7 PM | Niti Aayog’s Aspirational Districts Programme is a laboratory for governance reform| 4th November, 2019

Context:NITI Aayog’s Transformation of Aspirational Districts Programme

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  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 6 will review the performance of 30 of the 117 most underdeveloped districts in the country on various indicators such as health, nutrition, education and agriculture.
  • These districts were identified by the Niti Aayog and come under the government’s “Transformation of Aspirational Districts Programme”.

Aspirational Districts Programme:

  • The ‘Transformation of Aspirational Districts’ Programme aims to expeditiously improve the socio-economic status of 117 districts from across 28 states.
  • The three core principles of the programme are:
    • Convergence (of Central & State Schemes) which brings together the horizontal and vertical tiers of the government.
    • Collaboration (among citizens and functionaries of Central & State Governments including district teams) which enables impactful partnerships between government, market and civil society.
    • Competition among districts driven by a spirit of the mass movement
  • Driven primarily by the States, this initiative focuses on the strengths of each district, and prioritizes the attainable outcomes for immediate improvement
  • 49 key performance indicators have been chosen to measure progress of the districts on 5 main themes:
    • Health & Nutrition,
    • Education,
    • Agriculture & Water Resources,
    • Financial Inclusion & Skill Development,
    • Basic Infrastructure

All of these have direct bearing on the quality of life and economic productivity of citizens.

  • Core Strategy of the programme may be summarized as follows:
    • States as main drivers
    • Work on the strength of each district.
    • Make development as a mass movement in these districts.
    • Identify low hanging fruits and the strength of each district, to act as a catalyst for development.
    • Measure progress and rank districts to spur a sense of competition.
    • Districts shall aspire to become State’s best to Nation’s best.

Impact of Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP):

  • Prioritization of the issues in both ADP and Non-ADP district has improved quality of life and economic productivity of citizens.
  • Decentralization of Development: ADP focuses on outcomes that enables local experimentation based on a firm appreciation of ground realities.
  • Inclusive approach: The delta ranking of the Aspirational Districts combines the innovative use of data with pragmatic administration, keeping the district at the locus of inclusive development.

Through ADP government seeks to uplift those districts which have shown relatively lesser progress in achieving key social outcomes.

  • Improved Implementation: Spurred by competition based on outcomes, local governments target their efforts and improve programme implementation and design. For Example, Health outcomes in ADP saw:
    • an increase in registering pregnant women into the health system from 73 per cent to 86 per cent,
    • institutional delivery of babies has improved from 66 per cent to 74 per cent
    • Anti-diarrheal treatment from 51 per cent to 67 per cent.

Challenges Associated with ADP:

  • Budgetary Constraints: ADP is affected by the issue pertaining to insufficient budgetary resources.
  • Coordination: Of the Aspirational Districts, Niti Aayog plays a mentoring role in 27 districts in eight states, home to about 60 million people. Twelve central government ministries have similarly adopted the remaining districts. Implementation involving multiple ministries leads to a lack of coordination.
  • Data: High-quality administrative data is critical to improving programme implementation and design at the local level.
  • The Delta ranking itself is largely focused on assessing quantity (that is, coverage of access) rather than quality.
    • On-time delivery of textbooks in schools is part of the ranking index. However, textbook delivery may or may not be a problem in districts.
    • Also, the quality of education in India is in a dismal condition, as highlighted by the ASER report.


The Indian economy is on a high growth trajectory. However, it ranked 131 out 188 nations in UNDP’s Human Development index 2016. Its performance in terms of improving quality of life for its citizens is not consistent with its growth story. While different states have their unique strengths, they face challenges in improving health, education, basic infrastructure etc for their citizens. Within states too, there are major variations. Some districts have done well whereas some have faced challenges. It is important that a concerted effort is made to improve performance of districts which are pockets of under development. This will result in a dramatic rise in ranking of the country in terms of HDI and would also help the country in achieving SDGs. This will be a step towards creation of a New India by 2022.


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