On 5th January 2018, while launching the Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP), Hon’ble Prime Minister said that “we are living in an era of immense possibilities which in turn creates opportunities. We need to identify existing aspirations in the District and channelise them to create ripple effect for transforming Aspirational Districts. The development of every village of these 112 districts is vital to our commitment to social justice.” Thus, it was clear to all that ADP was a bold attempt to reduce the inter-state and inter-district variations in development by adopting an evidence-based policy making approach driven by real-time data.
The Programme finds its roots in the ‘’Outcome Based Taluka Centric Approach’’ pioneered by the Government of Gujarat to implement the recommendations of Cowlagi Committee constituted in 2004. The Committee, which comprised of many eminent development experts, had recommended programme architecture that that not only identified the backward blocks in a district but also monitored their progress via multiple indicators and data points. The ADP has, in a way, has replicated this Gujarat model at the national level by bringing 112 under-developed districts, across 27 states, within its fold. Principles of accountability, transparency and healthy competition are therefore embedded in the very design of the Programme.
As this Programme is completing two years of its implementation, it has greatly benefitted from the continuous support it has received from the Prime Minister himself who has been instrumental in leading the Programme as its ‘Communicator-in-Chief’. By keeping these pockets of under-development under his sustained scrutiny, it has driven the District Administration of these districts to pro-actively bring about greater convergence, collaboration and competition in this Programme, thus realising the Prime Minister’s vision of making it an effective ‘Jan Andolan’ (mass movement). As he also pointed out at a public event in December 2019, ADP has ensured that incisive policy interventions are being formulated at the ground-level through the joint efforts of various Central Government bureaucrats, the District teams and civil society organisations. Thus, a “better tomorrow” is certainly guaranteed for the 15 crore poor that live in these 112 districts.