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Revising indicators of Aspirational Districts Programme can improve outcomes, says UNDP report

·4-min read

New Delhi, Jun 11 (PTI) Revising the indicators of the Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) as well as reducing focus on a competitive approach can lead to better outcomes for the districts, as per a report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). These suggestions were part of the appraisal report of the ADP released on Friday. The government had launched the ADP in January 2018 across 112 aspirational districts in 28 states to accelerate improvement in key development parameters in the most backward districts of the country.

'Discussions with different stakeholders have highlighted the need for revising indicators, as well as reduced focus on a competitive approach, as they are likely to result in misreporting of data by districts. 'Apart from this there is also the need for further trainings and learning programmes,' UNDP said in its report. UNDP said one of the disadvantages of the ADP has been the disparities among districts. This does not facilitate fair competition and comparisons.

'In order to counter these issues, districts could be further grouped together based on their common characteristics and be supported accordingly,' it said. UNDP also pointed out that one of the major issues highlighted across the districts irrespective of performance has been the lack of human resources and technical capacities at the district and block level. 'Even though districts have been provided support from the Prabhari officers and Niti Aayog, there is a need for capacity building at the grassroots level. 'This can be resolved by providing districts with dedicated personnel such as Aspirational District Fellows or representatives of the programme,' it noted. However, the UNDP added that ADP has served as a catalyst for expediting development among aspirational districts. 'Certain sectors such as healthcare and nutrition, education, and to an extent agriculture and water resources have seen some major changes,' UNDP said, adding that this is encouraging as these are crucial areas for assessing development. UNDP pointed out that other sectors like basic infrastructure, financial inclusion and skill development also achieved improvement in indicators since the inception of the programme. According to UNDP, among the three approaches of convergence, competition and collaboration, most stakeholders who were interviewed credited convergence as a crucial approach for the better performance of the districts. The report also noted that a remarkable feature of the programme that has greatly contributed to its success, is the commitment shown by the top most political leadership to bring about rapid progress in the under-developed pockets in India. 'This includes regular monitoring of the programme at the level of Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, who has motivated and enthused district collectors to deliver their best at the field level,' UNDP said. It further noted that the delta ranking provided on the Champions of Change (CoC) dashboard is a unique and dynamic feature of the ADP.

'However, a few stakeholders suggested that rankings be done on a quarterly or annual basis. This would give districts sufficient time to focus on outcomes that require long-term planning and work,' it said. Noting that while the initial stages of the ADP helped propel notable changes within the districts, UNDP said the programme's pre-eminence should be maintained. 'Therefore, as the programme has completed 3 years, it is crucial that efforts be made to motivate districts and reinforce the programme in all respects,' it said. UNDP said due to concerted efforts made under the ADP, previously neglected districts, including those in remote locations and those affected by left wing extremism, have experienced more growth and development in the last three years than ever before. According to the UNDP report, the districts have also admitted that the continued focus of the programme on health and nutrition has helped them in tackling the COVID-19 crisis with greater resilience. The report appreciated the delta rankings provided on the programme's Champions of Change dashboard, saying the competitive and dynamic culture fostered by it has successfully pushed several low performing districts (as per baseline rankings) to improve their standing in the past three years.

'Simdega (Jharkhand), Chandauli (Uttar Pradesh), Sonbhadra (Uttar Pradesh) and Rajgarh (Madhya Pradesh) were found to have progressed the most since the beginning of the programme,' it said. The least improved districts according to the UNDP's resilience and vulnerability index were Sitamarhi in Bihar, Gumla (Jharkhand), Dantewada (Chhattisgarh), Bijapur (Karnataka) and Nawada (Bihar). The ADP focuses on development across five sectors of healthcare and nutrition, education, agriculture and water resources, basic Infrastructure, and skill development and financial inclusion. According to an official statement, a comparison between the aspirational districts and their counterparts found that ADs have outperformed non-ADs. The report is based on quantitative analysis of publicly available data as well as interviews with various stakeholders, including district magistrates, central prabhari officers, district fellows and other development partners. PTI BKS ABM ABM

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