Agriculture, infrastructure need significant focus: UNDP on Aspirational Districts Programme

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The Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP), a flagship programme of the government, has helped in strengthening crucial areas such as healthcare and education but some sectors with less weightage like agriculture and infrastructure need significant improvement, according to a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report.

There is thus a need for a realignment of sectors and focus, the report said, adding that less emphasis on a competitive approach is called for as it may result in misreporting of data by districts. The report titled, “Aspirational Districts Programme: An Appraisal” said that one of the disadvantages of the has been the disparities among districts which do not facilitate fair competition and comparison. In order to counter these issues, districts could be further grouped together based on their common characteristics and be supported accordingly, it advised.

The appraisal of the Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) is aimed to assess its effectiveness and generate evidence based documentation which can be used to support NITI Aayog and other stakeholders in their efforts to address existing gaps, evidence-based planning and decision making.

The programme focuses on development across five sectors of Healthcare and Nutrition, Education, Agriculture and Water Resources, Basic Infrastructure, and Skill Development and Financial Inclusion.

The UNDP report pointed to challenges relating to monitoring and data collection, especially discrepancy. , it said.

The report highlighted that one of the major issues across districts irrespective of performance has been the lack of human resources and technical capacities. 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. It suggested that this can be resolved by providing districts with dedicated personnel such as Aspirational District Fellows (ADFs) or representatives of the programme.

It further said that a useful suggestion from the ADFs who work closely with the programme was to include additional sectors or themes centered around key topics of environment and gender. This, according to the stakeholders, should not just be targeted for the beneficiaries of the programmes, but also integrated within the governance model as indicators of inclusive and sustainable growth.

The Aspirational Districts Programme was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018, with the objective of expediting the transformation of 112 most backward districts across 28 States through the convergence of government programmes and schemes.

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