Reimagining governance


  • The 115 Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) conceived by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is radical not because this is the first time that a government in India has focussed on India’s most backward districts but because the exercise envisages a serious re-imagination of government and governance, and deepens cooperative federalism. The programme is informed by the failures of the past and therefore has a more contemporary vision of how public services are best delivered to those who need them most.

115 Aspirational Districts Programme:

  1. The 115 districts were chosen by senior officials of the Union government in consultation with State officials on the basis of a composite index of the following:
  • deprivation enumerated under the Socio-Economic Caste Census,
  • key health and education performance indicators and the state of basic infrastructure
  1. A minimum of one district was chosen from every State

The areas(under the programme):

  • Education, health and nutrition, agriculture and water resources, financial inclusion, basic infrastructure and skills

Financial assistance

  • There is no financial package or large allocation of funds to this programme
  • The intent is to leverage the resources of the several government programmes that already exist but are not always used efficiently
  • The government doesn’t always need to spend more to achieve outcomes but instead to spend better

The need of the hour:

  • Achieving success in this programme requires three tiers of government, the Centre, States and district administrations, to work in tandem
  • There is a structure in place
  • Each district is assigned a prabhari (in-charge) officer from the Centre (of additional secretary or joint secretary rank) and a prabhari officer from the State (of the rank of Secretary to State government) who will work in cooperation with the district administration
  • It is necessary for the Centre and States to be involved because not all decisions can be taken at the level of district
  • On financial inclusion, the full cooperation of banks is necessary and only the Central government has leverage over them

Competitive federalism

  • This programme takes the principle of competitive federalism down to district administrations
  • Each district will be ranked on the focus areas which are disaggregated into easily quantifiable target areas
  • So as not to bias the rankings on historical achievements or lack of them, the rankings will be based on deltas or improvements
  • The rankings will be publicly available

Focused approach

  • One area which is being given serious attention is the collection of quality data on a real-time basis
  • Too often in India, data collection is delayed or lacking in quality which ends up leading to policymakers shooting in the dark
  • With continuously updated data dashboards, those running the programme on the ground can alter strategies after accurate feedback

The way forward

  • The ADP is a big pilot programme from reorienting how government does its business of delivering development
  • A decisive shift in the paradigm of governance is likely to finally fulfil the many broken promises of the past


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