India’s Aspirational Districts Programme immensely successful in propelling development: UNDP

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The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said India’s Aspirational Districts Programme has been immensely successful in propelling development among the backward districts, recommending it to other countries as well.

In its appraisal of the programme that has completed three years, the UNDP said these districts have experienced more growth and development in the last three years than ever before.

“Based on the findings of the evaluation, it is recommended that the success of the programme be scaled up and replicated for other sectors and districts,” it has recommended suggesting some tweaks to the programme.

The aspirational district programme was launched in 2018 across 112 aspirational districts in 28 states.

The focus of the program is to identify the strength of each district and their low-hanging fruits for immediate improvement and measure progress as well as rank districts based on improvements.

UNDP has suggested reduced focus on this competitive approach, as it is likely to result in misreporting of data by districts, and also realignment of sectors and focus.

“While the Aspirational districts programme has helped strengthen crucial Healthcare and Education sectors, those with lesser weightage need significant focus and improvement,” it said.

“A realignment of sectors and focus is therefore required,” it said.

The report was handed over on Friday by UNDP India Resident Representative Shoko Noda to NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar and CEO Amitabh Kant.

“Given the positive impact of the programme, it is necessary to ensure the focus on development is encouraged further and momentum gained so far in expediting growth is maintained,” it said recommending the model to other countries.

The Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) as ‘a very successful model of local area development’ that ‘should serve as a best practice for several other countries where regional disparities in development status persist for many reasons’.

There is a need for capacity building at the grassroots level, the report said adding that this could be resolved by providing districts with dedicated personnel such as aspirational district fellows or representatives of the programme.

One of the major issues highlighted across the districts irrespective of performance has been the lack of human resources, the report notes.

“This can be resolved by providing districts with dedicated personnel such as Aspirational District Fellows or representatives of the programme,” the report recommended.

The broad contours of the programme are convergence (of central and state schemes), collaboration (of central, state level prabhari officers and district collectors), and competition among districts.

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