Ports, Shipping and Inland Waterways

Objectives  Double the share of freight transported by coastal shipping and inland waterways from 6 per cent in 2016-171 to 12 per cent by 2025. Incr

Chapter # 15. Civil Aviation

Objectives Enhance the affordability of flying to enable an increase in domestic ticket sales from 103.75 million in 2016-171 to 300 million by 2022.2

Chapter # 14. Railways

Objectives By 2022-23, India should have a rail network that is not only efficient, reliable and safe, but is also cost-effective and accessible, both

Chapter # 13. Surface Transport

Objectives Increasing the coverage and quality of roads and highways is critical to enhancing connectivity and internal and external trade. By 2022-23

Chapter # 12. Energy

Objectives The government’s on-going energy sector policies aim “to provide access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy”. At t

Chapter # 11. Minerals

Objectives Double the area explored from 10 per cent of obvious geological potential (OGP) area to 20 per cent.1 Accelerate the growth of the mining s

Chapter # 10. Travel, Tourism and Hospitality

Objectives  Increase India’s share in global international tourist arrivals from 1.18 per cent to 3 per cent. Increase the number of foreign touris

Chapter # 9. Housing For All

Objectives Provide every family with a pucca house, with a water connection, toilet facilities, and 24×7 electricity supply and access. Build 2.9

Chapter # 8. Financial Inclusion

Objectives Banking for the unbanked  o Bank accounts: Ensuring universal access to bank accounts, which are a gateway to all financial services.  o

Chapter # 7.Doubling Farmers’ Income (III): Value Chain & Rural Infrastructure

Objectives • Transform the rural economy through the creation of modern rural infrastructure and an integrated value chain system. • Leverage the

Chapter # 6.Doubling Farmers’ Income (II): Policy & Governance

Objectives Create a policy environment that enables income security for farmers, whilst maintaining India’s food security. Encourage the participati

Chapter # 5.Doubling Farmers’ Income (I): Modernizing Agriculture

Objectives • Modernize agricultural technology, increase productivity, efficiency and crop diversification. • Generate income and employment throu

Chapter # 4.Industry

Objectives Double the current growth rate of the manufac-turing sector by 2022. Promote in a planned manner the adoption of the latest technology adva

Chapter # 3. Technology and Innovation

Objectives India should be among the top 50 countries in the Global Innovation Index by 2022-23.1 Five of our scientific research institutions should

Chapter # 2.Employment and Labour Reforms

Objectives Complete codification of central labour laws into four codes by 2019. Increase female labour force participation to at least 30 per cent by

Chapter # 1 Growth (India @ 75)

Objectives Steadily accelerate the gross domestic product(GDP) growth rate to achieve a target of about 8 per cent during 2018-23 This will raise the


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